So it’s Christmas-time and this woman’s fancy turns to baking. I love to make cookies, cakes, pies – and my waistline can attest to this. There are a sweets that only seem to be trotted out around the holidays, which is a shame but I guess it just makes them even more special since you only get them once a year. It could also be that they are more labor intensive so you only want to tackle them once in a while.
Another great thing about holiday foods is that they carry great memories. One of my all time favorite desserts is cannoli.
Here’s are the little beauties right here. Oooh, come to mama!
I can remember my mom (a Dutch/Irish/Welsh mix) making this traditional Italian/Sicilan dessert. For the record, my mom is a kick-ass Italian cook. She learned from my grandmother (my dad’s mom) who was full-on Sicilian, so she learned from the best! Making cannoli is a several day project that requires lard, beer, flour, and hot oil. You make the dough, roll it out, cut it in squares, roll them around a metal tube, and submerge them in hot oil to fry. Then the shells need to drain on brown paper for at least 24 hours before you fill them with custard or ricotta filling. Of course, my sister and I weren’t allowed near the hot oil, but once those shells had dried for 24 hours, we had custard filling duties. We’d sit around the kitchen table with our mom, spoons in hand, and stuff those tubes with custard-y goodness. And you know that there were always a few “broken” shells that we had to eat!
Last year the Dude and I decided to try our hand at cannoli and they turned out great. In fact, they turned out so good that we’re going to make them again this year. It’s nice to start a “new” old tradition.
Here’s the recipe for the cannoli shells:
6 cups of flour
1 can of beer at room temp.
1/2 lb. lard (Yep, LARD! There is no substitute for this. Crisco just won’t cut it so buckle down and embrace the lard!)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Work ingredients together with hands. Divide dough, roll out till thin, cut either into squares or rounds to fit rollers, seal with beaten egg yolks.
Deep fry and drain well. Can be saved in an aluminum foil lined box and covered with paper towels but be sure to put brown paper on bottom of box then use the paper towels to cover the shells. Don’t cover tightly.
2 lbs. Ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 to 3 tsp. vanilla
Miniature chocolate bits or grated chocolate (as desired)
Whip Ricotta in electric mixture until smooth and light. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Fold in chocolate. This filling recipe is enough for about 2 dozen shells. After filling shells, dip ends of cannoli into toasted almonds or pistachio nuts (optional). Fill only just before ready to serve. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the tops.
Believe me, these are worth every effort you make, so get in that kitchen and get started! Buon appetito!