Cannoli, or Kannoli as the Maltese spell them, are the dessert in this part of the Med. You’ll find them in every pasticceria. They are the go-to gift for guests to take to lunch or dinner party hosts, as well as a regular treat when visiting ‘nanna’ for Sunday tea.
An import recipe to Malta from Sicily, cannoli are just about as iconic and traditional a southern Italian and Maltese sweet as you can get. Surprising then that in all my years in Malta, and despite many trips to Sicily, I’ve eaten them probably only a couple of times. The reason I rarely pick them as my choice dessert is that I just can’t abide anything fried!
Cannoli fried or baked?
This recipe is for baked cannoli; a method I never knew was an option until I went to buy some cannoli rods last week. The shopkeeper in the age-old, vast ironmongery cum cook shop in Valletta’s Merchant’s Street asked me if I wanted cannoli rods for fried or baked versions. The rods for baking cannoli were of a larger diameter and length. A couple of times experimenting and I think I’ve perfected the baked ones. They aren’t quite as crisp, but I don’t mind the compromise as I loathe the idea of deep-fat frying. What better way to celebrate the onset of summer and the end of the strawberry season than the Maltese equivalent of an English cream tea – cannoli with strawberries and a ricotta cream.
There ends my cannoli write-up as the photos do the talking on this one. This quantity makes around 16-18, depending on how thin you roll the dough. The thinner, the crisper they bake. They don’t hang around anyway! Stored in an air-tight container, they’ll last a good three days, but are best eaten on the day of making. Ideally, fill them just before you serve so the pastry doesn’t go soggy with the ricotta filling. For 18 cannoli, you’ll need about 1kg ricotta, and try to find a drier variety as some brands in plastic tubs have water with them. In Malta, aim to buy fresh hunks of ricotta from the deli counter. If using a supermarket brand, drain it first through a fine sieve.
All images © Liz Ayling 2014
- 400g plain flour, tipo ’00’print button transparent
- 75g butter
- 35g caster sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg white
- ¼ wine glass white wine (dry or sweet will do)
- 700g ricotta
- 4 tbsps caster sugar
- vanilla essence – a few drops if desired.
- Making the dough:
- Place the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse to combine. Then, add the egg yolks and white, and pulse a few more times. Finally, pour the white wine in slowly from the top of the processor; this time on setting 1 speed. You may need more or less wine to get the dough to start to combine. When gathering into large crumbs in the processor, tip out on a lightly-floured board and combine into a single ball of dough. Knead lightly, cut the ball in half and then flatten into discs. Cover with cling film or wrap in baking paper and chill for half an hour in the fridge.
- When the dough is chilled, pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan). Take one disc and roll it out on a lightly-floured surface to around 2-3mm or as thin as possible. Using a straight-sided pastry cutter or a saucer as a template, cut out circles with a diameter the same as the cannoli rod length.
- Roll each cannoli circle around the rod, overlapping edges slightly and pressing them together lightly. If they don’t stick, lightly brush with water to hold. Place cannoli in their rods on a non-stick baking tray and bake for approx. 12 mins or until very slightly golden. Test the bottom of one to see if the pastry is cooked. It will harden more on cooling. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 mins in their rods; then remove the rods and cool completely.
- Ricotta filling:
- Whip up the ricotta and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. You can do this by hand with a fork or whisk. Add vanilla essence if using. You could also use chopped glacee’ cherries and/or finely chopped plain dark chocolate.
- Making up Cannoli:
- Using a piping bag and a 1cm diameter nozzle, pipe the ricotta mix into the cannoli tubes, being careful not to break them. Dust cannoli with icing sugar, if desired, and serve as is or with accompanying fruit like strawberries or other soft fruits in season.
- Storing: Once filled, the cannoli can be stored in the fridge for a day, but are best filled and eaten to order. Unfilled tubes will keep for up to 3-4 days in an air-tight container.
Life Images by Jill says
yum and yum again. These looks absolutely delicious! I need to make these asap! Just one questions what is – plain flour, tipo “OO” ? I haven’t heard of tip OO
Fabulous styling and photogrpahy as always Liz.
Red Bistro says
Jill, it’s Italian parlance for plain flour but seems to be about the gluten level – some percentages better for pastry, others for breads / pizza etc. Here’s a link explaining Aus flours vs Italian tipo ’00’s. http://www.lighthousebaking.com.au/tipo-00-flour-vs-bread-and-pizza-high-protein-flour-674/
Phillip || SouthernFATTY.com says
Love, love, loooooove cannoli! These will be a great use of the strawberries I kept from this season! Lovely.
Red Bistro says
Do hope you try them with that glut of strawbs coming your way! Let me know how you get on.
As someone who doesn’t like deep frying, I gave a similar baked cannoli recipe a try. Even though the result wasn’t bad (I sprayed the pasty with a bit of cooking oil to help it get browned during baking) for the very occasional special occasion, I’d have to go with the fried version. It’s worth the extra time and effort.
Red Bistro says
@A_Boleyn, I agree that if you’ve the time and the deep fryer, the fried version do come out a tad better – crisper and browner. I think if eaten on the day, the pastry baked ones are a pretty good second though. If you use a pastry brush to coat a little corn oil on, then they will brown more. In the heat in Malta, I tend to prefer baking (even if the oven is belching!) as it’s worse standing over a deep fat pan; at least I can abandon the kitchen while the oven is on! Either way, homemade cannoli aren’t as much a hassle as one might think and certainly do impress guests if you bother to do your own!
Thank you for your reply.
I live in Ontario, Canada and don’t normally worry about too much heat until summer time but it’s the mess of deep frying that I don’t like. I actually worked up more of a sweat rolling out the cannoli and cutting them out than deep frying. I’ll have to try the baked version again one day.
Red Bistro says
Yes, know full-on what you mean about working up a sweat! Do that in our winters too! I am a pastry fan so that’s probably why I edge towards that not frying; mind you, in our big sweat now, pastry sticks and melts, so prob have to give cannoli a miss til autumn anyway now! Lovely that you’re beaming in from Canada! More temperate climes, which I kind of envy right now!
Carrie Pacini says
Your cannoli look amazing. The texture seems very pillowy but I am sure there is a nice crunch happening.
Red Bistro says
Yes, these baked cannoli will inevitably be a bit more like a pastry than the traditionally fried version. I just hate deep fat fryers so am happy to compromise. French pastisserie is full of pastry + creme options and so I suppose these are more French-ified that cannoli alla siciliana. I find that eating them on the day (and let’s face it, few ever get left over for another session), then there’s enough crispness. In Malta, cannoli are relatively cheap to buy in cafes, so one would really buy not make most of the time, unless you want a healthier version; hence my baking them here. Hope you give them a try all the same – so long as you woof them up on the day!