Friday, July 29, 2011

Holy Cannoli!

When people learn that I have celiac, they often lament: "Oh, you must miss bread SO MUCH!" and are startled when I reply, "No, actually, I miss cannoli." (Those few who aren't startled? Those are my people.) Yes, I miss bread, bagels, pasta, beer, etc., but there are decent substitutes for them. Meanwhile, I literally haven't had cannoli in almost 10 years. Lemme say that again: TEN YEARS.

Well, I hadn't, until this past weekend:

Hubba hubba.

No, really: look at these bad boys:

Dead sexy. Check out those shells.

Cannoli cream is easy, I can make that on my own. (In fact, I'll show you how in a sec.) It's the shells that present a problem. Recipes exist online, but you need cannoli tubes, a deep pan, loads of oil, and the willingness to try your hand at deep-frying; I possess none of these. I'd perused the internet in search of GF cannoli shells; only recently did I find them, sold by Russo's Gluten-Free Gourmet, out of Shirley, NY. I had enjoyed their tiramisu and mozzarella sticks, purchased at g-free nyc a few months prior. I emailed the company, to see if I could purchase a few shells, not the case of 48 listed on their website.

I heard back from them just prior to a New York City Celiac Disease Meetup event, where there'd be enough demand for a case. Russo's kindly donated the shells to our good cause:

Now that's a special delivery.

Shells in hand, it was time to make some cannoli cream! It's quite simple: ricotta, confectioners sugar, vanilla, salt, citron, and mini chocolate chips. BUT, there's a key step: you must strain the ricotta through cheesecloth - otherwise, the curds in the ricotta will remain no matter how much you mix it, resulting in a loose, grainy cream. You want it to be thick and very, well, creamy; lots of ways to achieve that, this is mine:

First, take a large bowl and upend a squat glass/cup in it:

In another bowl, unfold two layers of cheesecloth and empty ricotta into the center:

Cheese, please!

Then twist up the loose ends at the top, twist to make a taut bundle, and secure. (I use butterfly clips):

New Yorker optional.

Then pop that packet on top of the inverted glass, as so:

Let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two. (If you're short on time, let it drain for at least an hour, then manually squeeze more liquid out, by twisting the cheesecloth at the top.) After it's done, you'll have something more solid that looks like this:

Extracted whey in background. (New Yorker still optional.)


Udi's + Boar's Head roast beef and cheddar = a healthy lunch.

Yes, you'll need to eat a healthy lunch before you finish the cannoli! Maybe it'll keep you from sticking your face in the bowl of cannoli cream. Maybe.

The next few steps had to happen quickety quick (read: no pics) as I was running short on time, so I'll make with the telling:

1- With a mixer (hand or fancy Kitchen Aid-type hooha), cream strained ricotta, confectioners sugar (no substitutions!), a pinch of salt, and vanilla. Continue mixing until it's thick and creamy, with no visible curds.

2- Fold in chopped citron and mini chocolate chips.

3- Spoon into pastry bags:

Test cannoli = cook's treat.

I recommend crisping the cannoli shells in the oven for a few minutes. I did these for about 8 minutes at 400 degrees. Let them cool, then snip tips of pastry bags so that the opening is about an inch across, and fill. Dip ends of cannoli in mini chocolate chips (or pistachios, candied fruit, etc. I just grew up with plain/chocolate chips, so that's what I do).

So easy. So worth it:

They're best served freshly filled, but are just dandy later in the day or even the next day. If you make "too many" (whatever that means), you can also freeze them and defrost as needed.

Buon appetito!

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