Sicilian cannoli, along with Sicilian cassata, are the most representative cake of our island, and is typical of the Carnival because it seems it was made as a joke.
When we were kids, we often played this joke by making a cannolo and putting the ricotta cheese cream at the ends, while we put an absorbent cotton wad inside. It was really funny, because the victim greedily bited the end thus finding the surprise!
In Sicily we call cannolo the faucet pipe where the water flows, and it is a metal rod that is used to make the casing (the so called “scorcia” i.e. rind in sicilian dialect) containing the cream. But from the faucet it flows water instead from from the cannolo it flows… the cream! Hence the Carnival joke.
However, like all our greedy dishes, even this simple but fantastic cake is eaten throughout the year and at any time. It is always a pleasure to bite this particular crispy pastry stuffed with fresh ricotta cream.
Crumbly and creaky cannoli are made throughout Sicily and, thanks to the skill of our pastry chefs, are different from place to place in the decorations. For example, in Palermo, at the ends of cannolo normally they use to lay two beautiful candied cherries and on the top a slice of candied orange peel, while in eastern Sicily the minced Bronte’s pistachios dominate the scene. Anyway the ricotta cream is the ingredient that can’t change, and it must strictly be really fresh sheep’s ricotta.
It is a delicacy so dear to the Sicilians, that in Piana degli Albanesi near Palermo, they honor it with the “Festival of Cannolo.” Here, besides the parade of carnival carts (which takes place every year from 13 January to 10 February), you can taste cannoli of all sizes, from the little cannoli to the really big ones that make it even more joyful and cheerful the carnival atmosphere, but above all they delight mind and palate.
Ingredients for the rind (casing)
400 g flour
75 g lard
40 g caster sugar
1 egg white
a pinch of salt
15 g unsweetened cocoa powder
60 g dry Marsala
60 g white vinegar
metal rods (not welded) to make the cannoli
Peanut oil for frying
1 kg. of fresh sheep ricotta
600 g sugar
A pinch of cinnamon powder (preferably the content of a vanilla stick)
150 g dark chocolate drops
Candied cherries (2 per cannolo)
Candied orange peels (1 per cannolo)
Directions for the rinds
If you have the opportunity use a planetary mixer with the leaf tool, then mix flour, sugar, cocoa and salt. Add the lard to the flour mixture and mix it well, then add the eggs, let them combine well to the mixture and finally keep on working by adding the Marsala and the vinegar until the mixture is not too soft but firm. Make a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it into refrigerator for at least an hour.
Flatten the dough to a thin thickness (you can use a metal pasta roller ending with a thickness similar to the one of noodles) gradually sprinkling with the flour both the worktop and the dough. When you reach the desired thickness, make some disks having a diameter of about 10 cm (you can help yourselves with a food ring). Wrap the little disks in the metal rods greased with oil, joining the edges , brushing them with beaten egg white. Fry in plenty of hot oil , two to three at a time. As soon as the rind is of a nice dark gold , drain them and place them to cool down on food oil absorbing paper towels.
Directions for the ricotta cream
If the ricotta is very moist, as it should be, make it drip in order to remove most of the serum. Mix well the ricotta with the sugar. Leave it stand for an hour and then sift it.Now add the cinnamon and the dark chocolate.
Let’s prepare the cannoli
Fill the rinds with cream and smooth the ends helping yourselves with a knife, place a candied cherry on the ends, put it on a tray and sprinkle with powdered sugar . Then lay the candied orange peel on the top.