Cannoli Bites

Pizzelles. Italian rainbow cookies. Ricotta cake. Cannoli. I miss Italian desserts. Growing up with Mike’s Pastry, Modern Pastry, and the countless other just as good but not as well known Italian pastry shops just minutes away, they punctuate my childhood memories.

It occurred to me several months ago to make cannoli, then I took a closer look at a recipe, and realized I would need special deep frying tube molds for the shells. Time and effort got away from me, but then Pinterest let me know about baking cannoli shells in mini-muffin pans to make bite sized cannoli.

So here goes.

The filling is really quite simple. I used my homemade ricotta cheese mixed with store-bought mascarpone, mixed with powdered sugar.A bit of lemon zest would be a nice addition, but I didn’t have any. It’s 12 oz. ricotta, 8 oz. mascarpone, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, but I sort of just mixed until the consistency seemed right.

The dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus the surprisingly large amount used for dusting while rolling
2 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg (optional, but it really jazzes up the flavor!)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg white
6 – 8 Tbsp water (the recipe called for apple juice, which I didn’t have. The first time, I used buttermilk, the second batch used water)
2 Tbsp white  vinegar

MIx the dry ingredient together, turning with a whisk. Then, pour in the melted butter, and after that’s been mixed in, the egg white. Mix the water/juice/buttermilk with the vinegar, and then gradually stir into the flour. Start with 6 Tbs of water, and add more if the dough is too dry. Once a sticky doughball forms, wrap in plastic and stick i the fridge for an hour.

After chilling, roll out to 1/8 inch thick, and cut out circles. The dough gets tough each time you roll it out, so my strategy is to roll out a small circle with a scant handful of dough, cut out as many circles as I can fit, and then set the scraps aside. Once all the dough has gotten it’s first roll out, I combine the scraps and roll it out flat again.

Fit the dough circles into mini muffin pan (ungreased!) to create the cups. Place in the 400F (200C) oven for 8-13 minutes, once theyve gotten golden. Let them cool enough to handle.

I made these twice. The first time, the cookie cutter I used was just slightly too small, and the “cups” came out with bubbles in the bottom and didn’t have much capacity for the filling, but they were tasty, with just the right hint of cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg. The second time, I went a size up in concentric rings, and the cups came out much better, except I added a bit too much cocoa powder and the color was slightly off from the perfect golden brown I was aiming for. But they still tasted great.

I melted chocolate and dipped them half way in. I tried to just dip the rims, but the pastry cups were too small, or my fingers are fat and clumsy, because I kept dropping them and chocolate got everywhere. But the half chocolate dip worked perfectly well, and I think it’s a nice, decorative touch. Let the chocolate set (or place the tray in the fridge to speed the process along)

Piped the ricotta filling in, and that’s it! I prefer my cannoli unadultered, but you could, I suppose, add chopped pistachio or mini chocolate chips on top.

Chocolate dipped shells cooling

Chocolate dipped shells cooling

Adorable Cannoli Bites!

Adorable Cannoli Bites!

They turned out really well. If I was back at home, or anywhere with a good Italian bakery, I wouldn’t even consider making them, but here in Beijing, they are a well-received treat. I brought the first batch into the office.

The second batch I served at an event we hosted that didn’t have the budget to get catering–most places charge at least RMB200/per person. So instead I whipped up a couple trays of treats–bacon wrapped dates, quinoa fritters, bacon jam spread on baguette rounds with letter, cucumber and tomato, a bowl of hummus with pita bread and crudite, and called it a night.

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