Sunday, February 08, 2009

"Don't Forget The Cannoli"

There's a famous line from the movie, "The Godfather", a set-up for the punchline, "Leave the gun, take the cannoli".

I promised cannoli and I didn't forget my promise.
But I'm not here this morning to discuss nuances of classic films. I didn't want to neglect cannoli after mentioning them in my post, "Melanzana alla Michoacana." My cannoli are cannoli para flojeros (slackers).

I was introduced to cannoli at an early age in my childhood in Brooklyn, NY. They became my second most favorite pastry after chocolate covered, custard filled eclairs*. The photo above shows "real" cannoli
. says:
Cannoli, (plural) in Sicilian, are Sicilian pastry desserts. The singular is cannolo, meaning “little tube”, with the etymology stemming from the Latin "canna", or reed. Cannoli originated in Sicily and are an essential part of Sicilian cuisine. They are also popular in Italian American cuisine and in America are known as a general Italian pastry, while they are specifically Sicilian in origin.

Cannoli consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta cheese (or alternatively, but less traditionally, sweetened Mascarpone) blended with some combination of vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, Marsala wine, rosewater or other flavorings. Some chefs add chopped succade or chocolate chips. They range in size from "cannulicchi", no bigger than a finger, to the fist-sized proportions typically found in Piana degli Albanesi, south of Palermo, Sicily. Sometimes cannoli can be found with the shells dipped in chocolate, in addition to being stuffed with filling.

But we don't live in Sicily, nor even Brooklyn. If we want cannoli, we'll have to make them ourselves. Susan and I have some experience at that. We even have the metal forms for frying the tubes. But being retired (lazy), I skipped the laborious parts and bought some ready made pastry tubes. They are called "tostadas de nata". Some are flat wafers and others are rolled into crisp tubes, (lower right) somewhat narrower and more delicate than a true cannolo tube, but, as we say, "It works for me."
(Thanks to Esperanza, Mexican Kitchen Forum Moderator on for the correct terminology.)

If you want a serious, more authentic cannoli recipe and technique, I suggest looking at Il Mezzogiorno Cucina Siciliana

The tubular challenge solved, we could then deal with the filling. Ricotta cheese is not widely available in Pátzcuaro or Morelia. However, requesón, which is closely related to ricotta, is. At Mega Comercial in Morelia, I bought a couple of small containers of Cremería Aguascalientes Requesón. This is a very finely textured version of requesón.

Using only one small container, I added about a third of a bar of Philly Cream Cheese. With an electric hand mixer, I broke up the cheeses, then gradually whipped in about 1/3-1/2 cup of powdered sugar and a good dash of ground cinnamon. I continued whipping until it was very smooth; then added a few drops of orange liqueur (Controy), and folded in with a spatula a teaspoon or so of minced preserved orange peel and a a little preserved citron. (Acitrón).

Next, I finely chopped a tablet of Mayordomo Chocolate con Canela, a total of about 2 tablespoons, and folded it in. You can use semi-sweet chocolate or even mini chocolate chips.

At serving time (being particularly lazy), I spread the cannoli filling on the wafer type tostadas de nata, then heaped each with a big handful of well washed and drained, plump zarzamoras** (blackberries). A light dusting of powdered sugar finished it easily and attractively. Serves 4 or 5.

I still have the tubular tostadas de nata and a container of requesón. Once I rig up a pastry bag for filling the tubes, we'll have Michoacán cannoli.

*Eclairs. Our dear friend and neighbor, Geni, (who makes the best Key Lime Pie ever.***) would like to learn how to make eclairs. When we recover from a series of lavish home dinners here, we may do a lesson and a tasting.

**Zarzamoras. Some, small and very expensive, come from Oregon. Others, less expensive, larger and plumper, are grown locally. They are available in January. This is a miracle of climate. I last paid $20 MXP a kilo. Lástima, we weren't able to eat them all before they molded.

***Key Lime Pie: yesterday's Key Lime Pie by Geni was lighter and fluffier in texture than usual. She whipped the egg yolks for 5 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. The individual slices were garnished with plump strawberries. (Available most of the year at low prices, about $15 MXP a kilo.

Now, as an added Nostalgia Bonus, this 2 minute plus clip from "The Godfather". (Offscreen violence)


Tancho said...

You are going to make me want to make these things again, and put on the kilos, and buy bigger pants.... Probably not, everything in moderation is ok.
I will try your recipe with the cheeses when get back, one thing I did out of desperation one time Michael was to wrap a flour tortilla around the form and fry it, I had to moisten it so it would hold, then filling them in the usual way. It was an acceptable substitute.
Thanks for the recipe.

PdxJackiMex said...

I'm with you, Michael. Those custard-filled, chocolate-covered eclairs are #1; and canoli, a close second. Eclairs nowadays have chocolate-wax coverings and are filled with plastic-like creme, not custard. Maybe you can teach us how to make them the old-fashioned way. I will try your Mexicanized canoli.

Don Cuevas said...

Maybe I'll give an informal class in eclair making, once I have the proper pastry bag and filler tip.

By the way, Jacki; that's a nice picture of you.


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,
I'd be interested in seeing your neighbors recipe for Key Lime Pie. I'm KLP lover and I'm always ready to try a different recipe. Right now I feel like I've got the best I've ever had, just made one on Thursday but had to give it away!
Leisa B.

Don Cuevas said...

Leisa, I'll see what I can do.

We just got back from another friend's place, where we had what may be the best cheesecake, with three kinds of fresh berries and cream on top, that I've ever eaten. And I'm not a big cheesecake fan.