Inspired by a love of Turkish food, these cinnamon-flavoured cannoli are filled with toasted pistachios and walnuts – as well as the traditional mascarpone and ricotta soft cheeses – mixed with freshly ground cardamom, honey and a hint of orange blossom.
Makes: about 24
Hands-on time: 2 hours
Frying time: 1 minute (each)
Skill level: Up for a challenge
For the cannoli shells:
300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons Marsala wine
1 medium egg, at room temperature, separated
50g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
About 2 litres sunflower oil, for deep-fat frying
For the baklava filling:
200g walnut pieces
100g icing sugar
200g full-fat ricotta cheese
100g mascarpone cheese
100g Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons clear honey
½-1 teaspoon ground cardamom, to taste
Few drops orange blossom water extract, to taste
Icing sugar, for dusting
You will also need:
Pasta rolling machine
10cm plain round cutter
Deep-fat fryer plus cooking thermometer
At least 3 cannoli tubes (about 10cm x 2.6cm), lightly greased with sunflower oil
Large disposable piping bag
Step 1 – Make the cannoli dough first as it needs to rest: sift the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Combine the Marsala, egg yolk (the white is saved for assembly) and butter in a smaller bowl then add to the flour mixture. Stir and mix everything together with a round-bladed knife, or your hand, to make a firm dough. If the dough feels dry or stiff, or there are dry crumbs in the base of the bowl, work in a little water a teaspoon at a time. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and knead thoroughly until very smooth and pliable. Wrap in cling film and leave on the worktop for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4.
Step 2 – Meanwhile make the filling: tip the nuts into separate baking dishes and toast in the heated oven until golden, stirring and checking frequently as they colour at different rates. Leave to cool then chop to a medium-coarse texture either by hand or in a food processor. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl. Add the ricotta, mascarpone, yogurt and honey and beat until very smooth and light, using a wooden spoon or electric hand whisk. Stir in the cardamom and orange blossom extract to taste, then add 250g of the chopped nuts. Cover and chill while you fry the cannoli shells.
Step 3 – Clear a large space on the worktop and set up the pasta-rolling machine. Divide the dough into 4, take 1 portion and re-wrap the others. Flatten the dough to a thick disc and run it through the widest setting on the machine. Fold it in 3 and re-roll through the machine, then repeat. If the dough starts to tear or stick, dust it and the machine with flour. Then roll the dough through the second widest setting and keep reducing the setting each time you roll the dough until you reach the thinnest setting, so it gets thinner and longer each time.
Step 4 – Place the strip of dough on the floured worktop. Dip the large round cutter in flour and stamp out discs of dough. Depending on the space available you may prefer to roll, cut, shape and fry the cannoli in 4 batches, or roll and cut all the dough then shape and fry in batches. There should be enough to make 24 ‘good’ shells, with at least 3-4 extra to allow for mistake and breakages. The trimmings can be discarded – or, if necessary, gathered up into a ball, re-rolled and used to make more shells (though these cannoli won’t be as tender as the initial batch).
Step 5 – To shape and fry the cannoli: heat the oil in the deep-fat fryer to 180°C and have to hand the heatproof tongs and a wire rack covered with kitchen paper. Roll one dough disc around a cannolo tube and carefully brush the join where the two edges overlap with a dab of beaten egg – don’t let the egg white touch the tube or it will make removal tricky. Using the kitchen tongs, carefully lower the tube into the hot oil and fry for 1 minute or until crisp and golden. Remove carefully using the tongs and leave to cool on the paper-lined wire rack.
Step 6 – When it’s cool enough to handle comfortably, ease the tube out of the shell – don’t touch the shell or tube until cool and use the tongs if in doubt. This is your trial cannolo; use it to test technique/cooking time/cooking temperature and adjust as necessary. Cook the rest of the cannoli in batches of three so the fryer isn’t overcrowded – making sure the oil comes back up to temperature each time.
Step 7 – Fill the shells just before serving so they keep their crunch: stir the filling then transfer to the large piping bag. Tip the rest of the chopped nuts into a shallow dish. Snip off the tip of the piping bag to leave a 1.5cm opening and pipe the filling into both ends of each cannolo – making sure the filling runs all the way through, but avoiding over-filling the fragile shells or they will collapse. Sprinkle the exposed filling at each end with the chopped nuts and arrange on a serving dish. Dust with icing sugar and serve.