A flavoursome and crunchy chocolate praline complements the soft creamy cheeses in the filling of these cannoli shells.
Start the cannoli. Sift the flour, sugar and cinnamon into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vegetable fat and mix on medium–low speed until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Make a well.
Combine the Marsala, vinegar, egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water in a bowl. Tip into the flour well and combine on medium–low speed to a firm dough.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and knead for about 5 minutes, until very smooth and pliable. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
Make the filling. Line a sieve with the cheesecloth or muslin and place the ricotta on top. Fold the ends of the cloth over the cheese, then set a small weighted saucer on top. Place the sieve over a bowl and leave the ricotta to drain for 20 minutes.
Put the drained ricotta into a large mixing bowl with the mascarpone and vanilla bean paste. Stir to combine, then cover and chill.
Melt the sugar in a medium heavy-based pan over a low heat, gently tilting and swirling the pan until it turns golden brown.
Add the almonds and stir for 1 minute, until the caramel turns rich chestnut and the nuts are lightly coloured. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, then spread out the praline on the baking sheet or mat. Leave to cool.
Continue with the cannoli. Divide the dough into 4, take 1 portion and re-wrap the others. Flatten the portion to a thick disc and run it through the widest setting on the pasta machine. Fold it in 3 and re-roll, then repeat (dust the machine with flour if tears appear).
Reduce the setting one notch and pass through the dough. Continue, reducing one notch at a time, until you have rolled the dough through the thinnest setting and you have a long, thin strip.
Place the dough strip on a floured worktop. Dip the cutter in flour and stamp out 10cm discs. Repeat with all the dough portions until you have at least 24 ‘good’ shells, with at least 3 or 4 extra to allow for breakages. Discard the trimmings.
Heat the oil in the deep-fat fryer to 180°C/350°F. Wrap 1 dough disc around a cannolo tube and carefully brush the join with a dab of beaten egg white – don’t let the egg white touch the tube or the shell will be hard to remove.
Using the kitchen tongs, fry the shell on the tube for 1 minute or until crisp and golden. Remove carefully using the tongs and leave to cool on the paper-lined wire rack.
When the tube is cool enough to handle, ease it out of the shell. This is your trial cannolo. Use it to test the method. Cook the remaining cannoli in batches of 3, making sure the oil comes back up to temperature each time.
Fill the shells just before serving. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water.
Remove the bowl from the pan and stir the chocolate until very smooth. Leave on the worktop until cool but still fluid, then stir into the cheese mixture with the honey.
Break up the praline, then place in a clean, dry, folded tea towel and bash with a rolling pin to turn the pieces into crumbs with some larger shards.
Set aside 4 tablespoons of the praline dust for decorating and stir the remainder into the chocolate filling mixture.
Spoon the filling into the large piping bag. Snip a 1.5cm opening at the end of the piping bag and pipe the filling into both ends of each cannolo, so that it runs all the way through, but doesn’t over-fill.
Dip both ends of each cannolo in the praline dust, then dust with icing sugar.