Homemade lemon curd is the perfect contrast for these cannoli, made with a touch of cocoa and finished with crushed homemade digestive biscuits and melted white chocolate.
Makes: about 24
Hands-on time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Frying time: 1 minute (each)
Skill level: Up for a challenge
For the cannoli dough:
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced
4 tablespoons Marsala wine
1 tablespoon water
Egg white, for assembly
About 2 litres sunflower oil, for deep-frying
For the lemon curd:
120g caster sugar
90g unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced
Finely grated zest and juice 3 large unwaxed lemons
2 medium eggs, at room temperature
For the cheesecake filling:
300g mascarpone cheese
200g full-fat cream cheese
For the wholemeal digestive biscuits:
50g wholemeal plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g medium oatmeal
25g light muscovado sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
Good pinch salt
50g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
½-1 tablespoon milk
150g white chocolate (about 30% cocoa solids), finely chopped
Icing sugar, for dusting
You will also need:
10cm plain round cutter
8cm plain round cutter
Baking sheet, lined with baking paper
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, cocoa and cinnamon into a mixing bowl and mix well. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Make a well in the centre, add the Marsala and the water and mix to a firm dough with a round-bladed knife. Turn out onto a lightly floured worktop and knead thoroughly for about 5 minutes until smooth and pliable. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest on the worktop for 30 minutes.
Step 2 – Meanwhile make the lemon curd: put the sugar, butter, lemon zest and lemon juice into a large heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water – don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water. Stir until the butter and sugar have melted, then remove the bowl from the pan. Beat the eggs in a small bowl until thoroughly combined then strain into the lemon mixture, stirring constantly. Return the contents of the bowl to the pan and stir constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon – don’t let the curd come near boiling point or it will curdle. Remove the bowl from the heat and transfer the contents to a clean heatproof bowl. Leave to cool then cover and chill until cold and set.
Step 3 – In another bowl, combine the mascarpone and cream cheese then cover and chill.
Step 4 – While the lemon curd is cooling, make the biscuits: combine the flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub in with the tips of your fingers. Add enough milk to bring the mixture together to make a soft but not sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured worktop and knead for a few seconds then flatten to a thick disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes.
Step 5 – Unwrap the dough onto a floured worktop and roll out to 3mm thick. Stamp out 5 rounds with the 8cm plain cutter and arrange slightly apart on the lined baking sheet. Prick the rounds well with a fork and chill for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4. Bake the biscuits in the heated oven for about 11-14 minutes until lightly coloured. Leave to cool and firm up for a couple of minutes then transfer to a wire rack and leave until cold.
Step 6 – 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, 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 finally reach the last and thinnest setting – so it gets thinner and longer each time.
Step 7 – Place the dough on the floured worktop. Dip the 10cm round cutter in flour then 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, plus at least 3-4 extra to allow for mistakes 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 8 – 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 towels. Roll one disc around a cannolo tube and carefully brush the join where the 2 edges overlap with a dab of beaten egg white – 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 9 – When 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 10 – When ready to assemble the cannoli, gently melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of steaming hot (but not boiling) water – don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water. For best results, remove the bowl from the heat just before the pieces lose their shape and stir until melted and smooth. Crush 80g of the biscuits to make fairly fine crumbs and tip into a small bowl. One at a time, dip both ends of each cannolo into the melted chocolate then into the biscuit crumbs. Leave to set.
Step 11 – Mix 225g of the chilled lemon curd into the mascarpone mixture then transfer to a large disposable piping bag. Snip off the tip to make a 1.5cm opening. Pipe the lemon cheesecake filling into each end of the dipped/biscuit-coated cannoli, making sure the filling runs all the way through but not over-filling the fragile shells or they may collapse. Arrange on a serving platter, dust with icing sugar and serve.