Sunday, February 12, 2012

Leave the Gun; Take the Cannoli

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I had an insatiable craving for violent movies. I know, crazy, right? I chalk it up to the extra testosterone in my system at the time. Rich was more than happy to oblige as I had subjected him to four years of romantic comedies without so much as a preview for Fight Club or V for Vendetta.

So at the end of my first trimester, when I asked, "Hey, why haven't I seen The Godfather?" he ran there and back from the video store before I could say, "Netflix." 

I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. It seems guys never stop talking about the movie. The offer he couldn't refuse... the horse head in the bed... going to the mattresses... take the gun, leave the cannoli... What? Godfather or no Godfather, you don't leave the cannoli. 

It's art, poetry, romance and everything you want in a dessert. Even a last meal. The savory, crisp shell contrasts perfectly with the sweet, smooth, creamy interior. Although the cooking requires a bit of forethought, making cannoli is quite simple, assembly really. 

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup white wine

1 recipe fresh ricotta cheese, about 2 1/2 cups
3.5 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of one orange

1 egg, whisked

2 litres canola oil, for frying

Tools: cling film, deep-fat thermometer, pasta machine (or rolling pin), kitchen tongs, cannoli forms, pastry bag and wide decorating tip (or zip top bag with a hole in the corner) 

To make the pastry, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and sugar, then cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs. Stir in the wine until the dough comes together, then knead until mixed well. Wrap in cling film and set aside for 30 minutes to an hour.

While the dough rests, stir the sugar, orange zest and chocolate pieces into the ricotta and fill a pastry bag with the mixture. If you don't have one, you can certainly use a zip top bag with a hole cut in the corner. 

In a five-quart stock pot, heat the canola oil until it registers 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 Centigrade). Please, please do not skip the thermometer. I can tell you the exact flash point of canola oil because... well, I set my first kitchen on fire nearly a decade ago making tempura. Nothing sounds quite like the whoosh of air and gentle pop of a fire starting, and you don't want to hear that noise in your kitchen, now do you?

While the oil heats up, which takes about five to ten minutes, form the dough into about 10 small balls and dust each with flour. Pat them flat before running them through your pasta maker, rotating as you go, until you reach the desired thinness. I suggest the #4 setting for a thin, crisp shell. Roll each disc around a cannoli form and seal with a dab of the beaten egg.

Place the cannoli into the hot oil with a pair of kitchen tongs. Depending on the width of your pot, you may wish to do only two at a time. Fry for about two minutes until golden brown. Remove gingerly, making sure to pour any excess oil out of the form before placing it on a cooling rack. Use a thin pot holder and the tongs to gently ease the shell from the form shortly after it comes out of the oil. Return the oil to 350 degrees before proceeding with the remaining shells. 

When all of the shells are cooked and cooled and you are within about 10 minutes of serving, fill each shell with the ricotta mixture.

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