Byrd and I wish you all a blessed Christmas! Have a warm, spice-filled, fir tree scented, candlelit, loving time with your families this holiday season.
Byrd and I wish you all a blessed Christmas! Have a warm, spice-filled, fir tree scented, candlelit, loving time with your families this holiday season.
The next few days hold the possibility of many bright, full moments: cutting into my mom’s annual pan of fresh cinnamon rolls, watching my niece and nephews swashbuckling their way through jungles of Christmas wrapping paper with their foam swords, the beautiful Christmas afternoon nap. But there were also some shining moments in the past few days that made this holiday a special one. Moments like this one, for example:
In case you couldn’t tell — what, my shaky hands and shrieking aren’t helping? — that’s Mike graduating from college with a BS in Mathematics. His family and I were sitting about a mile high in the stands, just as proud as fresh-plucked plums. Afterward we got a closer view of his handsome cap and gown.
Mike and a proud, plum-like Julie.
All of these special moments — the holiday celebrating my Savior’s birth, the coming new year, and the culmination of Mike’s undergraduate studies — warranted some special treats. I got a little crafty with some golden oreos, cream cheese, white candy melts, fruit roll ups, melted chocolate, and sprinkles. Okay, I bet you’re confused by now. Why don’t I just show you?
Voilà, oreo truffle snowmen! What do you think — would Bakerella, queen of cuteness, be proud? Personally, I was as tickled as a hungry hyena in a flock o’ flamingoes. Which is why, despite numerous setbacks, I persevered for about 13 hours to make, decorate, and photograph these little snow sweeties. I did take frequent breaks when things were going particularly bad to watch Ballet Shoes (don’t bother with the movie, but the book is cute), drink coke zero, mourn, sing Christmas carols, and dance around with Byrd. She doesn’t mind a bit when we’re up ’til 5 a.m. because of baking shenanigans. More time to play!
Why were these so time consuming? Well, I think the fat/moisture content in the oreo truffles this time around caused my candy melt to crack and ooze repeatedly. I redipped a gazillion times before finally realizing that refrigerating my snowpeople stopped the ooze. If I’d made that revelation sooner, these might have been relatively simple. Well, other than cutting out the little scarves from fruit roll ups, piping little branch arms, and sorting multicolored sprinkles. Okay, so these aren’t the treats for you if you’re in a hurry. But you have to admit, they are somethin’ special!
Not just appearance-wise, either. This happens to be a delicious group of snowfolks. I love golden oreo truffles even better than their chocolate cousins, and the vanilla flavored candy melts (I use CandiQuik) with chocolate accents was the perfect flavor addition. Mike said he might even love these more than red velvet cake balls — and that’s saying a lot! Speaking of Mike, of course I had to do a little something special to honor his special day. How about something like this:
Want to make these cuties? The recipe below includes notes I wish I’d known the first time around. Clear yourself an afternoon (and evening), put on some Christmas carols, and enjoy! Happy holidays!
Oreo Truffle Snowmen
Recipe By: Kraft Food & Family Fall 2006 (adapted, with decorating ideas by Willow Bird Baking)
Yields: About 15 large snowmen
Oreo Truffle Ingredients:
2 packages golden oreo cookies (divided; use cookie including the cream center)
2 8-ounce package cream cheese (softened)
white candy coating or candy melts (I use CandiQuik)
multicolored or chocolate sprinkles
candy-coated chocolate kiss sprinkles
strawberry fruit roll ups (or fruit by the foot)
chocolate (for melting)
1. Finely crush all but 14 cookies in a food processor or place them in a ziploc bag and crush into a fine consistency. Note: As for the extra 14 cookies, just eat them. Or, if you have extra dipping chocolate, make some chocolate covered oreos.
2. Stir in softened cream cheese. Use the back of a large spoon to help mash the two together.
3. Roll the mixture into 2″ balls (for the bodies) and 1″ balls (for the heads) and place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Make sure you have enough heads for your bodies!
5. It helps to put the uncoated balls in the freezer for a few minutes to keep the mixture from starting to fall apart when you drop into the melted chocolate. Note: I refrigerate mine for an hour or two in lieu of the freezer. I’ve heard folks say that if they get too cold, they can crack.
6. Melt candy coating as directed on package and then dip balls one at a time into candy coating. Let excess coating drain off onto wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry. Note: Dipping is often the most difficult part. Find what works for you. Let your kitchen be your playground. Look through your utensils for useful tools, and be creative. I used a grill fork to hold my “bodies” while spooning coating over them, and then redipped the bottoms separately. For the heads, I usually skewered them with a toothpick, dipped them, and then wriggled them off onto the wax paper after draining excess coating.
7. As soon as each body and head is dry (which usually only takes a couple of minutes) transfer it to the refrigerator immediately to prevent cracking/oozing. If it does crack, blot with a paper towel, redip, dry, and then refrigerate.
1. Take a head and body out of the fridge, and “glue” them together using melted candy coating (I used a sharp paring knife here to whittle away some of the excess coating around the bottom of the heads).
2. Use melted coating to “glue” on chocolate sprinkles for eyes, mouth, and buttons if desired. “Glue” on an orange candy-coated chocolate sprinkle (or a regular orange sprinkle) for a carrot nose.
3. Cut a strip of strawberry fruit roll up, and snip “fringe” into each end. Wrap around snowman’s neck and “glue” together with melted candy coating.
4. Melt chocolate and pipe out tree branch arms. Using a bamboo skewer or a toothpick, carve out a hole in each side of the snowman. Gently slide a “branch” into each hole to serve as arms.
4. Refrigerate snowmen in an airtight container.
5. Immediately before serving, you can create a snowy scene with coconut and/or glistening sugar sprinkles. Optional but pretty!
Mixing up the golden oreo truffles and shaping snowman parts.
My very first snowman, and then three chilling out in the fridge.
All the snowmen decorated, and then finally receiving arms!
Mike seeing his “surprise” snowman and Byrd giving her daddy graduation kisses.
My favorite snowman! Happy as can be!
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My lovely friend Jennifer and I had a date this past Saturday to do some holiday baking. It was a much-needed fun adventure in the midst of the whirlwind holiday season. Do you all feel a bit like a hamster in a wheel, or is it just me? This is the time of year replete with Christmas parties, family gatherings, and various other occasions that call for packing freshly baked goodies into a satchel and carting them all over town. Festive, but exhausting!
I was therefore glad to do some “relaxing baking” with Jennifer. We set out to make cheese straws first, followed by a batch of Cinnamon Roll Cookies. We were sure we’d knock the cheese straws out quicker than a cat knockin’ ornaments outta the Christmas tree. But . . . well, it turns out that, “This recipe looks easy!” are famous last words.
A moment we weren’t sure would ever happen:
pulling the cheese straws out of the oven!
One smoking, dead mixer motor; one spontaneous shopping trip; and one battery-acid-filled cookie press later, we were bemoaning our smug pronouncement. Okay, okay, cheese straws can get a little complicated! They were at least delicious for all the trouble — they were cheesy, dense, and came out of the oven smelling just like macaroni and cheese. I devoured my portion in two days flat. So much for sharing! (Well, Mike did get a few. And somehow escaped with his fingers.)
You can understand why, after being bested by a recipe that only had 5 ingredients, I approached the Cinnamon Roll Cookies with some trepidation. Thankfully, the sweet little cookies we made next are as simple can be. Originally called Iced Cinnamon Chip Cookies, these chewy treats have such a buttery cinnamon flavor and such a lovely white swish of glaze that I couldn’t help changing their name a bit. They remind me of the warm pan of cinnamon rolls my mom makes on Christmas morning, so I’ve dubbed them Cinnamon Roll Cookies.
The warmth of the cinnamon with the sweet edge of icing was the perfect Christmassy treat, particularly since whipping up a batch was so easy. If you’re about to run your little hamster wheel right off its fulcrum, I hope you’ll give this relaxing and rewarding recipe a try.
Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Recipe by: Taste of Home
Yields: about 39 cookies
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 package (10 ounces) cinnamon baking chips
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in cinnamon chips.
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.
In a small bowl, combine icing ingredients; beat on high speed for 1-2 minutes or until fluffy. Spread over cooled cookies.
The impossibly thick cheese straw batter (with the now departed mixer in the background!), followed by Jennifer piping the finished mixture out to bake.
Cookies just getting started, and then in the oven.
Cookies cooling and then all frosted.
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There’s been a joyous new addition to my family! She doesn’t even have a name yet, but she’s already brought so much love and happiness into our lives. And quesadillas. She’s brought a lot of those, too.
Meet my new baby!
That’s right! I have a precious new Cuisinart panini press! And I got her for free! Well, sort of. My local grocery store has been running a promotion where you get a point for every $10 you spend on groceries. You can then use points to “purchase” an array of Cuisinart appliances. My little panini press here cost 100 points, or (wince!) $1,000 worth of groceries. Okay, okay, so obtaining her was a bittersweet accomplishment. Nevertheless, I was as excited as a bunny eatin’ a banana! The cashier politely listened to me ramble about all the panini I planned to make as I scooped my new appliance up to bring her home. Since then, there’s been a whole lotta pressin’ going on!
While searching around enthusiastically for panini recipes, I came upon a lovely blog: Panini Happy. A whole blog entirely devoted to using my new favorite kitchen gadget! I got so excited paging through the blog that I planned a whole dinner around panini! On the menu was a succulent Roast Chicken and Onion Jam Panini, a side of Sweet Potato Fries with Basil Salt and Garlic Mayonnaise, and a comforting side of Oven-Baked Macaroni and Cheese.
The panini was a synergy of gorgeous materials: sourdough bread, freshly roasted chicken, Gruyère, fresh thyme, garlic mayonnaise, and (drum roll please) ONION JAM. Panini Happy is where I met this Condiment of Condiments. Oh man, y’all, this stuff is good. Sweet caramelized onion, roasted garlic, reduced balsamic vinegar . . . it’s the perfect, hearty, luscious spread to drench your panini in. And drench we did!
Recipe by: Panini Happy
Yields: ~3/4 cup of onion jam
3 large sweet onions
2 heads garlic, roasted*
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Squeeze roasted garlic cloves unto a small plate. Set aside. Cut onions in half lengthwise; peel. Cut off ends; cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick pieces.
Coat a 13″ skillet with cooking spray, and set over medium heat. Add onions, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 15 minutes.
Add sugars; re-cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden, 20 – 30 minutes.
Add 1/4 cup water and stir. Cover and cook until dark brown, 20 -30 minutes.
Add balsamic vinegar, roasted garlic cloves, and another 1/4 cup water. Continue cooking until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
*See Elise’s helpful guide to roasting garlic on Simply Recipes
This easy roasted chicken breast was a new recipe for me, which I now adore. It’s simpler than roasting a full bird, but still produces juicy meat with a nice crispy skin. Easy as pie, especially for chicken you’re about to slice up onto a sandwich. Alternatively, you could pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocer and slice some meat off the already-prepared bird for your panini. But then you don’t get to pull this out of the oven:
All that was left once my onion jam was prepared and my chicken had been roasted was to assemble my panini.
Roast Chicken and Onion Jam Panini
Recipe by: Panini Happy, adapted
Onion jam (see recipe above)
Roasted chicken (see recipe above), carved
Gruyère cheese, sliced
fresh thyme to taste
garlic mayonnaise (see recipe below, with sweet potato fries)
Assembling the Panini:
1. Prepare onion jam (can be completed in advance).
2. Prepare roast chicken (can be completed in advance).
3. Preheat closed panini press to medium.
4. Brush one side of a slice of sourdough with olive oil and placed it on a preheated panini press. Assemble materials on top: slather on garlic mayonnaise, layer slices of cheese, slices of roasted chicken, a sprinkle of thyme, and heaping spoonfuls of onion jam. Place second slice of oiled bread on top, oil side up.
5. Using gentle pressure, press sandwich and hold for about 3 minutes, or until bread is toasted with grill marks and ingredients are heated through. Slice in half and enjoy immediately.
Finding the perfect side items to accompany the perfect panini was quite a task. The comforting, creamy side items I’d been craving throughout the cold, rainy weeks of November didn’t seem to “fit” next to my hip panini, but typical light sandwich fare didn’t appeal to me. So I compromised and made both! I baked a pan of my beloved Oven-Baked Macaroni and Cheese, but also crisped up some delicious (and more appropriate) sweet potato fries. Giada DiLaurentis’s sweet potato fries are my favorite; they’re sprinkled with fresh basil and kosher salt, and dipped in a tangy garlic mayonnaise (the same garlic mayonnaise, by the way, that I slathered on my sandwich). I’ve loved these sweet potato fries since I took my very first bite of them months ago. I cut mine thick, but you can slice them thinner for a crispier fry.
Sweet Potato Fries with Basil Salt and Garlic Mayonnaise
Recipe by: Giada DiLaurentis
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
5 sweet potatoes, cut into about 1 by 5-inch “fries”*
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
*Note: I usually make this recipe in batches of 1-2 potatoes at a time, and it’s perfect for 1-2 people. I keep the garlic mayonnaise recipe the same and have extra throughout the week for a sandwich spread.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the sweet potato “fries” on a foil-lined baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile combine the basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. In another small bowl combine the mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice, and stir to combine. When the sweet potato fries come out of the oven, sprinkle with the basil salt. Serve with the garlic mayonnaise alongside for dipping.
Even if you don’t have your own panini press, I hope you’ll get out a regular ol’ skillet and grill up some cheesy, onion jammy sandwiches — and don’t forget the delicious sides! Oh, and one last thing . . . what do you think I should name my new gadget?
Roasted garlic and delicious finished onion jam.
Sweet potato fries cooking and panini grilling!
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If there were ever a hard month to work a Daring Bakers challenge into the schedule, November would be it! This past week has been filled to the brim with cooking pies, cakes, enchiladas (no one ever said I was normal). And I was only responsible for a small part of my family’s Thanksgiving meal — I don’t know how folks responsible for the entire dinner manage to get everything finished!
Speaking of Thanksgiving, it was grand — lovely food and a lovely time with family. The yeast rolls, as always, were my favorite part, but the turkey made a fine showing:
The juicy stuffed bird my parents made. That’s my mother’s china in the background, which I promised her I would not sell on eBay after she dies (isn’t this the sort of discussion everyone has over Thanksgiving dinner?)
Back to the Daring Bakers Challenge, though!
The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.
What’s funny about this challenge is that just a couple of days prior to Lisa’s announcement, I was walking through the grocery store pondering cooking techniques I wanted to try. I settled on deep frying as one thing that still really mystified me. When this challenge was issued, it just confirmed for me what I’ve remarked every month about the Daring Bakers; that is, that the group helps me stretch my skills with each new “daring” recipe.
I enthusiastically shopped around online for some cannoli forms, though other daring bakers got inventive with tinfoil. Look, he even has a little blueprint drawn out! Leave it to an engineer, right? Other than the forms, I was all set: big heavy saucepan, candy/fry thermometer, big round cookie cutter, and bottle after bottle of vegetable oil.
Turns out cannoli are quite simple! After mixing and chilling the dough, I rolled it out (springy, but otherwise nice to work with), cut some circles, and rolled them out until they were extremely thin. While my first shell turned out a little dark (you really have to remove them a touch before you think they’re done), overall, they were a success!
Three topping selections and some chocolate-dipped edges!
I filled my shells three ways. All started with the same traditional sweetened ricotta base, but one group was then covered in chopped hazelnuts and hunks of dark Ghirardelli chocolate. The next batch was covered with chopped peanuts and Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips. Finally, the last group of cannoli were coated with a big handful of Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips. These were my favorite; the cinnamon chips amplified the subtle cinnamon flavor of the shells. No matter which way we ate them, though, they were delectable little three-bite desserts, with the perfect ratio of crunch to cream.
No need to be intimidated by this Daring Bakers Challenge. While it pushed me out of my comfort zone, it was relatively simple and definitely a lot of fun. Thanks to Lisa for a delicious mission!
My favorite topping: cinnamon chips!
Recipe by: adapted from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Allen Rucker, Michelle Scicolone
Yields: 22-24 4″ cannoli
Printable version of this recipe
Cannoli Shells Ingredients:
2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
*Note – If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax Artifex).
Cannoli Filling Ingredients:
2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios
*Note – If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.
DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS:
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
2. Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.
3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.
4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.
5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.
8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.
DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING:
1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.
2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).
ASSEMBLE THE CANNOLI:
1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.
2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.
LISA’S TIPS AND NOTES:
– Dough must be stiff and well kneaded
– Rolling the dough to paper thinness, using either a rolling pin or pasta machine, is very important. If the dough is not rolled thin enough, it will not blister, and good cannoli should have a blistered surface.
– Initially, this dough is VERY stubborn, but keep rolling, it eventually gives in. Before cutting the shapes, let the dough rest a bit, covered, as it tends to spring back into a smaller shapes once cut. Then again, you can also roll circles larger after they’re cut, and/or into ovals, which gives you more space for filling.
– Your basic set of round cutters usually doesn’t contain a 5-inch cutter. Try a plastic container top, bowl etc, or just roll each circle to 5 inches. There will always be something in your kitchen that’s round and 5-inches if you want large cannoli.
– Oil should be at least 3 inches deep and hot – 360°F-375°F, or you’ll end up with greasy shells. I prefer 350°F – 360°F because I felt the shells darkened too quickly at 375°F.
– If using the cannoli forms, when you drop the dough on the form into the oil, they tend to sink to the bottom, resulting in one side darkening more. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to gently lift and roll them while frying.
– DO NOT crowd the pan. Cannoli should be fried 2-4 at a time, depending on the width of your saucepan or deep fryer. Turn them once, and lift them out gently with a slotted spoon/wire skimmer and tongs. Just use a wire strainer or slotted spoon for flat cannoli shapes.
– When the cannoli turns light brown – uniform in color, watch it closely or remove it. If it’s already a deep brown when you remove it, you might end up with a really dark or slightly burnt shell.
– Depending on how much scrap you have left after cutting out all of your cannoli shapes, you can either fry them up and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar for a crispy treat, or let the scraps rest under plastic wrap and a towel, then re-roll and cut more cannoli shapes.
– Push forms out of cannoli very gently, being careful not to break the shells as they are very delicate. DO NOT let the cannoli cool on the form, or you may never get it off without it breaking. Try to take it off while still hot. Hold it with a cloth in the center, and push the form out with a butter knife or the back of a spoon.
– When adding the confectioner’s sugar to the filling, TASTE. You may like it sweeter than what the recipe calls for, or less sweet, so add in increments.
– Fill cannoli right before serving! If you fill them an hour or so prior, you’ll end up with soggy cannoli shells.
– If you want to prepare the shells ahead of time, store them in an airtight container, then re-crisp in a 350°F (176 °C) oven for a few minutes, before filling.
– Practice makes perfect. My first batch of shells came out less than spectacular, and that’s an understatement. As you go along, you’ll see what will make them more aesthetically pleasing, and adjust accordingly when rolling. My next several batches turned out great. Don’t give up!!
Cutting out cannoli and getting ready to fry.
My first little cannoli! Then all the cannoli ready for dipping and filling.
Don’t forget to check out the Daring Bakers blogroll for other fantastic cannoli!
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