I have a passion for jewelry, mostly the really expensive antique kind, the kind that I cannot afford. I have always worn silver but as I get older, I have a new found passion for gold….. Well, let’s be frank, I always loved gold but in my 20s (and 30s) could only afford silver, so it is what I wore. My recent inspiration for gold was the 2012 Dolce and Gabbana Italian Family advertising campaign, with the timeless Monica Bellucci, surrounded by pensive Sicilian men, children playing, and beautiful models in floral frocks wearing long ornate gold and somehow very Sicilian earrings. They were the earrings I wanted.
When I was in Sicily in September, I spent many hours looking at shops that sold antique jewelry, searching for the perfect authentic pair of earrings. Not only were the earrings I saw divine to look at, but each would have had a story to tell in their intricate design of the Sicilian beauty who must have worn them years before.
The price tag of the earrings was at least equivalent to a return airfare Australia-Italy (ranging from economy to first class, depending on which pair) so alas all I could do was take photos of them. Unsurprisingly, I am convinced that gold Sicilian earrings go perfectly well with Sicilian cannoli, which are found by the dozen in pastry shops throughout the island. I have a vision of the whole D&G Italian Family tucking into Cannoli Siciliani, designer clothing and jewelry intact, crunching into that crisp shell while the soft sweet ricotta filling oozes out the other end. And I figure that if I can’t buy authentic Sicilian earrings, I can certainly afford to eat Sicilian cannoli.
Wanting to bring a bit of Sicily back to Australia, upon my return, I purchased the requisite metal tubes to make my own cannoli at home. Using a pasta making machine and a deep fryer, it isn’t too difficult, just time consuming. A good (albeit long) video that demonstrates the making of cannoli shells is here. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making the shells, search around for ready-made good quality shells from speciality stores, it makes the task very easy. And if you want to relive Sicilian memories (or discover them for the first time) without cooking at all, try the cannoli at Bar Idda in East Brunswick. It is a fantastic little Sicilan restaurant which I wrote a blog post about (link is here). Either way, you will be enjoying your own little piece of Sicily.
400g 00 flour
1 tsp cocoa
1 egg plus one yolk
1/4 cup Marsala
75g strutto (or butter, margarine or vegetable shortening), room temperature
40 g caster sugar
1/4 tsp pure vanilla essence
Pinch of salt
50g icing sugar (or to taste)
cocoa or cinnamon (to taste)
glacé cherry halves, choc bits or ground pistachios (for decoration)
icing sugar/cocoa powder/cinnamon (one or the other or combination) to sprinkle over prepared cannoli once filled
Add all the ingredients for the shells in a KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook and mix for several minutes until homogeneous and smooth. If you have a food processor, process until combined and then knead on a bench for a few minuets until smooth. Form a ball, wrap in cling film and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
Divide the pastry into quarters (keeping the unused portion wrapped in cling film) and roll it out, either with a pasta machine or a rolling pin. If using a pasta machine, roll it out just like you would with pasta, rolling it to the second thinnest setting and using a bit of flour if needed to stop the pastry sticking (the video link above is good for seeing this step). Cut the pastry into circles of 10cm across (I used a cookie cutter mould) and stretch them slightly to make ovals. Wrap each oval of pastry around a cannoli mould and join the pastry by dabbing a bit of milk and pressing together. Repeat with the remaining pastry. Cannoli moulds usually come in packets of 4. If you only have 4 moulds, I suggest preparing all the pastry circles and placing them in cling wrap until needed.
Fry the cannoli, 4 at a time in a large pot (or a deep fryer) in vegetable oil at 180 degrees Celsius for a few minutes until golden, removing the mould as it become loose with tongs and turning them to make sure they cook evenly all over. The cannoli cook very quickly so take care they do not burn. Drain on absorbent paper and set aside to cool.
Combine all the ingredients for the filling and pipe or spoon the ricotta cream into the cooled shell just before serving. Sprinkle on some icing sugar, cinnamon or cocoa – depending on taste. Decorate if you like (with half grace cherries, chocolate bits or ground pistachios). Cooled unfilled shells can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days. Mine certainly were not as pretty as the shop bought ones but they tasted delicious. They were filled with a cocoa flavored ricotta and decorated with plain icing sugar and some crushed pistachios. And I closed my eyes and imagined I was wearing some beautiful antique Sicilian earrings as I ate them!