Too Thick Shells, Burnt Fingers and Cannoli Success!

The next Gourmet Club theme is Italian and I have the assignment for the dessert course. While the dinner is not until June, I know I need some practice (and who doesn’t like eating the practice when dessert is involved????). The possibilities for delicious Italian desserts is endless. I am thinking I will do a two part dessert, because one part must be cannoli.

I have no Italian blood in me. No Italian aunties. No kindly neighborhood ladies that would bring over Italian food. Nothing. I love pasta (as 95% of the world does), but I have no heritage in making any of the cuisine. Because of that I am not ashamed to admit that I had never eaten a cannoli until I was 36 years old.

I was in New York City and my Brooklyn born boss suggested a place for dinner in Little Italy. After a great dinner, the group of us walked around Little Italy and he guided us to Ferrara’s Bakery. He told of stories when he was a little boy and for a special treat they would come down into the city and get a cannoli from Ferrara’s. So when we stopped in, I had no other choice than to order one. It was wonderful. A crispy and sweet shell with a creamy and luscious filling. I’ve had a craving for them ever since.

My odyssey of making cannoli took me several attempts to find out what to do right. The end product of my first attempt is below.

The crust, while flaky, was way too thick. The filling still had too much texture from the ricotta and while OK, was not great.

I made the dough and cut it with a cookie cutter. I needed flour to keep it from sticking to the counter.

To make cannoli, you need the tubes. You can make them yourself, but keep in mind they will be repeatedly dropped in hot oil and your future food surrounds them. Don’t use anything that will warp, melt or seep into the food. I thought it best to buy a set of the real things. If you only have four, be prepared for a long process to make any quantity of shells.

The oil needs to be kept around 325. When you pull the tubes out of the oil, use a spider to prevent from cracking the shells. Once out and drying on some paper towels, the next challenge is sliding the tube out of the shell. First, the tube is 325 degrees. Ouch. Second, remember to coat the tube with cooking spray before you wrap it, or else it will stick. Sticky and hot tubes = finger burns.

I was able to get some decent shells, but again, way too thick.

For the filling, I purchased some ricotta from an Italian deli. To ensure the ricotta is dry, it is best to drain it in a strainer overnight.

My second attempt at making the shells, I employed a new weapon, a non-stick kitchen mat. A review of this product is forthcoming.

This is before the serious rolling occurred.

A second weapon brought to bear in the cannoli wars. An oven glove (review forthcoming) allows you to handle the hot tubes while maintaining the dexterity you need to slide the tubes away from the shells without breaking them.

The second round shells were thinner but not yet thin enough. I still have to work on this for the gourmet club dinner.

Here is the finished product. I would say it was a success! My co-workers and neighbors who ate my practice attempts will hopefully attest to it.


Cannoli shell:

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 3/4 cup Crisco
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 20 tbsp of water or wine (there are 16 tbsp to a cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg whisked with 1T of water for an egg wash

The key to a good flaky shell is to NOT work the dough too much…”cut” the Crisco into the dry ingredients until the mixture is no bigger than pea sized, then add the egg and slowly stir in the water until it forms a ball.

You can make this in advance and refrigerate the dough. It’s easier to roll and work with when it’s cold. Roll it thin (using flour or on a non-stick mat so it doesn’t stick), like less than an eight of an inch. Use a round cookie cutter (or a margarita glass) to cut the dough. Spray the tube with non-stick spray (I used the kind meant for baking). Wrap the cut circle around the tube and brush the top of the circle with egg wash so when completely rolled, the egg wash helps to seal the edge. If needed, press down right on the seal to better firm up the seal Be sure the edges are sealed good because they tend to pop open when frying.

Fill a pan with a vegetable oil and heat the oil to 325 degrees. Try to keep it at that temperature. For my stove  it was just below medium heat. Gently place several of the cannoli shells in the oil and fry until deep golden brown. When you pull the tubes from the oil and slide the shell off the tube place the shell on paper towel to soak up extra oil. Repeat.

The shells can be made several days in advance and keep well. Do not fill early as shells will become soggy. Fill as close to eating as reasonably possible.

Cannoli filling:

  • 4 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped maraschino cherry
  • 1/3 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips

For filling, drain ricotta cheese over cheesecloth if ricotta is watery.

  • Combine ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until combined.
  • Squeeze Maraschino cherries with paper towels to remove all liquid. (If you don’t squeeze them good, you will have a pink water filling!).
  • Stir in cherries and chocolate chips into the ricotta mixture, being careful not to over mix.
  • Chill filling for about 30 minutes before piping into cooled cannoli shells. Use a piping bag, as this will be easiest to fill the shells.
  • Dab each end into a flat dish filled with mini chocolate chips.
  • You may garnish the cannoli by sprinkling powdered sugar on top.
  • Whipped cream, a cherry, and shaved chocolate can also be used to garnish the top.
  • Keep refrigerated until time of serving.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Cheese, Chocolate, Dessert, Fried, Italian, kosher, Recipes, Vegetarian

Author:The Ranting Chef

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77 Comments on “Too Thick Shells, Burnt Fingers and Cannoli Success!”

  1. April 12, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    Yum! These look like a lot of hard work but totally worth it!


    • April 12, 2012 at 11:25 am #

      Also, I love Ferrara’s! What an excellent introduction to the cannoli!


  2. April 12, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Wow – very ambitious project!! They sound wonderful but I think I will stick to buying mine at the bakery!


  3. April 12, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    I’ve never had one either so you’re not alone. I see them more as an Italian American thing than a Italian thing, maybe it’s regional too. Thanks for sharing. Keep practicing! 😉


  4. April 12, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Armed to the nines now! Will be interesting to see how well you were able to work with the gloves on.


  5. April 12, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    Looks great! You are very dedicated! I am with wineonmymind, I have to stick to the bakery version.


  6. April 12, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Wow! This looks way too difficult for me to attempt, but you are all the better for doing it! Ferrara’s Bakery is to typical for tourists in NYC! I urge you to check out the real old school little Italy in the Bronx!! It is amazing, and seriously the BEST cannoli you will ever have in your life!


  7. April 12, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    This is one of my favorites desserts with cappuccino.

    I have to try it!


  8. April 12, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    What happened to the no carb diet?


    • April 12, 2012 at 11:28 am #

      Lent is over! Plus the wife had a self allowed exemption for the Gourmet Club dinner!


      • April 12, 2012 at 11:33 am #

        Well it all looks delicious – and since this is one of my uys favorite sweets – I will have to give it a whirl.


  9. April 12, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    My father is 100% Italian, so growing up with an Italian family I fell in love with the cannoli and all the Italian pastries, but I have never tried to make them. You are a Rock Star in the kitchen!


  10. Lia C.
    April 12, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Yum! I applaud your ambition, and the patience in working to master such a dessert. Now, I wish to be a neighbor, to sample the delightful concoctions.


  11. Alli
    April 12, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Wow, good for you! My mouth is literally watering at my desk! Like your boss, when we were kids our parents would sometimes take us to Ferrara’s for cannolis and it was always an awesome treat. If you’re ever in Boston try Mike’s which are the only cannoli’s I’ve ever had that are almost as good as Ferrara’s


  12. April 12, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Congrats! The cannolis look great even if the shells are a little thick. I hope your burnt fingers have recovered.


  13. April 12, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Is it a Neapolitan or Sicilian meal? I’d go tuscan and make a chocolate hazelnut biscotti and spend the month marinating organic lemons in vodka to make your own limoncello, which will be frozen and viscous for the event. Just a thought.


  14. April 12, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    Well, I am very impressed by the dedication and photographic reportage that unfolded! Good luck with it!


  15. April 12, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    This looks awesome. Will have to try it. Am off to NYC in a couple of weeks. Will definitely visit Ferrara’s.


  16. April 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    These look incredible! My mouth is watering while I’m at work…thank God it’s almost lunchtime, haha…
    These also really remind me of when I lived in Italy for 6 months; I appreciate the nostalgia! 🙂


  17. Chef Heidi
    April 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    Your Gourmet Club is one lucky bunch of peeps! Love the photos and the all the tips. Thanks for taking the heat (and the burnt fingers) on this one. Like my daughter says, we’re Swiss in our blood, Italian in our heart. Time to make cannoli in among all the fabulous pasta!


  18. Mary Ann
    April 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    You inspire me to pull out the cannoli tubes and make some. My first experience actually making them was about 12 years ago when my youngest adult son wanted Italian for his birthday dinner. I concur with all the remarks about “ambitious project”. The result was very tasty, but I haven’t tried since. Now I will, thanks to you!


  19. April 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    When I die of a heart attack, I will place the picture of a cannoli in my mind so I pass with no regrets 🙂


  20. April 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    I’ve always loved cannoli, and now since I can’t eat wheat, I just make the filling. But I always buy one for my husband when I grocery shop as a special treat. I’m glad you made these to show us! Thanks!


  21. April 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    Oh, I wish I could help you “test” those cannoli! I live in a predominantly Italian American area, and cannoli are a regular occurence, which my taste buds are grateful for, but not my hips!

    Wonderful post. 🙂


  22. April 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    I have Italian in me, and the cannoli is my absolute, hands down favorite! I’ve never made them, and wanted an authentic recipe! Now I want one! Great post, and great cooking job! 🙂


  23. becca3416
    April 12, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Wow, bravo! I am not much of a sweets fan, but these look pretty delicious. I recently got back in to my cooking. I may have to try some desserts on for size in the near future.


  24. April 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    wish you lived in my area. would have u cook just once for me!!! lol


  25. Charlotte
    April 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    I’ve never made cannoli in my life, but I have made a lot of pie crusts. Tip that might help: use ice cold water or wine. Cold Crisco might help, too. Divide dough and refrigerate so you don’t re-roll scraps too often. Just saying.


  26. April 12, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    These look amazing!


  27. April 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    Looks awesome, hopefully I will feel adventurous enough to try it one day. The thought of making and rolling out dough strikes me as tedious, but after the first try everything gets easier! 🙂


  28. April 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Your cannolis look great. I’ve made them before and know how much work they are but it isn’t easy to find good ones in the stores.

    Cannoli’s shouldn’t be filled until just prior to serving, and even Italian bakeries sell them prefilled. I also don’t like many of the fillings. My best option is to buy the shells, make my own filling, and fill them as they are served.


  29. April 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Ok, some serious work went in to those. Bravo!!! I’ll take a dozen, please. 🙂

    Thanks for the “like” on my Lemon Ricotta Cookies. Appreciate the feedback. Looking forward to reading a few more of your posts.



  30. April 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    Come you come over and bring those goodies with you. LOL


  31. April 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    These look delicious! I have an irrational fear of deep frying, so I will probably seek out an Italian bakery for the shells. I’m thinking I have seen empty shells for sale. Sounds like a Saturday field trip!


  32. My Italian Smörgåsbord (Aka Barbara)
    April 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    lovely post. I have bought the shells in Sicily, after visiting last summer, but never used them. this post gave me the inspiration to finally try to make cannoli. very nice tutorial!


  33. April 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    Perhaps more ranting?

    j/k. How do you plan to get a thinner roll? Change the wetness of the dough slightly?

    I just discovered the joy of gleaning ricotta from the leftover whey during hard cheese making.


    • April 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

      A few of my shells were the right thickness, and they were just rolled thinner (almost paper thin when they went on the cannoli forms). I think I just need to roll it out a little more.


  34. April 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    I haven’t been to Ferrara’s Bakery in such a long time. I must stop by whenever I get a chance. And I have to say your cannoli’s looks amazing and delicious. Wonderful post


  35. April 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Thanks for checking out our blog. We really love food so we thought your blog was great. We told Mom to look at it and she said she has a new appreciation for cannoli and is amazed at the work you put into them. Have you ever considered stuffing them with catnip??


  36. April 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    I’m glad there are people in the world who go to so much trouble to make magnificent things for others to eat! Those look great!


  37. April 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    You’re a brave brave man, respect!


  38. April 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    I totally cheat and use homemade curled-into-a-tube-shape pizzelles for the wrappers.


  39. April 12, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    I, too, lack Italian influence, but you explain this so well (and were kind enough to make my mistakes for me), that I might give it a try. They look delicious!


  40. Lesley
    April 12, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    What a great post! I’ve been dying to try my hand at these because they’re one of my husbands favorites. You’ve inspired me to…well,,,at least think about attempting these now! Thanks for sharing.


  41. April 12, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    What a lot of work! You also have to decide how long to leave the filling in before serving. Some people like the shells crispy in contrast with the filling, others like them less so. How long is best, I wonder?


    • April 12, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

      I do like them crisp. When I brought the leftovers into work, I brought the shells and the filling separate and filled them at work.


      • April 12, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

        Good thinking.


  42. April 12, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    How fantastic! I just came back from Rome, Italy and they had these everywhere. So cool to see how you make them. They look so tasty!


  43. April 12, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    I wouldn’t even attempt cannoli so I’m obviously lacking determination. We had them served to us, home made, by a Sicilian mama years ago…far too good to try to copy myself. An alternative to the metal rolls is to use canneloni shells -or so I’m told.


  44. bill
    April 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    I Love cannoli! Being fortunate to live down the street from The Ranting Neighbor, I am always prepared to help him out in his time of need. Having grown up in an Italian American Family, I have probably eaten more cannoli than would be considered healthy. A store bought or bakery cannoli, while
    good, are no match for a good Home made pastry, I haven’t had a cannoli like this since Gramma left. Fine work, but if you wanna try again, I am willing to help you out.


  45. April 12, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    You never cease to amaze me. They look sooo crunchy.


  46. April 13, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    Loving this article Cannoli Siciliani! My grand mother used to make them. Really good detailed article.


  47. April 13, 2012 at 6:02 am #

    How is the phrase? Leave the gun, pack the cannoli?
    Wonderful recipe, they all look great to me 😉


  48. April 13, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    yumm these look good! I just nominated your blog for the Versatile Blogging Award–Follow the rules here: Congrats!


  49. April 13, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    what a great adventure in the kitchen!


  50. April 13, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Wow, so much work going into those beautiful canolis. What a labor of love. 🙂


  51. April 13, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    Making cannolis from scratch…sounds daunting! I usually start with ready shells and go from there…but then, where’s the challenge? Should try these:) Thanks for the recipe.


  52. April 13, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    “Leave the gun, take the cannoli” 🙂


  53. April 13, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    Wow, great post. I like how you showed the different attempts, shows dedication. Craving cannoli now.


  54. April 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    My husband loves cannoli, but I’ve never attempted my own. This was just the nudge I needed–thank you!


  55. April 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    You know, I usually roll the cannoli dough through a pasta machine.
    I fold the rolled pasta into three and repeat the rolling of the dough through a thinner setting until the sheet is about 2 mm thick.
    I find that a thin shell keeps crispy for a few days in an air-tight container, so I can make the hard work ahead and on the day I only have to fill them. Sometimes I don’t even do that. I place a large bowl of creamed ricotta sweetened with icing sugar and mixed with chocolate chips and candied peel and let my guest fill their own.
    Good luck!


  56. April 14, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    I have never seen or eaten this before!! Thanks!


  57. April 14, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    They still look divine! I’ve never made these (have eaten many times) but can totally appreciate that you took the time to make these for your loved ones!


  58. April 14, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    Wow, these look amazing! I will definitely have to try a gluten-free version of these at some point! My baking skills are still a work-in-progress.


  59. April 15, 2012 at 5:44 am #

    I was just lucky enough to go to Italy for a short time and have been craving a good cannoli ever since! Thanks for the recipe, they look great!


  60. April 15, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    This post is evil. I have not had a good cannoli since I left the New York area thirty years ago and now temptation after I lost 100 pounds. This is pure evil because you make it look so easy.


  61. alissawk
    April 15, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    I love all the pictures of the cooking process! Delicious!


  62. April 16, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    I enjoyed your easy to follow instructions. I also prefer the use of fruit in the filling!


  63. April 16, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    these look fantastic!


  64. November 16, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I love reading through a post that will make men and women think.
    Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment!



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