Chocolate Cannoli Shells


1/3 cups plus l tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened non-alkalized cocoa powder
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled until tepid
3/4 cup granulated sugar
l/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs whites, at room temperature
l/2 cup blanched sliced almonds

Chocolate Sauce:
1/3 cup plus l tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened non-alkalized cocoa powder
l/2 cup water
3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Ricotta cream filling:
1 1/3 cups ricotta cheese
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened non-alkalized cocoa powder
3 cups heavy cream

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Make the Chocolate Cannoli Shells: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees(F). Have ready several heavy nonstick baking sheets and two or more cannoli forms to use as molds. In a small bowl, using a wire whisk, stir together the flour and the cocoa. Sift the dry ingredients onto a piece of waxed paper. In a medium bowl, using a wire whisk, stir together the melted butter, sugar and vanilla until blended. Gradually add the egg whites, whisking until the mixture is well-blended. Whisk the sifted flour/cocoa mixture into the egg white mixture in three additions. Continue to whisk just until smooth. Because you must work quickly to prevent the cannoli shells from cooling and getting hard before you have molded them, bake only one shell at a time. Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter for each shell on a heavy nonstick sheet. Using the back of a spoon, spread the batter for the shell into an even 3 1/2 -by-4-inch oval. Sprinkle the oval with 1 teaspoon of sliced almonds.

Bake the shells for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the almonds just start to turn lightly golden. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Using a wide metal spatula, loosen the edges of the cannoli shell and lift it off the baking sheet. Invert the flat cannoli shell onto a pot holder. Place a cannoli form on the inside edge of the oval shell. Quickly roll the shell, almond-side out, around the cannoli form, using the pot holder to protect your hands. Press down on the overlapping top of the cannoli shell for 10 seconds. Place the cannoli shell wrapped around the form on a wire rack. Gently slide the cannoli form out of the cannoli shell: cool completely. Repeat the above process with the remaining batter, making one shell at a time. If you must reuse a baking sheet, cool it completely and clean it thoroughly. You will need 16 cannoli shells to make the dessert. There is enough batter to allow four for breakage. Store the cannoli shells in an airtight container at room temperature as soon as they are completely cool. If left out in the open for even a few hours, they can become stale.

Make the chocolate sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and cocoa powder. Slowly whisk in the water and stir until blended. Cook the cocoa mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring; raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 1 to 2 minutes to melt the chocolate. Using a wire whisk, stir the chocolate until smooth. Strain the chocolate sauce through a fine sieve into a small bowl; let cool. Cover the surface of the chocolate sauce with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. Make the ricotta cream filling: In a large bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer, set at medium-high speed, beat the ricotta, sugar and cocoa powder for 3 to 5 minutes until smooth; set aside.

In a chilled large bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer set at medium-high speed, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks just start to form. Do not over-beat. Using a large rubber spatula or a balloon whisk, fold one-third of the whipped cream into the ricotta mixture to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until just combined. (Do not over-fold the ricotta cream filling or the texture will be grainy.) Assembly: Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large closed star tip (such as Ateco #5) with the ricotta cream filling. Pipe ricotta filling into each end of the cannoli shells. Refrigerate until serving, up to 1 hour.

To serve, carefully place two chocolate cannolis on each of eight dessert plates. Using a rubber spatula or a spoon, drizzle some chocolate sauce over each chocolate cannoli. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

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