Ingredients for approximately 20 Cannoli:250 g plain flour80 ml water30 g butter15 g icing sugar10 g unsweetened cocoa powder½ glass Passitoa pinch of salt400 g sheep’s milk ricotta150 g icing sugar½ tsp cinnamon100 g bittersweet chocolate or 100 g candied fruit (orange peel, squash or according to taste)
or half chocolate and half candied peel, or nothing, just the ricotta cream
Cannoli are a traditional sweet delicacy and, in days gone by, were only prepared during Carnival season; however they are so good that they’ve become the best known and appreciated Sicilian sweet….. all year round! They have an outer shell of crispy, fried pastry, filled with a cream of ricotta (usually made with sheep’s milk) to which pieces of chocolate and/or candied orange peel (or squash) can be added, according to the recipe. To prepare them you need the right kind of "cannelli" (metal cylinders), or you can cut up “disposable” aluminium baking trays and make them yourself, or you can use bamboo canes, and cut them into pieces the right size.
Before you start preparing the “shells” – called “scorcie” in Sicilian – put the ricotta in a strainer resting on a bowl, to drain it of its liquid, and put it in the fridge. In another large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cocoa powder and icing sugar. Add the butter (at room temperature) and the Passito; start stirring and, very slowly, pour in the water, mixing until it has all been absorbed. The dough must be soft and elastic, but compact (slightly harder than the consistency of bread dough). Knead it for a minimum of 5 minutes on your work surface, until it’s smooth and elastic; wrap it in cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
Take the drained ricotta out of the fridge and press it through a sieve into a bowl, then add the icing sugar and cinnamon. Mix the ingredients delicately, without overdoing it, add the pieces of chocolate and/or candied peel (or, if you prefer, nothing); seal the ricotta cream in a container and put it in the fridge.
Take the dough for the shells and roll it out into a 1-2 mm thick sheet (you can use a rolling pin, or put it through a pasta machine). Cut the sheet into squares measuring 9-10 cm and then wrap them round the cylinders; brush the edges with egg white so they stick together.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan, or a fairly small, deep frying pan; when it’s nice and hot (try dropping a piece of bread into it to see if the temperature is right) fry the shells, a few at a time so as not to lower the temperature of the oil. They must turn golden brown, not burn! Remove them with a perforated spoon and lay them on a sheet of absorbent paper to get rid of any excess oil.
When they have completely cooled down, remove the cylinders. Fill the shells liberally with the ricotta cream, using a spatula or knife, but only do so when you’re ready to serve them so that they don’t lose their crispiness. If you like you can decorate the ends of the Cannoli with candied orange peel or chocolate, a sprinkling of icing sugar on top and… you’ll sink your teeth into a sweet delicacy that takes a lot of work to make, it’s true, but tastes divine!