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Homemade Cannolis – this crispy and flakey pastry shell, filled with a creamy, sweet ricotta filling is the perfect holiday dessert to share with your family and loved ones this season!
Have you heard of Christmas Cannolis? That’s ok! I don’t think most people have! Normally, cannolis are served and are delicious all year long. However, I call them Christmas Cannolis because that’s the time of year we’ve enjoyed this yummy dessert.
Growing up, we moved around a lot. When we lived in Southern California in the early 90’s, our neighbors and good friends were the Fadales. The dad, Mike, was Italian and every year at Christmastime he brought us his homemade cannolis. I don’t remember anything like them! They were the most delicious pastry I had ever had and there wasn’t a Christmas that went by while we lived there that we didn’t get a special delivery from Mike with a plate of cannolis.
I had no idea, until trying to make my own cannolis, what a labor of love this delicious pastry is to make. I just love how baking can be a way of showing love to others! And Mike was definitely telling us Carlstons that he loved us A LOT!
While homemade cannolis definitely take some time and patience, they’re actually quite easy to make once you get the hang of it.
Traditional Sicilian cannolis are made by rolling out a pie-crust-like dough very thinly, wrapping 4′ round dough circles around a metal rod, and frying to crispy perfection. Once cooled, cannolis are then filled with a ricotta filling.
Tips for Cannoli Shell Success
- Use a white wine: the wine not only adds flavor, but also acidity, which helps to soften the gluten and create a crisp shell that’s not tough.
- If you substitute white wine for cooking wine or white grape juice, be sure to add a tablespoon of white vinegar. You’ll want the acidity from the vinegar to help relax the gluten like the wine does.
- After making the dough, let the dough rest to relax the gluten – about 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Roll the dough on a very well-floured surface so you can roll the dough very thinly without it sticking to your counter. The dough should almost be construction paper thin.
- Spray your cannoli rods with nonstick spray.
- Place a candy thermometer on your pot and in your oil to ensure your oil stays at 375 degrees F.
- Brush the ends of the dough with the egg white to seal the dough as you wrap it around the cannoli rod.
- Use tongs to place the cannoli in the oil and to take it out.
- Let the cannoli shells drain excess oil on paper towels and then cool completely before adding the filling.
- You can store your cannoli shells in a airtight container in the freezer until you’re ready to use.
Ingredients Needed to Make Cannoli Shells
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter
- Marsala wine, or cooking wine or white grape juice
- Whole egg
- Egg white
- Vegetable oil
Traditional cannoli filling is made with whole milk ricotta, a little sugar, mini chocolate chips, cinnamon and sometimes additional flavorings like orange zest or pistachios.
I’m straying from the traditional recipe just a little to make one that is more stable and can be used in my Cannoli Cake, as well. You’ll notice I’m adding some cream cheese and stabilized whipped cream to my filling. Having the filling just a tad thicker makes it plenty easy to pipe the cannolis, eat the cannolis, and make your Cannoli Cake.
If you want a more traditional cannoli filling, I recommend leaving out the cream cheese and splitting the whipping cream amount in half.
Ingredients Needed to Make Cannoli Filling
- Whole milk ricotta
- Cream cheese
- Granulated sugar
- Mini chocolate chips
- Whipping cream
- EZ Gel
You can also add additional flavors like orange zest or lemon zest to your filling. I also love the look of pistachios on the ends of cannolis too. The green from the pistachios will make these the perfect Christmas dessert.
Homemade Cannoli Hack
If you want to make homemade cannolis but need to save a little time or don’t want to use oil for frying, you can actually use premade pastry/pie dough and your airfryer!
You’ll still roll your dough very thinly, cut it with a 4-inch cookie cutter and wrap it around your cannoli rods. When you’re ready to cook the cannoli shells, place them in your airfryer (with the rack sprayed with cooking spray) at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.
Allow to cool and then fill with your ricotta filling.
Crispy fried shells with a creamy sweet filling.
For the Shells
- 1 3/4 cups (210 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp (25 g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp (1.4 g) salt
- 3 tbsp (42.6 g) unsalted butter cold and cut into cubes
- 1/2 tsp (1.3 g) ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup (82.8 g) Marsala wine*
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg white
- 7-8 cups vegetable oil or oil of your choosing for frying
For the Filling
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 1 cup (250 g) ricotta cheese, homemade or store bought drained**
- 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (231 g) heavy whipping cream
- 1 tbsp EZ Gel I use THIS
- 1/2 tsp (1.3 g) ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp (4.2 g) vanilla
- 1/4 cup (43.25) mini chocolate chips
- orange zest or lemon zest optional – add 1 tsp, if using
- mini chocolate chips or crushed pistachios for dipping cannoli ends in optional
- powdered sugar for dusting tops of cannolis optional
FOR THE SHELLS
- Add flour, sugar and salt to your food processor. Pulse about 12 times in short bursts.
- Add butter and pulse in short bursts just until there aren't clumps of butter.
- Add the marsala wine (or your substitute) and whole egg. Pulse to mix well, while adding additional wine to bring dough together in a slightly soft mass (you shouldn't need more than a few extra tablespoons of wine.
- Shape the dough into a round ball and then transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rest at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
- When you're ready to make the cannoli shells, heat a large pot with 1 1/2-inches vegetable oil to 375 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to ensure you maintain this heat throughout cooking.
- Start with half of the dough and keep the rest covered in the bowl.
- On a very well flour surface, roll out the dough very thinly – almost paper thin. Remember, the dough will expand when it is frying and we don't want our shells to be too thick. This is a delicate pastry.
- Use a 4-inch cookie cutter to cut dough into rounds.
- Spray cannoli forms with cooking spray then wrap individual dough circles around each cannoli form, while brushing about 3/4-inch of one end lightly with egg white (use a pastry brush or just your fingertip).
- Press edge to to opposite side.
- Using metal tongs, carefully immerse shell in preheated oil and fry until golden brown and crisp, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil using metal tongs to grasp the cannoli shell (let oil from inside forms drain back into pot), transfer to paper towels to drain. Depending on your pot, you'll be able to cook 4 to 8 at a time.
- Let the cannolis cool for about 5 to 10 minutes and then use a folded paper towel or kitchen towel to hold one end of the cannoli rod while you gently slide the cannoli shell off the rod. Let the rods cool and repeat process with remaining dough circles.
- You can use dough scraps. Just make sure to shake off the excess flour, press back together, cover in a bowl, and let relax at least 10 minutes before reusing.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack and then fill with cannoli filling and decorate as desired.
- You can make the cannoli shells ahead of time and store in the freezer for up to a week.
FOR THE FILLING
- In a small metal bowl that’s been frozen for ten minutes, beat the cream on high speed, while gradually adding the EZ Gel, until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- In another bowl, combine the drained ricotta, cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and beat until well combined.
- Fold in the heavy cream to the ricotta mixture.
- Gently stir in the ¼ cup chocolate chips.
- Put the filling in a piping bag and use to fill the cannoli shells. Dip the open ends of the cannoli into the extra chocolate chips or pistachios.
- Serve immediately.
*You can substitute cooking wine or white grape juice for the Marsala wine. If you do a substitute, add one tablespoon of white vinegar to the recipe as well. **Two to three days before you plan to make your filling, place the ricotta in a mesh strainer over a mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to drain as much liquid out as possible. If the ricotta hasn’t drained much, spread it onto thick paper towels and then press down on the ricotta with more paper towels to soak up a little more of the liquid.