Sunday, November 29, 2009

Daring Baker Challenge: Cannolis

Okay, so first off... I'm not really great when it comes to frying foods. Frying foods is just really finicky because you have to make sure you have the oil hot enough that the food will cook. My past experiences with frying have usually ended up in failure and a very inedible piece of food. The "fried" foods usually end up burnt on the outside and undercooked on the inside, or they end up soaked in oil and just soppy and gross. However, for this DB Challenge I was determined to make sure my oil was the perfect temperature so my cannolis would turn out ... edible. So, with no further adieu... here is the DB November Challenge recipe for Cannolis.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Lidisano’s Cannoli
Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
Prep time: Dough – 2 hours and 10-20 minutes (including resting time); Filling – 5-10 minutes plus chilling time (about 2 hours or more); Frying – 1-2 minutes per cannoli; Assembly – 20–30 minutes

Ingredients for Cannoli Shells:
- 2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp (28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
- 1 tsp (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp (~3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
- 3 tbsp (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
- 1 tsp (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup (~59 grams/4 fluid oz/125 ml) sweet Marsala or any available white/red wine
- 1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
- Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying (about 2 quarts/8 cups/2 liters)
- 1/2 cup (~62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish (optional)
- Confectioners' sugar (optional)

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

I decided to make the chocolate flavored cannoli shells and they turned out fantastic. The taste was not too subtle and not too bold as to detract from the filling that I was planning on using. For my filling I went very simple and used a honey-sweetened cottage cheese with mixed-berry syrup. Although the dessert tasted delicious and the frying was actually a success, I was a little disappointed with the thickness of my cannolis. While I did allow for the dough to rest for about 5 hours before rolling it out, I simply couldn't get the shells to stay thin as I rolled them onto the cannoli shaping tool. Alas, I ended up with a silly looking little cannoli taco with cottage cheese filling... oh well.

With the left over dough I decided to make a couple of those cute little twisted cookies. They were much easier to shape then the cannolis and it still packed the amazing chocolaty taste. I would definitely use the dough recipe again, although I may just use it to make cookies instead of cannolis as I'm not a big fan of the tedious nature of having to shape them. Onward to next month's challenge... I can't wait to see what's lined up for the Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Yay! Christmas Cookies

I simply love baking cookies for Christmas! It just gets me into the holiday spirit. But, living on my own this year, the difficult part is figuring out who's going to eat all the cookies! Thankfully, my nursing class this year is holding a Christmas party and is asking for me to help with the desserts! Yay! Here was my chance to bake up a storm. I didn't know what I wanted to make, there's always so many choices with Christmas. Should I make a yule-log, cupcakes, cookies, gingerbread, fruit cake AAAHHH!! The possibilities are endless. I finally settled on making molasses cookies, using the same recipe I used in a previous post (link HERE) just leaving out the nuts. But what was I going to do about decorating?? I didn't really feel like using royal icing or buttercream for cookies (I find it to tedious working with finicky icing bags and the horrendous after-math of having to clean up numerous piping bags and tips drives me up the wall)... but is there any other option?? Yes, yes there is... and the results are spectacular!

FONDANT!! I'd only ever used fondant on one occasion, when I made my mother her birthday cake a couple years back. That fondant was home-made and it was a bit of a task to make. This time I decided to buy some from Michael's Craft Store (the Wilton brand) and that saved me a lot of time. I actually really enjoyed playing... I mean decorating with the fondant, it was like I was in pre-school all over again. Kneading and rolling and cutting out fun shapes reminded me of play-doh... except play-doh you can eat! Anyways, here are a couple pictures of my cute little cookies. Enjoy :)

To add the extra details on top of the fondant I didn't bother with piping bags, I simply bought some icing writers from Michael's as well. Man, they've thought of everything at Wilton... they make everything so simple for the holidays. I like that, because what fun is baking and giving treats to your friends when your buggered with stress :P

Well, I hope my pictures give you some ideas of how to decorate your Christmas cookies. Happy baking everybody!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fruitcake Bread

Well, I've been meaning to use up this can of mixed fruit peel that's been in my fridge for the past 3 months. Why did I buy it? Well... it's pretty much the age-old habit of buy it because it's being cleared by the supermarket because nobody wants to buy it... meaning that it's a great value! But, I couldn't think about what to do with it besides nibble at it piece by piece (hehehe... yeah, I have a very strong sweet-tooth). Finally, after 3 months of pondering (or being so stressed out with school that my mind just wasn't thinking straight), I remembered how much I use to love hot-cross buns. So, I decided to use a hot-cross bun recipe to make a loaf because who doesn't love a hot and fresh loaf of fruity bread in the early morning?

Fruitcake Bread
Yields 1 loaf and you still have a bit of dough left over for approximately 3-4 buns!

- 3/4 cup warm water
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp instant powdered milk
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 3/8 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 egg white
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup mixed fruit-peel
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 egg yolk

1. Put warm water, butter, skim milk powder, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, egg, egg white, flour, and yeast in bread maker and start on dough program.
2. When 5 minutes of kneading remain, add fruit-peel and cinnamon. Leave in machine until double.
3. Punch down on floured surface, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.
4. Shape into log, and place enough dough into a greased loaf pan. Whatever dough is left over can be shaped into little buns. Cover loaf and buns and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 35-40 mins)
5. Mix egg yolk and 2 tbsp water. Brush on top of loaf and buns.
6. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack.

Sadly, I didn't remember to place the fruit-peel in the machine when 5 minutes of kneading were left. I thought actually placed the mixed peel in the machine when 5 minutes of rising were left, so the peel didn't become very well incorporated into the dough. The result was a loaf that had speckles of fruit-peel along the edges of the loaf and buns. Other than that, I would say that the loaf was pretty much a success. Although I may have handled the dough too much after the first rise in the machine, causing the loaf to be a little less raised than I would have liked, the texture of the bread was very soft and delicate. The fruit-peel added a nice sweetness to a regular old white loaf, and the crust was perfectly crusted. The important thing to remember with this recipe is that you must grease the pan well... otherwise you'll end up with some of pieces of loaf getting stuck and simply ripping off because the bread is so delicate. I might attempt making this recipe again, but in the hot-cross bun form... that way I get to make those pretty little crosses on the top of some cute little buns :)