If the idea of making homemade cannoli sounds elaborate, that’s because it is. No matter how much you love these Italian pastries that originated in Sicily, there are lots of reasons to skip trying them at home–but at least one that trumps them. Here’s a look.
If you, like generations of Italians before you, think there’s nothing like a good cannoli, crispy shell giving way to sweet, thick Italian cheese, maybe you’ve considered making them. The problem? Going after homemade cannoli isn’t exactly a beginner kitchen project. Here are three reasons you might want to skip it.
Reason 1 Not to Make Cannoli: It’s Unnecessary
Listen, unless you live in an extremely rural part of the world, there’s no need to make your own cannoli (cannolis if you’re talking the American way). These tubes of deep-fried dough filled with ricotta and topped by chocolate chips or pistachio nuts are special, even dreamy some might say, but, hello!, you can buy them.
All you have to do is go to your local specialty baker or Italian grocery–such as Whole Foods Market or Coco’s here in Nashville, for example–and you’ll find fresh ones available to you, ready to purchase. Making them at home is completely unnecessary, not to mention complicated. Save yourself the effort.
Reason 2 Not to Make Cannoli: It’s a Big Project
Making homemade cannoli is not like making cookies or even like making homemade pasta. It’s an all-day or at least all-afternoon affair. You’ll be making dough, chilling it, making filling, setting it aside–then there’s the rolling, forming, deep-frying and cooling, each of which requires its own chunk of time. Last but not least, you have to pipe your filling into the cooled shells and dip each end in chocolate or nuts. Also, there’s the oil! Anyone who’s deep-fried will tell you the smell is pervasive and hard to remove at least for the rest of the day. Who needs the hassle?
Reason 3 Not to Make Cannoli: It Requires Some Special Gear
You might have a lot of the tools for cannoli on hand already, but probably not the ones you absolutely must use: rods. These are $5 on Amazon. That alone isn’t such a big deal, but, too, you’ll need these:
- A rolling pin or a pasta maker to get the cannoli dough thin
- A large Dutch oven or stovetop pot for frying the tubes
- A piping bag (although a sealed plastic bag with the corner cut off can stand in)
- A whole lot of oil (we’re talking half this $24 coconut oil jug)
The bottom line is, homemade cannoli are daunting. You need a lot of time, some special materials and a willingness to go after a project you don’t, in any way, for any reason, have to undertake. You can hold these truths to be self-evident and undeniable.
Make Cannoli Anyway: They’re Fun!
Also undeniable: Google “homemade cannoli,” and you’ll find more than four million results. These classic pastries can “make even the most ordinary day special,” say the bloggers at The Crumby Kitchen. They’re accepted offerings by toothless old women walking down Sicilian streets, says Alex Beggs at Bon Appetit.
In other words, in spite of everything else, cannoli are delicious, celebratory and fun. Making your own may be a daunting prospect, but it’s not an impossible one. And, afterwards, you’ll have trays of treats to eat and share.
A few other selling points:
- Good for a group. Making cannoli is a good group project because there are a lot of tasks. Someone rolls the shells; another person fries them; and someone else makes the filling and pipes it.
- Easy to save. Because filled cannoli can get soggy, you want to avoid filling more than you’re ready to eat within a few hours. Rather, you save the shells and save the filling, piping to order. This makes cannoli a great dessert to make ahead. You can place cooled shells in ziplock bags and freeze until you’re ready to use them. They don’t even need to be thoroughly thawed first.
- Adaptable to your ingredients. As always, when you make something yourself, you control what goes into it. In the interest of research, I can tell you my husband and I used this recipe last week, subbing in einkorn flour and coconut sugar and using coconut oil to fry, and the results gave any Italian grandma (I don’t say this lightly!) a run for her money.
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