Kannoli (or cannoli) is a Maltese Sicilian dessert my Mum has been making for us since we were very small, usually just once a year around mid-spring and on birthdays. The pastry shell, which looks similar to a brandy snap, is a lovely soft yet slightly crispy texture, made with a splash of red wine. The pastry is fried and then once cooled you fill each with a light sweet vanilla ricotta with chopped hazelnuts, cherries and chocolate. Or add with whatever takes your fancy – almonds, a splash of ameretto, white chocolate, you could even try dried fruits.
It’s important to fill them at the last minute so they don’t go too soft and collapse! They’re generally only available in the spring, the cooler months in Malta and Sicily as they don’t tend to survive the summer climate.
Whenever we visit the Old Country we always order far too many so that we have some to take home with us in one of Caffe Cordina’s cardboard patisserie boxes. My favourite place to eat these are on the cobbled streets of Valletta at the aforementioned al fresco cafe. My second favourite place to eat these are at home on a Sunday, mid-morning with the food supplements and a freshly brewed coffee.
Above: Kannoli in the making with help from 50 years of experience from Mama.
Kannoli is all you need in life. As a friend reminded me recently, there’s that classic line from the Godfather: “Leave the gun, take the cannoli”. Good advice when fleeing a crime scene and generally when deciding what to eat for lunch.
Above: *Makes the sign of the cross* The Godfather’s been…..
My Mum’s Recipe for Kannoli
For the pastry:
450g plain flour
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Some red wine (enough to make a stiff pastry)
For the filling:
450g ricotta cheese
6 teaspoons of icing sugar
2 tablespoons of chopped roasted hazelnuts
125g chopped chocolate
1 teaspoon orange zest / candied peel
a pinch of cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Some morello glace cherries (if you can get them, or regular glace cherries is fine)
Icing sugar for dusting
To make the pastry:
Place the flour in a bowl and add sugar and butter and mix well with fingers. Add yolks, vanilla and enough wine to form a stiff pastry. Knead well and let stand for at least ½ hour.
Prepare some tin tubes about 4-5 inches long and one inch in diameter (you can buy these from some bake wear shop. If you don’t use tin tubes, you can use other kitchen props. My Mum improvised and hacked up an old wooden bamboo flute we had as kids (how could you Mum!!!) into 4-5 inch pieces – it’s possibly not the safest material to use in hot oil, of that I’m sure, but get creative, that’s fine.
Roll out pastry thinly in strips 2 inches wide. Cut lengths off the strips about 3 ½ inches in length. Lightly grease the tin tubes and cover each with the pastry strips. Fry in deep boiling oil. Let them dip on kitchen paper; then gently slide pastry off tubes. Be careful not to break the pastry.
Mix well together, preferably in an electric mixer, ricotta, sugar, chocolate and orange zest or candied peel, cinnamon and vanilla. Fill pastry cases with this mixture. Roll each in icing sugar and decorate ends with pieces of glace cherries.