Saturday, March 2, 2013

Holy Moly Cannoli

Last weekend I made cannoli -- not your traditional cannoli that are crispy fried pastry shells piped with a creamy ricotta filling with chocolate chips...but a more simple wheat, grain and sugar free version without all the fuss and muss.  Basically, the trickiest part is adapting a substitute for the "tube shaped pastry shell" part.  I decided the best thing to do was to forget about trying to duplicate the tube shell part...but instead, to make a more simple substitution by making small cookie-type wafers to pipe the ricotta filling onto instead of into.

I made and tested 2 different versions of the crust as well as the filling to see which one came out closer to what I remembered eating when I was younger.  The first version of crust I made actually turned out more crisp and stayed crisp for several days compared to the second version I made which was not as crisp to start with and tended to soften a bit (it became more chewy cookie-like as the days went by).  Both were good, but I preferred the first version I made best because of the crispness factor.  The ricotta filling I ate when I was younger was an orange essence flavored ricotta and both ends of the cannoli were dipped in mini dark chocolate chips and sometimes chopped pistachios too.

When I made the first filling batch, I used pure orange extract to flavor the ricotta.  In the second version I made, I used finely grated fresh orange zest instead of the extract.  I preferred the version with the zest because it had more of an "undertone orange flavor" rather than an "in your face orange flavor".  I have also had cannoli with vanilla flavoring or almond and amaretto flavoring too.  You can flavor the ricotta filling any way you like.  Also, some people like to drain their ricotta in cheesecloth first for an hour or two to remove any excess liquid.  I chose not to do that.  I used whole milk ricotta and piped the filling on one crust at a time as I was going to eat them so the shell part would stay crispy instead of doing a bunch in advance.  You don't have to pipe the filling on if you don't want to -- you can simply spread it on and swirl it with a little spatula -- it just looks prettier when it is piped on.  For the chocolate chip part, I chopped some Green & Black's 70% cacao chocolate bar and sprinkled it on top and added a few roasted salted pistachios as well.  They turned out really good.  The key is to bake the crisps until they are crispy, but not burned...and since I used almond flour for the flour, it's important not to use too high a temperature since it burns more easily than regular flour does.  Also, when making the filling...if using a granular sweetener, it is best to finely grind (to a powder) it first to keep it from feeling gritty in the smooth ricotta filling. Granular erythritol based sweeteners tend to have a slightly gritty texture when refrigerated, so it helps to start off with a finely ground powdered or "confectioner-type" consistency like Swerve confectioners sweetener or to use a powdered or liquid version of stevia instead.  Below is a picture of the cannoli as well as the simple recipe.  Enjoy!

Holy Moly Cannoli


Cannoli Wafer Crusts
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup ground golden flax meal, PLUS 1 tablespoon
2/3 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Swerve granular sweetener (or preferred equivalent to 2 tablespoons sugar)
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 tablespoons light olive oil or melted coconut oil or melted butter
2 tablespoons water
1 egg

Cannoli Ricotta Filling
1 pound whole milk ricotta
Zest of 1 orange (finely zested)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup of Swerve "confectioners style" sweetener (or preferred powdered equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar)
70% Cacao Chocolate Chips (or chopped 70% chocolate bar)
Roasted pistachios, almonds or other nuts (optional)


Mix all the crust ingredients together into a thick batter (add additional Swerve sweetener if you prefer them sweeter). Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet or parchment paper lined sheet.  Using a small spoon or spatula, spread the batter into thin wafer cookie shaped circles, about 1/4 inch thick.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Check closely during the last couple of minutes to make sure they don't burn. When the wafers feel done to the touch, remove and let sit for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool.  They crisp as they cool off.   While wafer crusts are baking, prepare ricotta filling.

Mix ricotta, orange zest, vanilla and sweetener together until smooth.  Taste to adjust sweetness.  If desired, fill a decorating bag or small ziploc bag (with corner cut to fit a star decorating tip) with the ricotta mixture and pipe onto wafer crusts.  You could also spread and swirl the filling on with a small spatula.  Top with chocolate chips and nuts, if desired.   

Store the remaining wafer crusts loosely covered to stay crisp (I wrapped mine in parchment paper).



CyberSis said...


Mama mia ... these look wonderful! Thanks for all the work you did to develop and test the recipe. And just in time for St. Paddy's Day, too! :-) Can't wait to make them (just have to pick up some Ricott' first.)

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hope you enjoy them Cybersis! Even though I did not drain/strain my ricotta -- I think it would be better to do it if you had the time. Some recipes say strain/drain -- some don't. I didn't have the cheesecloth (or the patience) so I chose not to. LOL :-)

CyberSis said...

Yesterday I bought the ricotta and even began draining it in the fridge. A funny thing happened, though. Before I could start on the recipe I came down with a terrible head cold, complete with totally shut-down taste buds! So I've decided to wait a couple of days before making the cannoli bites, until my taste buds recover ... just to let you know. :-)

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Sorry to hear you aren't feeling well Cybersis :-( I'm sure with a bad head cold nothing would taste good or "normal". I hope your cold doesn't last very long. Whenever you do get around to getting to try the recipe, I am curious to see if you have any suggestions on improving the recipe or a different idea for the "crust". I also tested a version that added shredded coconut to the batter, hoping it would crisp up more while it baked in the oven. For whatever reason, that version turned out less crispy! I even baked it longer at a lower temp to crisp it without burning too! Well...I hope you feel better soon -- there will be plenty of time to make cannoli later! :-)

CyberSis said...

Thanks for the well-wishes, GGC. I'll do my best! :-)

CyberSis said...


Holy Moly Cannoli is right! I pronounced my taste buds 98% recovered today, so I made your cannoli and they are simply great!

The shells came out very nicely in spite of the fact that after they went into the oven I discovered that I'd inadvertently left out the "PLUS 1 tablespoon" of flax meal (even though the "PLUS" was in ALL CAPS ... yikes ... but not to worry.)

Another modification, but out of necessity this time, was that since I didn't have Swerve I used liquid stevia for the crust and the filling. They are both delish. I imagine that the texture might be somewhat different from yours, though, since the sweetener wasn't the granular form. At any rate, taste and texture were both outstanding. I'm surprised, too, that when you used coconut it made the shells *less* crisp ... I certainly wouldn't have expected that. Bet they were tasty, though. :-) I got to thinking that another time, the shells might make dandy little stand-alone ginger snaps ... maybe with a little fresh ginger root grated into the batter ...

I really like the orange zest. It's reminiscent of the candied orange peel that the bakeries would use in some of their cannoli. The zest is a stroke of genius ... it's so fresh tasting and of course contains no sugar.

The proof of the pudding, you know, is in the husband's eating. He pronounced them "really good" and that's very high praise, indeed! :-) The left-over shells are wrapped in parchment, as you suggested, for tomorrow's supper.

Thanks again for figuring out how to do cannoli. The "anticipation" that was "keeping me waiting" was worth the wait ... "these are the good old days!" :-)

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Cybersis! Glad you are feeling better. So glad you enjoyed the cannolis -- did you drain/strain your ricotta or use it "as is"? Next time I make them, I want to try draining for an hour or so to see if it makes any difference. I am glad that you enjoyed them. You are right -- I bet the "crusts" could easily be converted to ginger snaps or other crisp little cookies! Glad you are on the mend! :-)

CyberSis said...


I did drain the ricotta using an old Graham Kerr trick I picked up from his TV series on PBS a few years ago. He lined a strainer with a paper towel (or coffee filter) set it over a bowl and put in the ricotta (well, actually it was yogurt, but same principle.) I used a Viva paper towel because of it's cloth-like texture.

The ricott' I used was really firm to begin with, so it didn't actually drip into the bowl, but after a few hours the paper towel was completely saturated.

The crusts had softened up quite a bit by this evening, but still very tasty and enjoyable. Several things could account for that ... I may have wrapped them up too tightly or perhaps I didn't spread them out thinly enough before baking. Could also be that I used liquid stevia rather than Swerve or maybe it had something to do with the little matter of forgetting the "PLUS 1 tablespoon" of flax! (My uneducated guess leans toward the sweetener.)

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Cybersis -- I bet you are right about the sweetener contributing since you used a liquid sweetener instead of the dry that I used. The funny thing is the other version I made using the coconut (the ones that got softer) did just that -- the next day they were more like a softer cookie than a crisp "gingersnap" type cookie. I will have to try draining the ricotta in a paper towel or coffee filter since you said it absorbed more liquid. Wow, I haven't heard about Graham Kerr for a LONG time -- I used to watch him! :-) P.S. -- Wasn't he the "Galloping Gourmet"???

CyberSis said...

Yes, he was the Galloping Gourmet y-e-a-r-s ago. I watched him then, on occasion, too. :-) The TV series I'm referring to is from the early to mid 1990's. That's after he had cleaned up his diet (as well as his life, apparently.) I loved that series and was a daily viewer. Don't remember if it ended or if our PBS station stopped carrying it. He has a website, but I haven't gone there in ages.

He'd made a complete turn-around from his "GG" days and was now stressing low fat/sugar/salt and emphasizing lots of fresh, healthy ingredients ... including "healthy whole grains," of course.

"Mini-Max" was his mantra ... minimize risk and maximize flavor. I have a number of his cookbooks from that era and a large percentage of his recipes look to be WB-friendly as written. And it probably wouldn't be too awfully difficult to bring some of the rest of them in line with WB standards. (I doubt he'd go along with the liberal use of WB staples like eggs, and full-fat animal products, though.)

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Too funny -- I hadn't thought about him in years...and didn't even know he was still around! :-)

Darlene said...

Made these yesterday and they are wonderful! I strained the ricotta using the "Galloping Gourmet method"~love the filling. My only problem was the shells were not crispy, but I probably did not spread the batter thin enough(next time). Now, on to your "magical cookie bars" yum yum! You just keep them coming!

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Thanks, Darlene! I spread the crust disks out REALLY thin (had to fill in some empty spots thin!) Mine became more crisp when cooled -- I would say like a store bought cookie crisp (not quite oreo cookie...but sort of like chips ahoy cookie crisp if that helps explain it. I would like to make them "brittle crisp" if possible without burning them. I will continue to work on that part of the recipe! :-)

Anonymous said...

These are a fabulous dessert and simple to make! Thank you so very much! I'm making more today.