Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pumpkin Pistachio Cannoli (Homemade)

I just can't help it. The fall desserts, I mean. I'm piggy-backing on my Caramel Apple Cake from a few weeks ago with another bit of fall deliciousness. And, you know what, I'm not gonna feel bad about it. Nope! In fact, I may even do it again next week. The thing is, my birthday is in October. I get all happy and giddy watching the trees change color and unpacking my warm weather clothes. Not to mention, the excitement of Halloween (and my birthday) throws the house into a bit of a tizzy. It's just a fun time. It flat out makes me happy. October is the greatest month of the year (don't even try to argue me on this point), and I feel obliged to celebrate it as I please. So, bring on the pumpkin, and let's celebrate!

Let me acknowledge right off that this is not a traditional cannoli. I know this. I am fairly certain my Italian grandfather is looking down and shaking his fists at me right now... "What the heck is this? This is not cannoli! (Mumbling incoherently to himself)... pumpkin in cannoli....what the hell is wrong with you?"

Yeah, I think that is pretty much how it would have went.

But, where he would be mistaken is that while the filling is nontraditional, the shells are pure. A thing of beauty. Flavorful, light and crispy without being greasy. These puppies fry up magnificently in all their blistered glory. Lisa Michele from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives really outdid herself with this recipe. Thank you, Lisa! Thank you!

The trick to this dough is that, well, it's got a bit of a bad attitude. It's kind of a pain in the butt to work with. You roll it, and it shrinks back. You roll it again, and it shrinks back yet again. It's got diva-like qualities. Keep at it though 'cause just when you are about to start swearing, it will give in and begin to cooperate. So, curb your frustration and make sure you roll the dough AS THIN AS POSSIBLE to guarantee the perfect, warty texture on your fried shells. 

This is my first time with the electric deep fryer. I borrowed it from my lovely neighbor (for the price of cannoli) and went to town. The thing is awesome! I felt totally in control of the hot oil, and I loved having the basket feature to lift the shells out when they were finished. Each shell took a little over a minute for me... a light golden brown. If you don't have access to a electric deep fryer, it's no big deal. You can get the exact same results with a pan on the stove top. It just requires a little more finesse.

Either way you fry, make sure to turn the shells over about half way through, and remove them from the oil right as they are turning a light golden brown. Allow them to rest for only a minute or two after you remove them from the oil before you remove the molds. If you wait any longer than that, you may not be able to get the molds out without breaking the shell.... and nobody likes to lose a perfectly good cannoli.

Oh, and one more thing.... please, please be careful when you're frying these babies. Deep pan or electric deep fryer, hot oil is hot oil, and it can seriously burn you if you're not careful. So, be cautious and take your time... it is just cannoli after all.

This is where we are going to stray off course a bit. The filling starts off along a traditional path with fresh ricotta and sweet, creamy mascarone cheeses, which are sweetened with a little confectioners' sugar. Traditional cannoli are not typically sweet enough for my liking though, so I opted to add a little honey for extra sweetness and depth of flavor as well as some orange zest to brighten it up a bit. Once you add the pumpkin and spices, the aroma kicks in, and you're ready to fill those beautiful shells you worked to hard to make.

A little hint for you along the way, when you are making the filling, make sure that you beat your ricotta and mascarone cheese together until they are good and creamy. Skipping this step will leave you with a filling that has a bit of a grainy texture. The flavor will still be there, but the texture won't be quite right. Also, let the filling rest in the fridge for an hour or two before filling to let the flavors meld together nicely.

Fill the shells immediately before serving to avoid the dreaded "soggy" cannoli. When it is time to fill the shells, pull the pumpkin filling out of the fridge and give it a good stir. Fold in the pistachios, and prepare your pastry or plastic bag for filling. If you are using a pastry tip, be sure it is small enough to fit into the ends of the shell. Also, I like to re-crisp my shells in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes before I fill and serve them. It's not a necessary step, but who wouldn't love a toasty, warm pastry shell? Mmmmm!

Alright, let's wrap this one up. I encourage you to dig deep and access your inner Italian 'cause these were a heck of a lot of fun to make (especially if you are as crazed with pumpkin and all things fall as I am.) Aside from being delicious, if you can perfect the cannoli shell, it is an excellent skill to have in your pastry repertoire. After all, do you know how hard it is to find good cannoli these days?


Have a Sweet Day!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company 


Makes about 18 Cannoli (using a 4-inch cutter)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sweet Marsala or other wine (grape or apple juice can be substituted)
2 quarts vegetable or any neutral oil (for frying)
4-8 metal cannoil forms/tubes or dried cannelloni noodles

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, espresso powder and salt. Using the paddle attachment, mix dry ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Slowly add in the oil, vinegar and Marsala. Mix until a soft dough forms. If there is not enough moisture in the dough, add additional Marsala to the bowl a teaspoon at a time until dough comes together.

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, and clover with plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator to rest for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and cut it into two pieces. Cover both pieces with plastic wrap, and allow them to come to room temperature. Once at room temperature, clean and lightly flour your work surface. Using a rolling pin (or pasta machine), roll one of the dough sections until very thin, about 1/16" thick. The dough is very tough and can be difficult to work with. It will take persistence to roll it as thin as needed. If you are having trouble getting the dough paper thin, then roll it as thin as you can, cover the dough sheet with plastic wrap and let it rest for a few minutes. After resting, remove the plastic wrap and continue to roll the dough thinner. If it is still not thin enough, repeat the steps as needed. Eventually, the dough will give in, I swear.

Using a 4-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the dough circles (the final cannoli count will vary based on chosen cutter size), and place them in a single layer on wax or parchment paper. Keep them covered with plastic wrap. Gather up any dough scraps and knead together.  Re-roll the dough and cut out additional circles. Continue in this manner until all the dough is used up. Let the circles rest while the oil heats.

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 heat resistant utensil (wire skimmer or large slotted spoon) for manipulating and grabbing the cannoli in the hot oil, a small bowl of water and a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels.

Oil the outside of each cannoli tube. Remove a circle from under the plastic wrap, and roll it into an oval (rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.) Place the cannoli form lengthwise on the oval dough. Lift one side of the dough up and over the top of the form. Wet the top edge of the dough with a fingertip of water, and roll the tube a half turn onto the rest of the dough. When the dough meets, press the form into your work surface to make sure the dough seals well.

Carefully lower one or two of the cannoli forms into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about a minute to a minute and a half, turning them half way so they brown evenly. Grasp the cannoli form at one end, and very carefully lift it out of the oil. Hold it vertically for a few seconds to allow the excess oil to drain out of the tube and back into the fryer or pan. Place the form on the paper towels, and allow them to cool for a minute or two. Remove the cannoli from the form while they are still warm. Hold the cannoli shell in one hand and grip the form with an oven mitt or towel. Gently twist and pull to release the cannoli. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Repeat the process with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

Recipe adapted from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives 

1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese, drained
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup pistachios, raw and finely chopped

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the ricotta and mascarpone on medium speed until smooth. Add the pumpkin, heavy cream, honey and powdered sugar, and beat until well blended. Add the remaining ingredients, and blend on low speed until smooth. Cover, and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

Just prior to filling the shells, fold a 1/2 cup of the pistachios into the pumpkin filling.

The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Keep refrigerated.

Recipe by The Great Cake Company  

Assemble just prior to serving. If shells were prepared ahead of time, re-crisp them in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes before filling. Fill a pastry bag or plastic sandwich bag (seal and cut off a corner) with the pumpkin filling.  Hold the cannoli in one hand and insert tip of the bag in one end of the shell. Squeeze enough filling to fill half the shell. Turn the cannoli and do the same for the other end.  Sprinkle chopped pistachios on the edges and lightly dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.


  1. Gosh these look so delicious! I'm kind of a pumpkin freak so these look un-believe-able! I've actually never seen a pumpkin cannoli before. Sounds oh-so-good! Thanks for sharing : )

  2. Amazing! I was just thinking about making canolis...haven't made them in a couple of years and was looking for my recipe. I found my tubes and am ready to fry...and then found your post. This is perfect and wonderful for the Fall season. Thanks so much for sharing...I'll be trying these soon! Beautiful post.

  3. i've never had a cannoli, but these look pretty good! love how you make it look so easy too!

  4. I love cannolis! These look really delicious...I must try them! Love your photos!


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