I love a good cannoli. Sadly, there’s not a decent cannoli to be found anywhere around these parts. I bought some cannoli forms a while back, so I could make my own. That’s an idea that is still stuck on my “to do” list though (there’s just something about those metal forms and hot oil that freaks me out a bit).
A delicious cream puffs recipe, where the traditional filling is replaced with cannoli cream!
But let me tell you … these Cannoli Cream Puffs make for a perfect alternative. The filling is true cannoli, so let’s just say, if you don’t like cannoli, you might just want to skip this one. For the cannoli lovers out there though, this is a quick and easy treat.
I’m partial to a plain-jane cannoli. My husband thinks just about anything can be made better with a bit of chocolate, so he thought a drizzle of chocolate on top would be nice. The nice thing with these treats is that you can make a variety of flavours, to please everyone. In true cannoli style, I think adding some chopped bittersweet chocolate or mini chocolate chips to the filling would be nice, too. A bit of lemon or orange zest would be perfect (and maybe a wee bit on top, too). Scrape in a some vanilla bean seeds or throw in some chopped pistachio. Add a dab of lemon curd or pastry cream in the centre, or flavour the ricotta with cocoa or for a chocolate version. The possibilities are endless.
These are so pretty, they would be perfect for a special occasion, I think (like Easter maybe) or follow my lead and make them to celebrate … Tuesday :) They are best eaten shortly after being filled, but will keep, uncovered, in the fridge for the most of the day, if you want to make ahead (They actually stay reasonably fresh into the next day, but they may start to pick up fridge flavours if left too long). I cut these in half and piped in the filling, but you could also pipe the filling in through a hole in the side, so the filling is all nice and neat inside. And of course, if piping isn’t your thing, a spoon works just fine for both the shells and adding the filling.
Note: I know mascarpone is expensive. I got a great deal for both the ricotta and mascarpone at an Italian grocery when I was in Toronto this past weekend, but you can also make mascarpone easily at home, as a great alternative (and your own ricotta, for that matter).
- Pastry Puffs:
- 1 cup hot water
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. white sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt (reduce to 1/4 tsp.if using salted butter)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- Cannoli Filling:
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta (I wouldn't try the low-fat here)
- 1 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 cup icing (confectioners) sugar (or a bit more or less, depending on how sweet you like it)
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- (Variations: replace cinnamon with grated orange or lemon zest or sprinkle chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips over filling. A drizzle of melted chocolate over the top is also a nice variation)
- Icing (confectioners) sugar
- Drain Ricotta: Place ricotta in a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Press down lightly with the back of a spoon and allow to drain for about an hour before making filling.
- Pastry Puffs:
- Preheat oven to 425° F. with rack in centre of oven, and prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silpat.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine hot water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add flour all at once and stirring vigourously and constantly (really get in there and stir, stir, stir), cook until mixture clears the sides of the pan and forms a ball around your spoon in the middle, as you stir (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat. Add eggs, one at a time. After each egg addition, stir quickly and vigourously, until the egg is combined (it will start out as a slimy mess, but just keep stirring and it will come together). Repeat with each egg. Once all eggs are added, stir a bit more until smooth and shiny.
- Add batter to piping bag fitted with a large star tip (alternately, drop balls of batter onto prepared pans and roughly shape with the back of a spoon). Pipe batter onto prepared pan, leaving about 2 inches between each one.
- Bake for 15 minutes at 425°, then reduce heat to 350° F. and cook for about another 10 minutes, or until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped. (*Do not open oven while they're cooking.). Mine were about the size of my palm. If yours are bigger or smaller, allow a bit more or less cooking time. Remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine filling ingredients (except chocolate chips, if using) and beat well until light and fluffy. Add filling to piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Cut pastries in half (or use a sharp knife to cut a small hole in the side) and pipe either a ring of filling around the outside of the bottom half or fill the cavity with filling. If using chocolate chips, you'll need to go the cut in half route. Simply sprinkle chips on top of filling before putting the top on.
- Sprinkle generously with icing sugar. Serve immediately or refrigerate uncovered for up to 6 hours.