It’s hard to believe we are at the end of the first week in December! Time to start baking our family’s traditional Christmas cookies to have ready to mail out to family members on the West Coast & beyond.
If you’ve never tried these recipes before, this is the time to start. Nothing says it’s the beginning of the holiday season like baking our Italian bakery-style cookies. They are delicious! My 8-year-old grandson is visiting from NY and he said the Rainbow Cookies are “Amazing”…music to our ears!
Make sure you have plenty of all-purpose flour, butter, almond paste, chopped pistachios, pignolias (pine nuts), chopped dates, and bittersweet chocolate chips on hand because these cookies fly off the plates.
It has taken 3 years of experimenting with countless cannoli shell recipes to get the cannoli shells to have the perfect texture, like the New York & Boston bakeries...not too crisp or too hard. We were persistent in trying to make a shell worthy of our Italian Cannoli Cream, Twiins Style. We were disappointed to learn that most of the Italian restaurants along with a lot of bakeries who serve/sell cannoli buy premade shells. It was a daunting journey and we were about to give up and buy the premade but we gave it one more try. We are thrilled to share our recipe with you. They are delicious and so worth the effort! ❤️❤️
Sift the flour, sugar, cinnamon, cacao powder, and salt into a large bowl.
Make a well in the center and add the cold butter. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal.
In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolks, wine & vanilla paste. Add to the flour, a tablespoon at a time, just until the dough begins to cling together. It should be lumpy.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and satiny and tiny blisters appear on the surface. The blisters mean that the wine is beginning its fermentation in the dough, which will produce a crisp, light shell. Under kneading will result in large, irregular air pockets in the dough that will puff up and explode when they hit the oil.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
In a deep heavy-bottomed 3-4 qt saucepan, add enough oil to come to a depth of 3 inches; heat to 375ºF on a deep-fry or candy thermometer. You will need to adjust the heat from time to time to maintain 375º.
After an hour, remove dough from the refrigerator. If using a pasta machine, make sure to flour the machine first. Then divide the dough into 4. Using your hands, flatten the dough into a small square or rectangular shape and pass through the pasta machine on “0”. Continue to pass through making sure to go up a number on the machine with each pass until you get through 5. The dough is now thin enough to cut out the circles using a 3-inch round cookie cutter on a floured surface. Proceed to step 9.
If you don’t have a pasta machine, on a floured surface, roll out the dough to approximately 1/16 inch thick and cut it into 3-inch circles with a cookie cutter.
Use a small pastry brush to lightly wipe some vegetable oil around each cannoli tube to prevent dough from sticking to the tube.
Wrap each cutout of dough around the aluminum cannoli tube and seal the edges with a little water. The edges should overlap. Press down to seal well.
Once the oil reaches 372º-375º, use a chopstick to slide through the cannoli tube and gently place it in the hot oil. Fry 2 or 3 at a time, depending on the size of your pan, just be careful as they cook quickly. If the shells are browning too quickly lower temperature to 370º. Temperatures may vary depending on a gas stove or electric so keep an eye on the candy thermometer as it changes quickly. Use the chopstick to roll the tubes around until golden brown. They will dry a darker color once cooled. Using the chopsticks again, insert into tube and quickly remove to paper towel draped cooking rack to drain excess oil. Don’t worry if the tubes slide off the dough while frying. Just carefully remove the tube with your chopstick.
Use oven mitts or triple folded paper towels to grab the hot tube and gently shake to slide the shell off. Completely cool and store in an airtight container or plastic baggies with a paper towel inside to absorb any excess oil. They will keep several weeks.
To Fill: Do not fill cannoli until ready to serve or your shells will be soggy. Use a large pastry bag with or without a fancy tip. Fill the bag with cannoli cream and squeeze into the shells, filling half of each shell at a time; working from the center out to the ends.
Decorate the ends with chopped pistachios, mini chocolate chips, candied orange peel or candied cherries. Shell ends can also be dipped in chocolate before filling.