Monday, August 10, 2015

Sicilian Chocolate Cannoli

Yesterday was my husband's birthday! For his birthday celebration dessert this year, he requested to make an authentic Sicilian cannoli stuffed with sweet ricotta & chocolate chunks. Sounds good right?? :) I searched online this week to find a good recipe (here, here and here), but in the end, I turned for help to one of our good friends who's from Sicily.  He has perfected his own cannoli recipe and kindly shared the recipe with me. I altered the recipe a little bit, but we thought they turned out great! I will admit that it is a bit of a time commitment and a bit of a learning curve in the frying steps, but it is SO worth the effort.


For the dough
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp cocco powder
- 1 tsp instant coffee
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp butter (or canola oil). The original recipe called for lard, but I adapted it. 
- 1 tbsp white vinegar (all I had was apple cider vinegar on hand, so I went with that)
- 1/2 cup marsala wine (dry)

For the filling 
- 2 cups of ricotta 
- 2 tbsp goat cheese
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar 
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (more if you want a bit more a cinnamon taste)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the frying
- Canola or vegetable oil

You will also need some round cannoli forms (pictured below).  Typically they will come in packs of 4-6, so you will have to rotate between wrapping the dough around the forms and frying the cannoli. Then wrapping more dough around forms and then more frying.

1) Mix together the flour, sugar, instant coffee, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt. Once it is blended, add the butter, vinegar, marsala wine and the egg. Mix until a soft dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. 

2) While the dough is resting, press the ricotta through a fine strainer with a spatula. This was the finest strainer I had, so I went with it. This removes any big clumps of ricotta and makes the filling very smooth.

3) To the smooth ricotta, add goat cheese, granulated sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Set aside for the filling step later on.

4) Now comes the fun part! Cut the dough into 4 pieces.  Using one section of the dough, roll it out until it is very thin (1/8 of an inch).

Using some cookie cookie cutter or round bowl, cut out round pieces of the dough.

Flatten the dough out even further and elongate the dough in one direction making an ellipse.  Then wrap the dough around one of the cannoli forms. Use a bit of water or egg wash to seal the dough together.  You want to press hard enough to make sure the dough doesn't unravel in the frying process, but not too hard because you want the fried dough to easily come off the cannoli forms after the frying process.

5) Pre-heat the oil to 350 degrees. Once it is hot, drop the cannoli forms into the oil. Depending on the size of the cannoli, it should take no more than 2 mins.  I discovered around 1 minute was just right for these forms.

Take out the cannoli forms and let rest on some paper towels to soak up any grease. Once they are cool, you can use a paper towel to pull the cannoli off the cannoli form and continue wrapping more dough. Iterate between wrapping dough on the forms and frying until all your dough is gone. In the end you should end up with something like this:

6) After you have finished frying the cannoli, the last step is to fill with the ricotta filling and top with your favorite topping. We used pistachios and chopped chocolate chunks. Alternatively, you could put the toppings inside the filling.

Hope you enjoy! 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Installing R and R packages locally

This week I learned how to install R and R packages in a local home directory while working on a server.  I made a quick step-by-step tutorial and placed it on GitHub to keep as a reminder for myself.  It was much easier than I thought it would be. Hopefully others will find it useful too!