This recipe, like the one for the ricotta cream, is adapted from Grace Massa Langlois’ new book, Grace’s Sweet Life. The only difference is that I left out 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder in the dry ingredients, as I like a blonde pastry shell. Add it back if you prefer a shell with a hint of chocolate in it!
You’ll need a set of cannoli forms to make these, basically little stainless steel tubes that can be had very inexpensively at cooking supply stores. A pasta machine comes in handy for rolling the dough thin (the key to light cannoli shells) but isn’t essential. Likewise, an oval 3″ x 4 1/2″ cutter is ideal for getting the perfect dough shape, but not essential. A round cutter will also work well. Assemble:
6.25 ounces (1 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
2 tablespoon vegetable shortening
6 to 7 tablespoons marsala wine
1 to 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
Begin by lining a sheet pan with 3 or 4 layers of paper towels. Line a second sheet with parchment paper. Pour three or four inches of vegetable oil into a deep pot for frying. Attach a thermometer.
Sift the flour, salt and cocoa (if using) into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Add the vegetable shortening and beat on low until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. (Yes you can do all this by hand if you prefer).
Gradually add 6 tablespoons of the wine and beat on low until the dough starts to come together in a ball. If the dough isn’t coming together, add the last tablespoon of wine a little at a time. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and knead it for about 2-3 minutes until it’s smooth. Shape it into a ball, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic and let it sit at room temperature for one hour.
Divide the dough into quarters. At this point you can employ a pasta machine to steadily flatten the dough (using flour only if you desperately need it) until it’s at the thinnest possible setting. Alternately you may use a board and pin (which is what I’ll probably do). When the pasty is thin enough, lay it out on a work surface and cover it with kitchen towels so it won’t dry out.
Set the oil on medium high heat, bringing it up to 350 to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile cut the dough using a 3 1/2″ round cutter (or the oval cutter mentioned above). Spray the cannoli forms lightly with cooking spray, then wrap a dough piece around each, affixing it with a little of the beaten egg white. Set them on the parchment-lined sheet pan while you prepare to fry.
When the oil reaches the proper temperature, gently lower the forms into the oil. Fry about 45 seconds. Then, grasping the end of the form with tongs, carefully lift one out. Gently shake it until the cannoli slips back into the oil, then fry for another minute or so until lightly brown. If it won’t release it’s OK to push it a bit with a butter knife.
Remove the shells gently with the tongs and drain them on the paper towels. Allow them to cool completely. Meanwhile, provided the forms are cool, wrap and fry them again until all your dough is used. Let the shells cool completely before filling them. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.