Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Baker's November Challenge--Cannoli

he November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.
Cannoli are known as Italian-American pastries, although the origin of cannoli dates back to Sicily, specifically Palermo, where it was prepared during Carnevale season, and according to lore, as a symbol of fertility. The cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy amalgamation of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts. Although not traditional, mascarpone cheese is also widely used, and in fact, makes for an even creamier filling when substituted for part of the ricotta, or by itself. However, cannoli can also be filled with pastry creams, mousses, whipped cream, ice cream etc. You could also add your choice of herbs, zests or spices to the dough, if desired. Marsala is the traditional wine used in cannoli dough, but any red or white wine will work fine, as it’s not only added for flavor or color, but to relax the gluten in the dough since it can be a stiff dough to work with.

You can find the full recipe on the daring kitchen website.

 I don't think my cannoli turned out quite right. They didn't bubble very much. Not sure if I didn't put in enough vinegar (I used apple juice instead of wine) or if I didn't roll it thin enough or if it was because the forms I used where not as thick as they should be (only 1/2" thick) so the dough wrapped around a few too many times. I might be fiddling with these again after Thanksgiving, but for now life is too complicated and busy to try again.
Many people commented that the dough was tough to roll out and they weren't kidding!
Here's my dough

Here are my cannoli shells with the forms I used

I couldn't find marscapone cheese (not that I looked too hard) so I just used ricotta and made the traditional filling. Not quite sure if it turned out right, I whipped that ricotta for what seemed like an eternity but it was still not "smooth" so I'm afraid it was a little too grainy. I'm not a fan of pistachios, so I didn't add that. Also, I wasn't sure if you were supposed to add the chocolate pieces and zest or pick one or the other. So, I made the traditional filling and added citrus to 1/3, and chocolate pieces to the other 1/3.
I also used some semi-sweet ganache, added some whipped cream to make a chocolate filling. So here you have from left to right, ganache, traditional, traditional with chocolate pieces, and traditional with orange zest.

I dipped some in ganache as well (not pictured) and used some homemade no-sugar-added apple pie filling to make a dairy-free option for a co-worker (also not pictured).
Although decorating a cake for the cake competition, and experimenting with cannoli and my husband making chili for a chili cook-off may have been too much for one weekend and one small galley kitchen--we survived...we just had to schedule the kitchen!!! And I did really enjoy trying something new, especially something I had never eaten before! Thanks for the great challenge Lisa!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fall Cake Competition

The Daring Kitchen that I am a member of posted this cake competition about a month ago.  I really debated about whether or not I should enter because I hate making something I enjoy doing become a stressful challenge.  But when I decided to just do it for fun and gave myself ample room to back out even at the last minute, I went for it.

The Daring Kitchen, in conjunction with the U.S. Confection Connection, is offering one lucky person the chance to attend the New York Cake Convention from January 2 to January 5 on an all-expenses paid trip.

In addition to that all-expenses paid trip you also get to assist pastry chef Michelle Bonmarito

 I didn't really know who that was until I looked up her Bio and read that she had worked for Martha Stewart Omni-media and debuted on television when she helped Martha make the “Spring Garden Cake” in 2000.  When I read that I googled that cake and my suspicions were confirmed, in high school me and a friend got together one Saturday and replicated that cake--that was my first experience with cake decorating.  Wouldn't that be such a great story to tell if I won the cake competition?!?!?  Unfortunately, I am 100% confident that there are so many other cakes that were entered that were better than mine.  But at least my co-workers were amazed by it and it was a great hit!

  The cakes are judged on originality; execution; and best representation of Autumn but not on taste.  I made a chocolate cake, trimmed it up and layered the middle with mango jam.  I then strained the remaining mango jam and heated it up and poured it over the top and sides of the cake for a crumb coating.  Then I poured chocolate ganache on top of that.  I lined the edges of the cake with pecans (my Southern accent) and topped it off with a pile of chocolate leaves I had made.  I melted white chocolate, added some oil and food coloring and painted the back of washed leaves.  They then cool in the fridge for a few hours before I peeled off the leaves.  I named my entry "Fall Flare".  So, what do you think?