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Holy Cannoli

by Maria Liberati on 07/03/09 at 6:24 am

The history of the cannoli and how to choose an authentic Italian Cannoli.

A cannoli, which is Sicilian for “little tube”, is an ever- popular pastry dessert found sprinkled throughout cafes and restaurants in Italy. We thank the Sicilian region of Italy for these rich desserts that are found today throughout the United States as well, thanks to the immigrants who brought the recipes over in the early 20th century. Cannoli originally came from the Palermo region of Sicily as early as the first century A.D., served as a treat and given to friends in dozens during the season of Carnevale, a festive European celebration held right before Lent. It is said that cannoli was most likely a symbol of fertility during this pre-Easter celebration similar in some ways to Mardi Gras.

An original cannolo (the singular form of cannoli) consists of fried, rolled up and open-ended pastry dough (the thinner the better) filled with a sweet, rich filling of ricotta or mascarpone cheese blended with flavorings such as vanilla, chocolate, or pistachio flavors. Occasionally additional ingredients are added, such as chocolate chips, citron, or candied cherries. The filling inside the cannolo are most commonly flavored with Marsala wine, vanilla extract, or rosewater. The size of cannoli ranges from small finger-sized bits referred to as cannulicchi to portions five times the size.

Nowadays we see different Italian American variations of this Sicilian treat. Many bakeries in the United States may fill the pastries with sugar, milk, and cornstarch custard instead of any kind of cheese. When looking for the best possible version of this Italian delicacy, search for the cannoli that has not been sitting for a long time with the cheese filling already inside. The longer a cannoli is left sitting, the soggier the pastry tube gets as a result of its contact with the filling. After about a day of sitting together, it is a soggy pastry not worth of being called a cnnoli Bakers who make a lot of cannoli at a time fill the inside of the cannoli with chocolate that hardens and can then handle touching the creamy filling for longer than 24 hours.

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One Comment

Emma J Kerry

Mar 8th, 2009

A really nice, informative piece.

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