These are an Italian baking piece of heaven--stuffed with just the right amount of vegan filling!
Notice the cirlces on my parchment paper. I had not turned over my paper to show how they spread out with the edge of a butter knife--just keep the dough in a circle shape.
I think this pretty little shot does a nice job of showing how the shells will look once they've been shaped and allowed to cool. You can get them to fold over at the top by hand with a little patience and work.
I had my first introduction to cannoli when I was working as an area manager for a major department store here in St. Louis like two decades ago! (It pains me to write that, but it truly has been that long--I lasted about fifteen years all told working in the "retail" world--I could start a blog on that alone.) Anyhow, this store manager I worked for hated the dreaded "store visits." Anyone in retail out there knows of what I speak--this is when the "blue coats" come in with clip boards and criticism and usually very loud criticisms of store set up and display: chopping block sort of scare tactics. Perhaps things have mellowed over the years. So, on one occasion this same store manager prior to a "store visit" was walking my area. He came across a clothing four-way rack and ran his finger across the top of it then proceeded to wipe it (the "dust) across the ridge of my nose with this same finger asking me if I thought this really was what I considered "store visit ready?"--apparently I missed dusting this particular rack. Yes, it could have gone to court, but let's face it, I was young, very, very in need of income and knew some day that story would be fodder for a blog. So, in same store, with same man upon a store visit, I was called into the "office". I thought, oh no, now what, please no more finger wipes across my nose? Instead of a finger on my nose, I got a request, well, more like an order. I was to drive downtown to this VIP in his office. I was to first stop at an Italian Bakery in town and pick up a box of what he called, "The best cannolis in town." I thought he was talking about cannelloni--the stuffed pasta--it seemed too early for stuffed pasta. So, I took my orders and made the treck. The bakery, OMG, it smelled like heaven--I stopped and stared at the display wondering how in the world anyone could work there and not weigh like a million pounds! I just looked on in awe. Then, got to business and placed my order. I headed downtown to the VIP offices. Now, this VIP man was very short, and very Italian--very. I am very tall, and have some Italian in me, too. Again, I am very tall. (Well, taller than most). I still intimidate easily--but not often. Apparently my store manager thought I could handle this very strange request. I met VIP's secretary, then was shown in. The VIP short man was sitting behind his desk, of course he was--he could see I was tall and if said little man got up, well, I would perhaps have my "edge" me being taller and all--nothing doing from this guy--behind the desk he sat. I made nice chatter over his desk, then offered the box. He just looked at me and laughed. I thought, Well, that is no way to treat someone. Open the box and share you moron! What IS wrong with you--and get Sally in reception to get me some coffee, too. But that did not come out of my mouth. I just smiled, made nice, shared my message I was given: "This is from Mr. Blank. He would like you to reconsider your 'store visit' and to instead enjoy some of these wonderful cannolis on his behalf." And I left. No cannoli for me, no "store visit" for my boss and our fragile co-workers. I felt like I had just visited The Don--straight out of the Sopranos or The Godfather. My mother would be proud (she once dated a mafioso)--no lie. Another blog topic for later.
So, fast forward to yesterday. A day of leftovers for dinner and a lot of spare time to fill in with a baking project. I started thinking about cannolis as I was perusing the cookbook: Dolce Italiano: Desserts from The Babbo Kitchen, by Gina DePalma. This should be on every woman's shelf. Not only is it a homage to the art of Italian baking, it is a pure joy to read! I love this baking cookbook. Who is Gina you might ask--why none other than Mario Batali's own pastry chef at the famous Babbo restaurant in NYC. I would love to meet her. I feel like a real pastry chef when I use her cookbook. Well, there are no cannoli recipes in her cookbook. But a web search on her name (me trying to see what else in the world this amazing woman has going on) turned up a "cookie cannoli with coffee cream." A-ha! That is my next baking project--to create vegan cannoli. Well, little problem with this is--cannolis traditionally come stuffed with mascarpone cheese (I dislike this cheese, plus the whole vegan thingy). I found one veganized recipe for mascarpone, but was not quite convinced it would work. But try it I did. It failed miserably. I know what a cannoli should taste like, I know how the texture should feel in the mouth--this vegan mascarpone version failed. I had a whole bowl of it sitting there--and just dumped it! Mistakes make you a better cook. My cannoli shell recipe search turned up several on foodnetwork.com, of course. The first one I went to, Tyler Florence, his called for "buying" the pre-made shells, then frying them--not on your life! So I plugged in more searches and came across Gina's recipe again. I thought, this is the one I must use--only veganizing it--making a few minor tweeks. Then, after my failed vegan mascarpone attempt, I just set out to create my own filling. I think I did quite a nice job if I don't say so myself. I have to say that when my husband got home and I said I had a surprise for dessert and brought out the beautiful little joys--he looked on and said, "Oh. . . uh, where's the chocolate?" I was like, shut-up and try one! He had never had a cannoli before! He was so smitten with these--he loved them! And this morning when he left for work, I had a container ready for him to share with the vegan gals at the office. This recipe (to me) rocks! You only need to eat one to feel completely satisfied--they are a perfect little singular package. I worked hard on this and it is not something you just whip up--you need to be in the mood for baking. The "chi" will be off otherwise. So--here are my best directions for creating homemade vegan cannolis. Ciao!
Vegan Cannoli with Chocolate Chip Cheese Filling
For the shells:
4 tablespoons Earth Balance Butter Stick
1/3 cup sugar--can use Florida Crystals
3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon zested clemantine or orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 375 (remember, test your oven temperature!). Get out a cooling rack for cookies. Mix your egg replacer and set aside. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Look for something that is about 1" in diameter that is round? Why? Because you will need something to wrap the shell around once they are removed from the oven. So, I found that my handle on my mortar and pestle worked beautifully--it really did. They do make a cannoli tube--but I have not had the need for one up until this point! So, use something that is also not going to react to the heat, also. Now, using something that is a 4" circle (check your containers or bottles you have around the house--I do not own a protractor, so this is what I had to do)--and with a pencil draw three 4" circles on your paper on each cookie sheet. Now turn the parchment paper over--or we'll have pencil in our cannoli! Meanwhile, mix the butter with the sugar until it is fluffy. Next, add the Ener-G egg replacer and mix until fully incorporated. Then add zest, extracts and flour. Mix well until dough is smooth. Here is the fun part. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and place in the center of the circles on ONE cookie tray at a time! Spread the dough out to nearly meet the edge of the outline of the circle you've drawn. (*Basically, you want a circle shaped thing that is flat--I have a photo above.) Bake one tray at a time for 8 minutes--not too long or you will not be able to shape these. Look for the edges to just begin browning. Remove from oven. Now, fun part II. Allow the cookie tray to sit and cool for about a minute. Much longer and the shells won't be pliable. Pick up one circle at a time and wrap around your 1" circle you have found--but again, these will be hot, so be careful! I have high tolerance for heat on my fingers. So, I dove right in. I then carefully wrapped my shell and held it in place for a few seconds--then it slid right off and held its shape. I then placed them on a cooling rack and held them together where they overlapped for about 20 seconds. Then they cooled on their own, holding their shape. So easy once you've done two or so. Allow them to cool on cooling rack. Viola--you are ready for the cream filling!
Vegan Cannoli Chocolate Chip Cheese Filling
4 tablespoons Earth Balance Butter Sticks
4 tablespoons Earth Balance Shortening Sticks
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (maybe a little more, maybe less--test with the eyes, look at texture!)
2 tablespoons vegan sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Soya Powder (this is Soy Milk powder mix--can find it at Whole Foods)
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips chopped up
Add the butter, powdered sugar, sour cream, extract to a large bowl and mix well with a hand blender until smooth--takes a minute or two. Now, add the soy milk powder and blend again until smooth--you could add one more tablespoon if you desire--just taste it. Next, add chopped chocolate chips. Next, either take a sandwich baggie with a corner cut off or a frosting bag and carefully pipe the filling into each shell--not over stuffing it--just filling it. Sprinkle with some powdered sugar and look at the beauty you've created and enjoy!