if you’ve been reading much of my blog you know by now that i love italian food and i love dessert. so what’s not to love in a cannoli? a crunchy fried pastry shell with a smooth, creamy, sweet filling. that little bit of grittiness and bite from the ricotta, accented by bits of chocolate hiding throughout- yum! and yet somehow i have never made a truly homemade cannoli, shell and all. i suppose i will in time but i will stop misleading you and say in fact that this is NOT a post for a traditional cannoli. it is still summertime here in western new york, so why not turn the filling into an ice cream? 😀
i have had cannoli ice creams and gelatos at various ice cream parlors and markets. some are very good, some are mediocre. my favorite one hands-down is the cannoli gelato at Orien’s Cafe in Rochester, NY. the qualities of this cafe are what i am always hoping for when i wander into an unknown hole-in-the-wall bistro, cafe or bakery: homemade fresh ingredients, unpretentious atmosphere, and pastries as delicious as they look in the case (not those that you take one bit of and think, huh, this tastes like nothing). amazingly delicious. and don’t get me started on their baguettes, next to the ones my dad makes, these are the best i have ever had (i could sit and eat one absolutely plain and be in heaven). i have yet to find any place that satisfies me quite the way that a panini on a house-made baguette followed by a cup of gelato, one scoop dark chocolate and one scoop cannoli, at Orien’s does. i am not out in rochester too often so i am trying to come up with my own way to satisfy the craving for this frozen cannoli treat.
the cannoli dessert i lust after is gelato, however the recipe below is ice cream. i will try it in gelato form eventually to be sure, but for now i am working on honing, specifically, my ice-cream making skills. this is quite rich and creamy though so stop acting so disappointed that it isn’t a gelato recipe! 😉 i read quite a few cannoli ice cream recipes online before coming up with the one below, which is based on bits i liked from each and things i’ve learned along the way that have yielded the most delicious and creamy ice cream results. this one is a winner if you are a fan of cannoli filling and it can be embellished with extras like chopped pistachios or candied orange, if you desire. i prefer the simplicity of cannoli filling with a few mini chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate and a tiny touch of citrus, so that is what is laid out below. i do however recommend serving this with a drizzle of hot fudge if you like those cannolis dipped in chocolate on the ends (like i do). it is worth noting that it is normal for the ice cream to have a bit of grittiness, even with thorough blending, straining and proper freezing, because of the ricotta. and i actually think this texture makes it more like actual cannoli filling so i am very happy with how this one turned out. i know that i will have to make another batch of this one soon because i could not make a batch of this and share pictures with the world without giving a container to my boyfriend’s mother who loves cannolis with a passion. i only have a couple of scoops left 24 hours after finishing this! 🙂
Cannoli Ice Cream
- 2 cups plus 2 tbsp (optional) half-and-half, divided
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- zest of one lemon
- 1 pound (about 2 cups) fresh, whole-milk ricotta
- half of one vanilla bean- split open with seeds scraped out of pod (cut in half down the middle and save the other half for another use)
- 1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, or chopped dark chocolate
- pinch of kosher sea salt
- bring 2 cups half-and-half just to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat
- reduce the heat to medium-low
- in a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and pinch of salt
- temper the egg mixture by adding a ladle full (about a half cup) of the warm half-and-half and whisking it in
- whisk the egg mixture into the half-and-half mixture
- stir in the vanilla seeds and pod (from the half bean)
- continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens, about 5 to 10 minutes (until the custard holds a path on the back of the spoon when a finger is drawn across it)- do not allow to boil!!!
- pour the custard through a mesh sieve set over a large bowl and discard the vanilla pod
- place the ricotta in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, or in a large glass bowl in which you can use an immersion blender and blend until smooth
- if using a food processor, add the additional 2 tbsp half-and-half if needed and pulse until the mixture is smooth (i did not need these 2 tbsp when using my immersion blender)
- pour the custard in with the ricotta and blend together with your immersion blender. if using a food processor, add the ricotta to the custard and whisk together
- pass mixture through the sieve one time into a container you will chill it in
- chill, covered, for at least 3 hours
- transfer the cold mixture to the prepared bowl of an ice cream maker and process according to your model’s directions. add chocolate chips 5 minutes before blending is complete. if adding additional item like pistachios, add them with the chocolate chips
- remove from ice cream maker and transfer to a freezer-safe contained and freeze for 1 to 2 hours more. it will be soft-serve consistency right out of the machine and will become “scoop-able” after freezing for an hour or more.
- it is great served plain but also wonderful with hot fudge, as i mentioned above and/or with a sprinkling of crushed cannoli shell* (which i wanted to use but forgot to buy, oops!)
- enjoy 🙂
*i thought about adding crushed cannoli shell to the ice cream during the last 5 minutes of freezing but decided the pieces would become far too soggy and i don’t think that would be very appetizing! i did contemplate “candying” these bits of shell so that they would retain their crunch after being incorporated, but decided this might make the ice cream too sweet. in the end, i opted to omit them from the filling all-together.