Everyone loves cannoli, don't they? The traditional cannolo siciliano is comprised of a crispy, fried tube filled with a sweetened ricotta filling, often with chocolate chips or candied citrus rind. In my family, we make the tubes from pizzelle -- crisp, wafer-thin cookies that you make on a waffle-like iron. (These are becoming increasingly available, and you can order one from Sur La Table.) In fact, while pizzelle (pron. peet-ZEHL in our dialectic) are popular all over Italy, they are believed to have originated in Salle, the town in Abruzzo where one branch of my family originated.
Pizzelle are normally flat, sometimes eaten with a dusting of powdered sugar; you can even find them in most grocery stores these days. However, they are pliable fresh off the iron, and can be molded into tubes, cones or cups before cooling and setting. They set within seconds, and it's a short window between skin-blistering volcanic heat and crumbling cookie. You will burn your fingertips a little, but you will live, and it's worth it. Recipe and, yes, pics after the jump.
Make the pizzelle and cannoli shells:
1-3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp anise extract (alternatives: almond or lemon extract)
1/2 c. butter (1/4 lb.), melted and cooled
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Beat eggs and sugar together until smooth. Add cooled melted butter and vanilla and anise. Sift flour and baking powder together and add to egg mixture. Batter will be stiff enough to be dropped by spoon. Batter can be refrigerated to be used at a later time. Makes 30 pizzelle.
To make the pizzelle, drop one teaspoon of batter just behind the center of each side of the iron. Slowly lower the lid, allowing the batter to spread. Cook approximately two minutes, until the batter is just beginning to color; it will continue to brown as it sets. Some of your pizzelle will not be perfectly centered on the pattern, and you may end up with excess around the edges. That's OK -- you can break off those bits later (and eat them).
As soon as they come off the iron, select the larger, more perfect ones and immediately begin to roll them gently with your fingertips. Don't use too much pressure -- you just want to make the opposite edges overlap by a half inch or so. Hold in place just until they've set enough not to open themselves up. You can set them seam-side down with a fork resting on top as well.
The pizzelle and cannoli shells can be made at least a day ahead; they hold up pretty well in a sealed but not quite airtight container.
Make the cannoli filling:
2 lbs ricotta
1-1/2 c. powdered sugar
4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips or candied citrus rind (optional)
Just before serving, spoon in ricotta mixture into the shells. (We do this ourselves at the table, but you could prepare them very shortly ahead.)