In cooking, there are few things I would consider an arch enemy of sorts. But ricotta, oh sweet ricotta, we are not so friendly.
At least, not when it comes to desserts. I can whip up a lasagna or pasta item with ricotta — no problem. But, dessert, forget about it.
I don’t know whether I am not straining it well enough (dumb cheesecloths) or whether I am mixing it too vigorously, but I can never get it to hold a more solidified form without loads of powdered sugar. And I never want to serve over-sugared anything.
Alas, another technique I need to master.
But in the meantime, may I introduce what I have coined faux cannoli.
Instead of a ricotta or a ricotta mix, these bite-size cannoli are made with mascarpone — my favorite soft cheese. (You’ll notice it makes an appearance in many of my desserts.)
I find it much easier to work with and just as delicious. Piped into some little cups made from cannoli dough and baked (not fried — oh my!), it’s a damn fine dessert.
As always, taste test your filling as you add in the powdered sugar. I always opt for less is more.
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup melted butter
1 large egg white
8 tbsp apple juice
2 tbsp pomegranate red wine vinegar (white wine vinegar or plain white vinegar work, too)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 8-ounce mascarpone
1/2-3/4 cups powdered sugar
mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Add flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and mix well. Mix in butter and egg white. Add in juice and vinegar, mixing well into a dough. Divide the dough in half, shape into balls and place in a sealed bag. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until the dough firms up.
While that chills, you have more than enough time to make the filling.
You’ll want to let the mascarpone sit out for a few minutes to soften it up for mixing. Once it’s ready, combine it and about a 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and mix well on a low speed. Add in another 1/4 cup and mix again. Add more if you like it sweeter. You also can add in some chocolate chips here, too. Refrigerate.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly flour a counter surface or mat on which to roll out the chilled dough. You’ll want to get to about an 1/8-inch thickness — needs to be thick enough to mold easily but not too thick.
Cut into about 2 1/2-inch round circles. Press into mini cupcake pan. Spray with vegetable oil. This makes a real difference in the crispiness of the shell when baked, so don’t skip this step!
Bake about 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool.
If you’re feeling up for it, you can melt some chocolate in which to dip the edges. You can add nuts or sprinkles on top of that, too. Don’t skimp!
Or like me, you can serve them straight up. Just pipe the filling into the cups, press in some mini chocolate chips and dust with powdered sugar.
Serve immediately or refrigerate.