Most of you know that the quote “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” comes from the movie, The Godfather. Click the link. I'm sure if I we lived in a world run by the Corleone family Fat Clemenza would off me in a second if he knew that I made cannoli filling out of soft and bland tofu instead of sweetened ricotta cheese. He might take it easy on me though since I paired the cannoli with a double strength coffee con panna, made from an aluminum Moka pot, topped with chocolate shavings.
Never in a million years did I think that someone was going to ask to see a dish made with tofu. Tofu is challenging but not too bad. It’s neutral in flavor and can be used to replace any dish that calls for ricotta: ravioli, calzones, crepes, and cannoli. Full of ideas and anxious to get started a visit to a local Italian bakery inspired me to leave the gun and take the cannoli, or at least the shells.
The bakery, which is owned by (I found out later), the president of SimplyBread, Harold S. Back. He didn’t have any fresh bread to sell me. He said that they just bought the bakery the day before and was remodeling the kitchen. He insisted that I take cookies for the inconvenience.
He had one of the warmest smiles that I ever witnessed and wouldn’t take no for an answer. “No need to twist my arm,” I said. His smile got bigger and he started filling a bright orange cake box full of thumbprint cookies with a semi-sweet jelly, amaretti, and Italian tri color cookies.
Simultaneously he handed me cookies to eat while I waited for him to fill the box to the top with a variety of Italian treats. I enjoyed watching him shift from side to side quickly and gracefully behind the display case as much as I did the mouth full of cookies. Off to the side in another case I noticed six golden brown and perfectly shaped cannoli shells.
It hit me right smack in the face. Loving cannoli and the thought of not having to make the shells I couldn't help but blurt out, “would it be ok if I take those cannoli shells off your hand?” Without hesitating he closed the sliding door to the case he was pulling cookies from, tossed the cookie box to his other hand, made a quick shuffle with his feet, opened the other case door and added the shells on top of the couple of dozen cookies that were already perfectly placed.
Cannoli shells and cookies in hand I didn’t care that he didn't have what I originally wanted. To give you an idea how kind he was, when I thanked him for his generosity he thanked me for coming in to his new bakery.
Not having to make the shells was a life saver because making the filling took much longer than I anticipated. It took me several hours of straining, creaming, adding thickeners, and more straining, before I got the right consistency. Learning from a lot of trial and error I refined the recipe and tried it again and had much better success the second time. Total time for the filling should be about 30 minutes.
To make about 10-12 medium cannoli (for the shells see recipes or visit your local bakery), bring 1/2 C of Whole Milk, 1/4 C of sugar, just under 1 T of cornstarch, 1/2 vanilla bean, 2 T of orange juice, and a pinch of salt, to a boil. Whisk consistently and reduce heat until thickened. Set the mixture aside for about 20-25 minutes to infuse the vanilla bean.
Strain the liquid into a bowl and remove the bean. In the meantime take 12 oz of silky tofu, 3 T of honey, ½ t of vanilla extract, and 1 t of cinnamon and puree it in a food processor. Chill it until the warm mixture is completely infused. Combine both mixtures into the food processor and puree it until it’s thick and creamy.
Refrigerate the filling until your ready to pipe it into the cannoli shells. Once the shells are filled dip the edges in chopped toasted pistachios, dust with powder sugar, and inhale only after you take your first bite.
Thanks MD for putting me to the test. I hope you enjoyed the cannoli as much as I enjoyed working on them.