Welcome to the Wonderful World of Cannoli

Our tour through Italian Desserts has taken us through pastures of pretty Pizzelles and had us hop scotching down sidewalks of Biscotti. The next stop on our tour takes us down streets lined with Cannoli. The variety is endless…I see such colors and smell such aromas. I see cherry ones, chocolate ones (could I POSSIBLY miss THAT aroma!) and there are pistachio and citrus cannoli on both sides of the street. What a view!

A LITTLE HISTORY…

Now we’ll discuss some history of this tasty and pretty dessert! All of my research has pretty much produced the same history story line…these Italian Desserts date back to the days of the Arab dominion and they were originally Carnival festivity treats. They originated in Palermo, Italy. You can find them year round now in Italy as well as the United States. The cannoli dessert is made up of a fried wafer that is rolled up in a tube configuration. The tubes or shells are filled with a sweetened ricotta cheese that has been filled with candied fruit, nuts or chocolate drops or pieces. The filling is piped into the shell with a pastry bag or by spooning it into the shell. The filling is extremely soft and creamy and the shell is very crisp. The contrasts between these two consistencies make it necessary to fill the pastry shell and serve it immediately. If the filled pastry sits too long, the moisture from the filling is absorbed into the shell making it soggy…and no one wants to eat a soggy cannoli! It’s the creaminess of the filling and the aroma of the shell that creates the exquisite taste of these delightful little pastries.

The pastry was named for its pipe-like shape, developed for a Carnival treat, which spread throughout Italy and even became a staple in nearly every pastry shop. The dough, which is elaborately flavored, is wrapped around a metal cylinder then deep-fried. After the tubes are cooled, they are filled with a sweetened ricotta cheese or marscapone cheese that has been enhanced with candied fruits, nuts, chocolate, citrus, Marsala wine, rosewater, bitter coffee, powdered cocoa and many other flavorings.

MORE INTERESTING FACTS…

Turkish Hats, another name for this Italian Dessert, can be traced back to the Saracens and pre-Christian times. The tube-like shapes may possibly have imitated the steles and menhirs which were known to be common to the Druids, and were thought to be fertility symbols.

The Cannoli can be made finger-sized, called Cannulicchi, or fist sized, such as those found in Piana degli Albanesi,a town near Palermo. The carnival festivals were much like the Mardi Gras that we have come to know, sporting parades and masquerades so these tasty little pastries fit right into the fun and pageantry.

So…have I peaked your appetite and curiosity? Great! Come on back in a couple of days for the “rest of the story” and the yummy recipe. See you then…Bon Appétit!

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