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Cannoli Filling and Pastry Cream

Pastry cream is not something I’ve had on my to-bake list, but finding the right recipe for cannoli filling has been. I grew up having cannoli from Long Island, so the bar has always been set pretty high. Last year, I took a stab at making a cannoli filling using a recipe for cannoli dip. As you may recall, it was more of a learning experience than a dining experience.

Failed cannoli dip filling and failed ganache

For my second attempt at a cannoli filling, I tried a recipe by Ginger Barragan of Moonlight Bakes Bakery. Since her recipe utilizes pastry cream, I ended up adding it to my to-bake list. King Arthur Flour is a great source for recipes, so I decided to give their pastry cream a spin.

Having watched shows like Chopped and the Great British Bake Off, making pastry cream had become a bit intimidating. It seemed too easy to ruin the cream and end up with inedible scrambled eggs. The one piece I kept forgetting about was that they were working against a clock. It is easy to see how one slip up can ruin the whole batch, but overall the process was simpler than expected.

Since these experiments were for the filling and the cream, I decided to bake and torte a single devil’s food cake as a vehicle for eating the results instead of going whole hog with fresh pastry. Those challenges are for a later time.

While the cannoli filling isn’t where I want it to be, it is very tasty and a great place to start while honing in on the right ingredients and proportions. I highly recommend giving both of these recipes a go.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Pastry Cream via King Arthur Flour

3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
4 large egg yolks*
4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) butter
1 cup heavy cream (optional)**

*if you’re looking for something to use the egg whites for, try Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC).

Before starting, set up a bowl with a strainer in an ice bath (place the bowl into a larger bowl, add water and several ice cubes between the two bowls, keeping the inner one dry).

In a medium saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of milk and all of the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup of milk.

Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from turning into scrambled eggs when you add the simmering milk.

Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk. Doing this through a strainer will prevent lumps later. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, with a whisk, until mixture thickens. Once the cream comes to a full boil, stop cooking immediately or it can curdle and separate.

Remove from the heat and strain through a fine strainer into the bowl set in an ice bath. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract (I sliced the butter so it melted faster and mixed more easily). ***If you would like to flavor the pastry cream, do so here*** (See King Arthur link for flavoring suggestions)

Cover the cream with a piece of plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool.

Will keep covered in the fridge for up to five days before it begins to weep.

Cannoli Filling via Ginger Barragan

3/4 cup pastry cream
3/4 cup ricotta cheese (depending on brand, your cheese may need to be strained through cheesecloth overnight. A dry ricotta like Kraft Polly-O (my favorite!) can be used immediately.)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 Tbsp mini chocolate chips (I used more than 1 Tbsp. add to desired density of chips)

Stir pastry cream, ricotta, and powdered sugar until well-combined. Mix in chocolate chips. Chill for 1 hour before filling shells or using in cake.

Cannoli filling in a torted 9″ round of devil’s food cake.
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GBBO – Prue’s Chocolate Mini Rolls

Who doesn’t love a good challenge from the The Great British Bake Off? The latest season available on Netflix introduced us to Prue, one of the new hosts, and her

Prue Leith’s chotoclate mini roll

chocolate mini rolls.

Admittedly, my first attempt at this recipe didn’t follow the instructions to the letter, but I learned a few things and can’t wait to bake more versions in the future until I find the method that I am happy with. No matter what, the trials will all be delicious because this recipe is the right balance of chocolates and peppermint.
Prue’s Mini Rolls

60 g cocoa powder
30 g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp boiling water
6 large eggs, separated
150 g caster sugar (a.k.a. super fine sugar. I only had granulated on hand)

150 g butter, softened
300 g icing sugar (a.k.a. powdered sugar)
1 tsp peppermint essence (I used extract. There is a difference in strength but the extract worked just fine.)

200 g plain chocolate, 70% cocoa solids (only 60% was available near me and it worked out fine)
200 g milk chocolate
100 g white chocolate

Heat oven to 350F. Grease two 30 cm x 20 cm Swiss roll tins. Line the base of each tin with a piece of greased parchment paper. (I only had a single half sheet pan available. I baked one sheet instead of 2 due to the slight size difference).

Since the cocoa powder into a small bowl, add the butter, vanilla extract, and boiling water and mix together. Set aside.

Whisk 100 g of the caster sugar and egg yolks together until light, thick, and fluffy. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Add the remaining 50 g of caster sugar and whisk until the sugar has dissolved, making a meringue.

Beat one third of the meringue mixture into the chocolate mixture to loosen the mix. Using a large metal spoon, fold the remaining egg whites into the mixture.

Divide the mixture between the two lined tins and level out. Bake for 12-18 mins. (My half sheet went for about 16 mins).

Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks. Cover the tins with a damp tea towel and leave to cool completely – 45-60 mins. (In my attempt, I took the cake out of the tin while hot and rolled with a tea towel. This ended up deflating the cake horribly. I do not recommend this alternate technique for this cake.)

For the filling, beat the butter until soft and gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add the peppermint essence and continue beating until white, soft, and fluffy.

Turn the cakes upside down onto two sheets of parchment paper (or a tea towel) and peel off the parchment paper on the top. Turn the cakes so that the short end is facing you. Score a line 4 cm on both short ends of both cakes. (I don’t recommend using the scoring method as the cake falls apart.) Spread the peppermint cream over the top and toward the edges.

Starting from the front short edge, roll up the cake, stopping in the middle. Repeat he same from the back until both rolls meet in the middle. Cut down the center between the rolls.

Repeat with the remaining cake so you have four rolls. Trim the ends and cut each roll into three so you end up with 12 mini rolls. Place the rolls, seam-side down, on a cooling rack and chill in the fridge for 15 mins to firm up.

To finish, melt the plain and milk chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (a double boiler). Place the cooling rack over a baking tin so it can catch the chocolate and dip, spread, or pour the chocolate over each mini roll to coat. Leave to set.

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (double boiler). Spoon into a small disposable piping bag and snip off the end. Pipe fine stripes across the width of the mini rolls and leave to set. (My white chocolate never got thin enough to pipe, so I spooned lines onto each roll and used a toothpick to make designs.)