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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.

THLZ5458
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.

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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.

CGNL6900
Cannoli filling in a torted 9″ round of devil’s food cake.
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Cannoli Dip Cake Experiment

Some days more than one experiment fails. This trial saw two fails in one day! The idea behind this bake was to try my first recipe for my long venture down the road to figuring out my ideal cannoli dip/filling. Unfortunately, the recipe I tried turned out really runny and had way too much almond extract. I hoped the filling would firm up in the fridge but no luck. I still tried to salvage it by scrambling and throwing together a chocolate ganache to maybe lock in the filling, but I ended up only adding half the amount of chocolate necessary so that, too, turned out too runny. Instead of ending up with a tasty cake experiment, I ended up with a few lessons learned. #weKeepItMessy
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Cannoli dip from Cookstr.

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (I used Polly-O which did not require straining)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk or heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Mini chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

Combine ingredients and place in the fridge to set.

Chocolate ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz chocolate (I used only 2 oz of semi-sweet chips)

Place chocolate into a heat-safe bowl. Heat cream in a small pan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Pour hot cream directly onto the chocolate. Let sit for 2 mins to let the chocolate melt. Stir until smooth. Pour onto cake.

 

IMG_3504
Runny cannoli filling between two slabs of yellow cake.