Traditional cannoli are crispy fried dough cylinders stuffed with ricotta cream. This version, called Cannolo a Strati in Italian, is made with deep-fried discs of cannoli, stacked high with layers of ricotta cream in between, just like a napoleon. It is a much easier technique, frying the discs rather than the tubular cannoli shells, and the finished cannoli taste as good as the traditional version but look quite contemporary.
Put the flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a food- processor bowl, and process just to mix. Mix the olive oil, vinegar, and wine together in a measuring cup, and, with the machine running, pour all but 1 tablespoon of the liquid in; process for 20 seconds or so, until a dough gathers on the blade. If it feels hard and dry, sprinkle in the remaining liquid and process briefly, to make it moist and malleable.
Turn the dough out of the bowl, scraping any bits from the sides and blade, and knead by hand into a soft, smooth ball. Flatten to a disc, wrap very tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Make the pastry dough in the food processor a day or two -- or at least 4 hours -- in advance for the best texture.
Put the fresh ricotta in a fine- meshed sieve, and set it inside a bowl to drain for 12 to 24 hours in advance. Cover the ricotta with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
Whip the ricotta with the whisk attachment of an electric mixer until smooth. Whip in the confectioners' sugar and Grand Marnier. Chop the chocolate (or chips) into coarse bits -- big enough to bite into and to be visible. Coarsely chop the candied peel and almonds to the same size, about the size of raisins. Fold the chopped pieces into the cream; refrigerate until you assemble the cannoli.
Cut the pastry dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of dough to a rectangle 11 by 14 inches (or as close as possible). Use a round cookie cutter about 3 inches in diameter to cut discs. Set the rounds aside, on a lightly floured tray, to rest for 15 minutes before frying. Meanwhile, roll out and cut the remaining half of the dough the same way.
To fry the pastry, pour vegetable oil into a skillet to a depth of 1/4 inch, and set over medium heat. Use the point of a small, sharp knife to pierce each pastry round about ten times all over its surface, as though you were making pinpricks through the dough. (These tiny holes will prevent the pastry from ballooning when fried.)
Heat the oil until the edge of the dough sizzles gently when dipped into it, then lay in as many rounds as you can, 2 inches apart. Raise the heat to keep the oil temperature up (but lower it as soon as the sizzling gets too fast). Fry the rounds for about 3 minutes on the first side, pushing them under the oil occasionally to heat the top surface. As the tops begin to bubble, press with tongs to prevent big bubbles from ballooning -- small bubbles are OK. When the bottom is golden brown, flip the rounds over and fry until evenly colored and crisp on both sides, about 2 more minutes. As soon as they're done, lift them with tongs, let excess oil drip off, and lay them to drain on folded paper towels. Fry all the rounds this way, adding oil as needed and heating it between batches.
Set one round on the plate, drop about 1 ½ tablespoons of cannoli cream in the center, lay another round on top -- sides aligned -- and press gently to spread the cream. Drop on another layer of cream, cover with a third round, and press. Finally, shower the top of each napoleon with confectioners' sugar and embellish with drizzles of honey or a sprinkle of finely grated chocolate and serve.
Popular chef and cookbook author Lidia Bastianich came to this country from Italy in 1958. Her many interests include: a long-running PBS television series, seven restaurants, a line of pastas and sauces, Bastianich Wines, and a line of cookware for QVC.
Authors: Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali
Penned: Oct. 16, 2012
What's Inside: In her eighth cookbook, Lidia shares 100 of her favorite recipes. Besides appearing on her table table time and time again, these dishes have won rave reviews from her fans as the best, most comforting and most scrumptious dishes in Lidia's repertoire.
You'll find everything from simple, Italian-style sauces (think homemade Marinara made from canned tomatoes) to soul-satisfying main dishes (Baked Stuffed Shells or Chicken Cacciatore, anyone?) and delectable desserts (make mine Apple Strudel, please!). Plus, each of the ideas in this best-of-Italian-cooking collection has been updated with information about the affordability, seasonality and nutritional value of the ingredients.
Time Out: 240 pages
Available: $24.95 at Amazon and other retailers
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