Saturday, February 22, 2014

Recipe: Cannoli Bites (and my attempt at home cheesemaking)

For my work team meetings, one member is responsible for bringing in a dairy product to share.  We taste the product and the person responsible has to say a few things about it or the company that makes it.  My turn comes up every eight months or so.  For the most part people bring in various types of cheeses.  Though I love cheese, it gets boring.  Last year around the holidays I brought in egg nog, even though I don't particularly like it.  I felt like it was a fitting product for the season.

This month I decided I didn't just want to bring in the product.  I wanted to make something with it.  So, I chose mascarpone cheese, a common ingredient in one off my favorite desserts; cannoli!  I opted to make the cannoli bites below because those would be easier to 'stuff 'on the spot.  During my research I also discovered that you can make mascarpone cheese at home pretty easily.  So, I decided to try it and see how it compared to the store bought kind.  My final consensus?  Though it was easy and cheaper to make it, I'd just buy it next time.  The cost savings isn't worth my time!  The cannoli bites were delicious though!

Here are some photos of my cheese making process:


Pouring into cheesecloth


Finished product

Cannoli Bites 

1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box                    
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (raw sugar)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 425°F. On lightly floured work surface, unroll pie crusts. Sprinkle each crust with turbinado sugar and cinnamon. Lightly roll rolling pin over sugar and cinnamon to press into pastry. With 2 1/2- to 3-inch round cutter, cut out pastry rounds. Lightly press each pastry round into ungreased mini muffin cup.

Bake about 10 minutes or until pastry cups are golden brown. Cool completely in pans, about 15 minutes. Remove from muffin cups to cooling racks.

Cannoli Filling
12 oz whole milk Ricotta cheese, strained
8 oz Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

In a mixing bowl, using a rubber or silicone spatula, blend together Ricotta and Mascarpone cheese while running and pressing mixture along bottom of bowl to remove any lumps. Fold in powdered sugar. Cover and chill 30 minutes (or until ready to use).

Remove cannoli filling from refrigerator, transfer to a piping bag fitted with a tip (or you can use a large resealable bag and cut the tip of the end). Pipe filling into cups and sprinkle with chocolate chips and dust with powdered sugar. For best results serve within 2 hours. Store in refrigerator.

For the last part, I just used a spoon.  I also threw some chocolate chips into the filling mixture.