Chances are, if you can dream of your favorite food flavoring, you can figure out a way to create cannoli cream with that flavor. In fact, that's just what one New York City Italian bakery did, creating root beer, gingerbread, candy corn and bacon-chocolate flavors, among many other offbeat varieties. All cannoli, or any singular cannolo, are deep-fried and have a sweetened ricotta, or ricotta and whipped cream, filling. Flavorings give the cannoli extra tastes and textures.
Sicilian cannoli frequently use delicate orange-flower water, but you can use stronger extracts, liqueurs and oils as well. Just a few drops of orange, peppermint or coconut extract are enough to flavor the cannoli cream for five or six cannoli. Use a few teaspoons of liqueur for the same amount of cannoli. Among your many choices are orange-flavored Cointreau, apricot-flavored creme d'abricot, cognac-flavored Grand Marnier, Mexican coffee and chocolate-flavored Kahlua.
For cannoli flavored with pastes, soften the pastes to room temperature and stir them into the ricotta mixture thoroughly, using a few tablespoons per half-dozen cannoli. Try classic Italian flavors of hazelnut and chocolate or caramel, also called dulche de leche. Or create modern flavors with peanut butter, pistachio paste, pumpkin puree, almond-flavored marzipan, rich chestnut paste or white chocolate. Look for more flavored pastes in specialty food stores.
Candied orange peel and chocolate chips give traditional cannoli a distinctive flavor and provide contrasts in texture to the creamy ricotta. Use small pieces of any other flavoring, adding a few tablespoons for every six cannoli, to give your pastries the same appeal. Try candied fruit, such as grapefruit or ginger, or just use plain, unsugared zest of oranges, grapefruit or tangerines. Crushed bits of candy bars, chopped nuts and chopped dried fruit are other options.
Many liqueurs and pastes replicate flavors from other dishes, such as tiramisu liqueur and advocaat, an eggnog-flavored liqueur. But you can also create your own flavorings by using ingredients from a favorite dish and adding about 1/2 cup for every half-dozen cannoli. Try finely chopped apples cooked with butter and plenty of cinnamon for an apple pie flavoring; or marshmallow fluff, chocolate chips and graham cracker crumbles for s'mores flavoring.
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