Two CANNOLI special and MY first DATE

Cannoli inspired reunion
...filled with smooth joyfulness

Yesterday...I had my very first date...
my very first date...with a local Montreal Foodie.
It was a long awaited reunion of sorts.
Many emails later...our Foodie date was upon us.
We were both excited that our...
mini tour was finally taking place.

My thank you gift to her (you’ll understand soon enough)...
was a box filled with fresh crispy empty cannoli.
Shells for her to fill with a unique recipe of her choosing.
Of course...I also did get each one of us a delicious Ricotta cannoli.
We actually devoured it within the first 5 minutes we had our encounter.
All this...right before we had organized to have our lunch!

This sweet before savoury...
had just hit our Foodie spot.

Therefore, before the lunch...we both agreed enthusiastically...
why not make a pit stop at the specialized stuffed dates boutique first.

This is how this union was inspired...
Sometime between last Fall and Winter...I started straying from my work related research.  Considering I'm an incredibly early riser...I gave myself permission to do some fluff cyber browsing. I was terribly attracted to the very interesting multitude of food related blogs. Before then, I had heard of people blogging...however, in truth, I didn't really think I would have any interest in this...let alone start one myself.

During these non-related work searches...I was slowly realizing how overwhelming this new found blogasphere was. Everything seemed so interesting. The stories around food and their related recipes were calling me constantly to action. During that time, I somehow happened to fall on a little known community food site called the 'Daring Kitchen'.

During that same time, there was an interview with a passionate blogger from Montreal on this very site. Naturally, coming from this city myself...I got curious. As I started reading...she slowly lured me in and somehow made me reflect on how come I didn't dive into this world sooner?  I kept reading to later also connect her to a Montreal restaurant 'Meetup' group focusing on frugal fare ethnic eateries. Sounded good to me...so I decided to join with Hubby.

Until the next restaurant get together...loads of time passed.
We had quite a few interesting emails back and forth.
Finally during the Christmas period...
we met at her holiday celebration at a Korean restaurant.
There, as you can imagine...being the founder of the group and all...
she was understandably the woman of the hour.
We exchanged a few kind words and a few mild chuckles
and pretty much continued our individual socializations.
We said we'll catch up at a later time.

Later was yesterday...
but before that...please indulge me as I back track just a little bit more.

After having seen the movie Julie and Julia...I then left for Paris in September of last year. I was really pumped up after that movie. Remember...I was still a newbie in the blogasphere Foodie world! During that movie I really started to get the whole blogging thing. It wasn't a waste of time at all. What I gathered in that short period was somewhat life changing...I just didn't realize how much yet!

I left on this European adventure...and during all that time I started looking at food a little differently...with, as I can only describe as the eyes of a child.

Outdoor markets with their multitude of colors and fragrance just refresh my spirit.

Varieties of food laid out ready to be eaten or transformed into another unique dish...became even more exhilarating than ever to me.  Add this enhanced experience to that of the new found discovery of food blogging ... so many more unanswered questions and curiosities remained in my mind.  I was internally tormented...trying to deter myself from getting into yet another project.

Wasn't my plate full enough already?
It certainly was.  However, now, more than ever...food was more so in my thoughts and conversations. Could that be possible? I have a mega collection of recipe books...and I certainly do know my way around the kitchen pretty well. The question however still remained...could I also start journaling about this interest?  How much time did I really have to dedicate to this passion of mine. It's one thing to cook and bake all the time intertwined through my hectic schedule...but, did I really want to take photos and explain everything in detail?

I paused...reached deep down in my thoughts and I finally convinced myself that it was darn time that I started doing something that would truly satisfy and entertain me.
This culinary journey was no longer a desire...it was becoming a necessity to keep my sanity in check.

As I'm writing this post...
I can't help but feel a great sense of joy, pride and satisfaction.
Just the amazing connections with extremely talented
bloggers (you know who you are) alone have made it worthwhile.
However, Hubby may beg to differ...well, only really...
when his meal is getting cold while I'm trying to take
that 'quasi' perfect shot with my dinosaur camera.

Now, just because there are local foodies in your home town...
does not necessarily mean that you'll meet them in person.
However, in my case...a probable meeting had slowly
started to take shape all because of an Italian Cannoli.

What would a cannoli have anything to
do with our possible Foodie date?

This whole situation unfolded and departed because of a challenge at daring kitchen to make Italian Cannoli from scratch:
My Foodie friend took part of this challenge...which of course lead to my comment on her blog...which then sparked a
debate on where to find the best cannoli pastry in and around Montreal. 

Small side note: There's also another ongoing debate about using...Ricotta and / or Mascarpone or a bit of both? Using super fine sugar or confectioners sugar?  Chunks of dried fruit?...Citrus zest?...Crushed nuts?...Chocolate?...Flavouring?  You name it...it's out there somewhere.

Today, I'm kind of going for the jugular...
I'm sharing my cannoli filling recipe with added whipped cream to the mix.
Oh...did I just initiate another debate?

I say to this...go with your preference.
Knock yourself out.
In the meantime, I had also been informed by a very reliable
source of the lack of proprietary pastry shop cannoli shells.
Apparently to my astonishment...
most pastry shops have their shells delivered.
What???...I've not been buying the originals...how deceiving.

credit: Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives

After asking around...it seems that due to how time consuming it is to make shells as well as the health issue surrounding the abuse of frying oil...most pastry shops decided it was best to buy from another shell dedicated supplier.
So the quest was on...to find at least one of them standing. One that had extremely, freshly made shells and tasty smooth fillings.  Eureka...I had finally found one...and not too far from my home.

As I've already mentioned...
there are plenty of versions of the cannoli that have been altered through...
the hands of several Italian regions and so many more bakers around the world.
However, during our trip in Sicily...
we came pretty darn close to eating what we could only imagine to be...
the most authentic Italian cannoli which had originated in Palermo.
Here's a cannoli we truly enjoyed on a beach in Sicily...
precisely in a very charming  and unforgettable
North Western coastal town of San Vito Lo Capo. 

I'll leave the authenticity to the ones who do it best.
In the meantime...I've enjoyed tinkering with this recipe...
and this is what I've grown to appreciate best.
It is a very lightly smooth textured mousse like cream filling...
versatile enough to add your own personality to it.

my RECIPE for...
Ricotta Maple Syrup
CANNOLI filling

Scrumptious smooth and creamy cannoli ‘Impastata’ type filling
yields cream for a dozen cannoli shells

(American / Metric measures)

. 1-1/4 cups (300g) fresh Ricotta cheese *
. 1/2 cup (100ml) pure Maple syrup
. 1 tsp. (5ml) pure vanilla extract
. 1/2 cup (100ml) whipping cream 35%

Add-ins selections (all optional):
. 1 small orange finely zested
. 1/4 cup (40g) roasted almonds, coarsely crushed
. 1/4 cup (45g) bittersweet chocolate, finely grated
. 1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) ground cinnamon

* Ricotta 'la Fiorella' fresh cheese...so named in our local Quebec stores.
Note:   Do not use container Ricotta for this recipe. I highly recommend an effort towards buying the best fresh Ricotta...please inform yourself through your Cheese specialty store.

1. In a medium bowl, whip the 35% cream and set aside to chill in the refrigerator.
2. Get all other 'Add-in' selections prepared and also set aside.
3. In another medium bowl: Mix the ricotta, the Maple syrup and vanilla extract with an electric beater to ensure smoothness. 
4. Lightly with a spatula, gradually fold the whipped cream into the ricotta mix and combine until streaks have disappeared.
5. Lastly, gently fold in the rest of your 'Add-in' selections and you're done.
6. Cover and place into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before pipe filling the cannoli shells. 
Note: This mix can be done the day ahead and piped right before serving.  The shells will be crunchier that way.   Enjoy this specially created Cannoli cream filling ;o)

Suggestion: If you also desire to have an impressive version of the stuffed cannoli...
just open your freezer and get out your favourite ice cream...soften and stuff.
A real delight is guaranteed.

Well, this whole experience from way back in the Fall of 2009 until
this re-counting of events...was for me...a full-circle moment.

I could only wonder how many more rounds I will end up
circling through this culinary journey of mine?

Flavourful wishes,

Comments ... ??? ... or suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at: foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com

Go HERE for more SWEET creations.

Please take note on how I bake and cook...
Here’s a 101 of sorts to make sure that there are no disappointments when trying my creations.  
Also...just so you know...feel free to increase the salt and sweet factor since I'm not high on either of them ;o)
. Use DRY cup measurements for...you guessed it...all DRY ingredients.
Anything DRY gets measured by spooning the overfilled ingredient (never shake the cup) and then level off with a flat edged tool.  Exception...Brown sugar should be packed in and leveled.
. Use LIQUID cup measurements for...all LIQUIDS that cannot be leveled like for example butter, yogurt...etc.  Measure the liquids at eye level to avoid overdoing what the recipe truly needs.

OVENS are unfortunately not created equal.  Mine is so old that it has reached many degrees off it's norm.  It's really worth investing a few dollars to test yours with an appropriate oven thermometer.  You'd be surprised how many ovens I've heard about not being where they should have been.  Before you lose any more ingredients and much time preparing a new recipe...run to the store...you'll thank me later.