Yes We Cannoli
What's That? | Cannoli
- Peter Clemenza (Godfather)
We are pumped to announce that today we are unlocking Boston as a Sidewalk city! You can now explore the best of Boston and Cambridge with Sidewalk.
To celebrate this milestone, we honor Boston’s best-in-class pastry, the sweetened ricotta-filled pastry shells that dreams are made of — the cannoli. If you’ve experienced a Saturday night in the Hub’s cannoli capital, the North End, you’d know that the lines stretching out the doors of the Italian bakeries means one thing: they make some divine cannoli.
Is That a Cannoli in Your Pocket . . . ?
The word cannoli comes from Palermo, where “canna” cane reeds were used to shape the shells. The exact origins of the cannoli are a little murky, but there are some well-supported theories. Some believe the cannoli has Turkish roots, since the treat is also known by Italians as, “cappelli di turchi,” or “Turkish Hats,” indicating a Sicilian belief that the pastries are of Saracen origin. However, other evidence suggests that the cannoli was invented in Sicily and sold by street vendors during Carnevale celebrations. The Sicilians couldn’t resist a good entendre, so the shape and cream-filled center became a phallic culinary joke in line with the indulgent and carnal holiday.
How to Assess the Caliber of Your Cannoli
You know you have a good cannoli in front of you if the following factors exist:
- The shell is golden in color, crunchy rather than soggy, and does not shatter when bitten.
The ricotta filling is creamy smooth in texture, sweet without being grainy or syrupy, and has a hint of tartness without tasting sour.
Like French macarons and profiteroles, the perfect Italian cannoli can only last a couple hours before it withers away.
Create a Cannoli of Your Own
Just in case you were curious, cannoli shells require a labor-intensive process. You make the shell by mixing the dough, rolling out circular segments, wrapping the circle around a hollow metal cylinder and frying them one-at-a-time in lard, peanut oil, or some other fat. (Some cookbooks hail baking as the optimal way. I’d imagine these are the same kinds of cookbooks that propose rice cakes as substitutes for cookies. That is just plain wrong. Boo!)
The secret of the dough is to use wine vinegar or Marsala wine. This addition prevents gluten from forming, allowing the dough to be more airy and light.
Craving a Cannoli?
Are you now hankering for a cannoli? Don’t dirty your kitchen, I have you covered. Here are three Sidewalks that will satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Sidewalk: The Cannoli Crawl: A Showdown of the North End's Best Cannoli Bakeries
Why? It’s a cannoli crawl. Need we say more? Ok, this walk covers five quintessential North End cannoli spots, from Maria's to Modern. Along the way, we'll discuss the origins of this Italian pastry and how to know if there is a good one in front of you.
- Sidewalk: Cannoli, Focaccia & A Casa Pasta: The Foodie Tour of North Beach - Little Italy
- Why? After the 1906 earthquake, the enclave of debauchery and vice that was the Barbary Coast was resurrected as North Beach - the Little Italy of San Francisco. Over one hundred years later the original recipes and heritage still remain. Come on a foodie tour of espresso, cannoli, cocktails and the stories behind them.
New York City
- Sidewalk: Block Walk Little Italy: Cannoli, Mozzarella & the Mafia
- Why? Few neighborhoods have had as much of an imprint on the fabric of New York as Little Italy. Join us on a quick exploration of the essential Little Italy. Along the way, we’ll tell stories of bakers, cheesemongers, pizza pioneers and ruthless mafiosos.
What’s That? is a series that celebrates experiencing the different and familiar, whether it is an object, food, custom, artistic style or type of architecture. In each edition, we introduce an item and explain how to appreciate it and why it’s important. Why? Because, being cultured is cool. Ideas or requests? Let us know on our Facebook Page or in the comments section below.