All the flavour, none of the fuss!
I adore eating cannoli but I don’t enjoy making it. Maybe the distinct absence of any Italian ancestors in my lineage leaves me ill-equipped for the task, but I find filling those delicate pastry tubes to be a fussy job and don’t even get me started on making cannoli shells from scratch. I thought about the essential elements of cannoli – crisp, cinnamony pastry and creaming, chocolate-studded filling, and decided a simplified version might be a good experiment. These cinnamon cookies are delightful on their own, but even better when perched atop the rich, creamy filling. You can make the cookies ahead of time and store in an airtight container on the counter or in the freezer; the filling can be made up to 48 hours ahead and stored in the refrigerator. If you don’t have time to bake the cinnamon cookies, purchased amaretti cookies (available at Italian food shops) are a great substitute.
Crispy cinnamon cookies:
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) soft butter
- 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 3/4 cups (180 mL) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (250 mL) whole milk ricotta
- 1 cup (250 mL) mascarpone cheese
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) icing (powdered) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla bean paste
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) grated orange zest, tossed with 2 teaspoons (10 mL) white sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional but delicious)
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) mini chocolate chips
- crispy cinnamon cookies
- Make the cookies by creaming together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Combine flour with baking powder; add to creamed mixture and mix well.
- Using your hands, roll the dough into balls about the size of a large marble. Place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- Press the dough balls flat with the bottom of a drinking glass that has been lightly greased; dip it in the sugar-cinnamon mixture (in a small, broad bowl) before each time you press down.
- Bake in 350F oven 10 minutes; Remove from cookie sheet and let cool.
- Make the filling by putting the ricotta and mascarpone in a mixing bowl; whip together with an electric beater until smooth and creamy. Sprinkle in the icing sugar along with the vanilla and liqueur, if using, and mix together.
- Fold the sugared orange zest and mini chocolate chips into the cheese mixture.
- Spoon evenly into 4 small bowls and perch a cookie upright in the filling. Alternatively, you can also sprinkle about a tablespoon of crushed cookie over the top of each bowl. Serve with additional cookies on the side.