The Bake Off Bake Along: Cannoli

I have very strong feelings this week. Some of these feelings are related to the fact that Yan definitely should not have left the tent. I adore Yan and I would have been very happy if she’d have won. I really like Kate too, but I think she was weaker than Yan for Italian week and has been struggling for a little while, as has Stacey. It seems ridiculous than Yan went out, so much so that I got quite cross with Paul and Prue. But the bake off bake along must go on, and cannoli are happening.


This is the other thing I have strong feelings about this week: what they made in the tent. I felt like it wasn’t a great episode and the challenges didn’t hang together very well. Sfogliatelle didn’t seem like a great showstopper assignment, really, because most people don’t know what they are and don’t have a chance of making them, and because even when they’re made correctly they just don’t look very interesting. Pizza is too simple and dull for a technical challenge, especially when you have the bakers just make a margherita. I mean, pizza is great, but I’ve made it so many times that it’d be no fun for me to do as a bake along. And there didn’t seem to be much leeway given for the fact that it was stupidly hot in the tent. Also, with the budget for this show, surely they can afford to air-condition the marquee? Or put in big fans? Or even just open the sides?! It’s almost like they’re trying to make the bakers suffer.


But. But. The thing that redeemed this episode for me is that it included cannoli. I love cannoli. I have said it before and I will say it again. They are one of my absolute favourite desserts. But I have never made them before, because they look really hard. I don’t have a deep fat fryer. And you have to have cannoli tubes, and who has those?

Well, me. Now I have those. I purchased cannoli tubes for this bake off bake along. Which is nuts. But this felt like the time to finally bite the bullet and do it, because I have always wanted to be able to make cannoli myself.

Not going to lie: making cannoli is fairly labour intensive. It also requires quite a bit of kit. The dough itself isn’t too hard to put together, but then you need a pasta machine to make it thin enough to work with. As with fresh pasta, yes, you could use a rolling pin, but it would take a lot of time and effort to get the dough as thin as it should be. You’d then have a much easier time of it if you had a deep fat fryer. I don’t, so I just deep-fried my cannoli tubes in a pan of oil on the hob, and kept an eye on the temperature with a sugar thermometer, but it was quite hard to regulate and a fryer that kept a consistent temperature would have been so much easier. Finally, you do need cannoli tubes. Luckily they’re really cheap, but I did have to go to the effort of actually ordering them online.

So, all in all, this was a stupid thing to do. But they were so tasty. I was very proud of my little cannoli shells, which bubbled and went golden and crisp, exactly as Paul and Prue had said they should. I feel like making cannoli in and of itself was enough of a challenge, so I haven’t made three different types. I sort of intended to, but when it came down to it I just ran out of time. I stuck with classic flavours: ricotta; mixed peel; dark chocolate. Happy days. They were really delicious, and I was actually quite proud of myself, which I’m not usually after these bakes!


The Recipe

Obviously I didn’t have a clue what I was doing here, so I slavishly followed this recipe. It all seemed to work without any issues, although I did end up adding some extra flour to the dough, because it seemed a bit too sticky and difficult to work with at first. I also dipped the ends of the cannoli tubes in chocolate because… well, because dipping things in chocolate means never having to give a reason.

Sadly, cannoli don’t keep very well, because as soon as you pipe the ricotta mix into the shells they start to soften and go soggy. It just means you have to eat them all very quickly. Which is tragic, obviously.


Ricotta, Citrus, and Chocolate Tart

Have you ever eaten cannoli? If not, I advise you to stop reading this blog post and go and find yourself some immediately. There’s a little Italian deli on the Cowley Road in Oxford called Il Principe, and it sells properly lovely and authentic Italian food. I mean, I assume it’s authentic. The owners are Italian and I’m not, so what do I know? Anyway, they do an irresistible cannoli. A crisp, fried tube of delicate pastry, filled with ricotta and mixed peel, finished with dark chocolate and icing sugar. It is one of my favourite treats. And so I was always going to love this Ricotta, Citrus, and Chocolate Tart.

Yes, I know I did a chocolate tart pretty recently. But this is a totally different being.


You may well ask why I didn’t just make cannoli, if I love them so much. The problem is that, although you can buy ready-made cannoli shells, they’re pretty difficult to get hold of. They’re also not a patch on the freshly handmade variety. And to make them by hand you need to buy special cannoli tubes to shape the dough around while it’s fried. Even I, a great lover of kitchen equipment, don’t think I could really justify such a purchase. To make it a legitimate buy, I’d have to make cannoli every week. And while, in principle, that sounds like a fabulous idea, in practice I feel logistical issues and health worries might render it impractical as a lifestyle choice.


The proper name for this recipe is Torta Squisita, according to Amelia, my friend and former colleague. She’s spent half her life in Italy, speaks the language and knows the food. It was she who introduced me to the original recipe for this tart, before I messed with it. I’ve made changes, of course, and fiddled with the method, which is why it’s been rechristened as Ricotta, Citrus, and Chocolate Tart. It’s not as pretty a name. But it tells you what it is, and I don’t want to go pretending my version is the proper Italian deal, because it isn’t. It’s really, really delicious though.

Golden, lemon-scented pastry holds a filling of baked ricotta, studded with candied citrus peel and rich flakes of dark chocolate. It’s decadent, and a little bit unusual if you’re looking for something different. When I make this tart, I have to give it away fairly quickly, because I cannot be trusted around it. It’s genuinely one of my absolute favourite desserts. If left alone with it, I will demolish it single-handedly in an embarrassingly short amount of time.

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The original recipe for this tart comes from the lovely Amelia Earl, who I used to work with at the cookery school.


Making your own pastry for this is best, because this recipe will give you a rich, buttery, lemon-y base for the tart. However, if you’re in a rush or simply cannot be bothered to make your own pastry, then a couple of sheets of shop-bought shortcrust will do as a substitute in a pinch.

If you like, you can completely skip the lattice top to this, and simply bake the tart with an open top.


for the pastry

375g plain flour
pinch of salt
75g sugar
zest of 1 lemon
210g cold butter, cubed
3 egg yolks
4-5 tbsp chilled water

for the filling

500g ricotta
125g candied peel (should come diced into small cubes)
150g good quality 70% dark chocolate, cut into rough rubble
100g golden caster sugar
1 large egg


  1. First, make your pastry. Put your flour, salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a food processor. Give it a quick blitz to combine. Add your cubed butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add your eggs yolks and 2 tbsp cold water, and pulse until the pastry starts to come together. If it doesn’t come together and still seems dry, add more water 1 tbsp at a time until it is a cohesive pastry. Tip it out onto clingfilm and knead it together briefly. Divide it into two chunks, one being 3/4 of the total pastry and the other 1/4. You can also leave it in one big piece if you don’t want to do a lattice top. Shape each chunk into a disc, wrap in clingfilm. Chill in the fridge for around 20 minutes, or until fairly firm.
  2. While your pastry chills, make your filling. Mix your ricotta, candied peel, dark chocolate, sugar, and egg together until just combined, and set aside. Heat your oven to 190C/170C fan.
  3. Roll out your larger piece of pastry and use it to line a tart tin (roughly 23cm in diameter). Trim the edges. If your pastry has become very soft, pop the tin in the fridge for ten minutes or so to let the pastry firm up before it goes in the oven. When you’re ready, line the pastry case with baking paper, then fill with baking beans or rice, and bake blind for around 10 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for around another five minutes. You want the pastry to have lost its rawness and started to colour lightly.
  4. While the case is baking, if you’re planning to do a lattice top, roll out your smaller piece of pastry into a rough rectangle and cut it into long strips.
  5. When your pastry case is blind baked, pour your filling into the tart case, and smooth the top. If you’re doing a lattice, lay your strips of pastry in your prepared pattern over the filling. You’re supposed to weave them in and out for a proper lattice, but I always just lay them on top of each other! Pop the whole thing back in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes, or until the lattice pastry is baked and golden and the tart filling is set. Let the tart cool for five or 10 minutes, but do remove it from the tin while it’s still warm, or it could stick.