Not to sound cocky, but there’s little that can intimidate me these days when it comes to elaborate recipes and complicated baking procedures. In fact, I get a certain thrill from the more difficult preparations- The more involved, the better! That’s why I signed up to be a Daring Baker, after all, and have continued to meet the challenge every month for exactly two years now. It boggles the mind how time flies… And yet, there is still one fear that I haven’t fully conquered: Frying. How perfect that it should be the chosen method for creating my second anniversary challenge.
The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.
Sure, I’ve fried a good number of times, and am certainly no stranger to a vat of hot oil bubbling away on the stove, but it takes a bit of doing to work up my courage to approach it. Forever scarred by safety videos warning of the dangers of hot oil spills and the resulting 3rd degree burns, it’s the mental image of melting flesh that tempts me into putting away the jug of oil and flipping on the oven instead. No matter, there was no way baking would result in nearly as crispy or delicious cannoli shells, and so this was on fear that needed to be faced.
I’d love to say that my worry was all for naught, but alas, this was perhaps one of the most painful Daring Baker challenges I’ve ever endured. Though I did indeed feel the burn of a few errant splatters, dropping in the heavy homemade cannoli forms with too much enthusiasm, and scorched the tips of my fingers clear off while wrestling them onto waiting paper towels, it was the damn lemon that did me in.
You see, my shells were flavored with a gingerbread-inspired melange of spices and a touch of molasses, and the filling was a light and creamy lemon custard. It was while zesting a lemon that my hand slipped… And I very forcibly zested all the way down my left thumb. There was a brief and frightening threat of getting stitches, at which point I decided that it wasn’t so bad, really, and finished filling and photographing the cannoli. They were beautiful, and got rave reviews, but I must admit I had no appetite for them by the time all was said and done.
The good news is, I did not end up needing stitches, and now two weeks later, I can finally bend my thumb without it splitting open again. Ah, the little victories in life… I just don’t think that cannolis will become a regular staple in my repertoire, and perhaps, I should find a safer lemon zester!