Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cannoli Snowball Bites

Quick and delicious Cannoli Snowball Bites travel well to holiday parties and can make your contribution to the holiday buffet pure fun.  The traditional fried tube-shaped shells are replaced by a little piecrust cups with “snowballs” of filling.  The filling uses easy to find real ingredients that are actually good for you.  Dark chocolate, orange zest and pistachios are complimented by almond extract to the extent that the filling requires less sweetening than you’d think making this a great recipes to teach yourself restraint. The finished dessert is naturally rich without being cloying.  

You can prepare the elements of the dessert well ahead of time making this a nice time-saving gift to yourself.  It’s OK to use a prepared pie dough or pre-baked mini-tart shells in a rush. (Try to slect a brand with limited and recognizable ingredients.)  Puff pastry cut in small squares then baked can also be substituted. 

Cannoli Snowball Bites
Pie dough for 2 crusts
1 pint ricotta cheese (whole or part skim)
zest of 2 oranges
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or mini-chips
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3-1/2 cup confectioners sugar or honey

Preheat oven to 400˚F.  
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface.  Using a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter, cut out 24+ rounds and place in small muffin tins creating tiny tart cups.  Prick with a fork and bake 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

In a medium bowl combine ricotta cheese, orange zest, chocolate, pistachios and almond extract.  Add confectioners sugar or honey in small increments while tasting for desired sweetness.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how little sugar is required since the contrast with the nuts, chocolate and zest is a key part of the flavor profile.

The dessert may be prepared days ahead to this point.  

When you are ready to serve, scoop the ricotta filling into each tart cup and arrange on a pretty plate.  Use a small cookie scoop or melon baler to get the snowball look.  Or use two spoons to scoop and shape.  Don’t fret about filling them at the last minute.  The cups stay quite crispy for several hours.  Refrigerate any leftovers