La chanson de la pluie and stacked cannoli for the Daring Bakers

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This morning I awoke to the sound of the wind howling outside and the pattering of raindrops on the window-pane. Like Proust's narrator, I often spend some minutes looking at the thin crack of daylight above the curtains to imagine the kind of day it will be. It felt good under the warmth and heaviness of my winter quilt but that made it harder to leave my bed and face the world. In the evenings, I look from my balcony to a street that runs parallel to mine and particularly to a large skylight on the top floor which glows with warmth. Since I returned from Italy, I haven't stopped thinking about about the light and colours there. Every rain filled day makes me miss it a bit more. Berlin in late autumn and winter is very grey and you're grateful for every break in the clouds. I long for cold, dry winter's days with snow sparkling in the brilliant sunshine and dream about spending Christmas in Canada making snowmen. Yet I try to take comfort the the little things; at dusk, the streets are filled with Christmas lights and the brilliant illuminations of shop window decorations. Soon, I'll visit the markets for Glühwein, Lebkuchen and waffles. I make tisane and learn Italian on the sofa or read Proust and a fabulous book on Boris Vian which another wonderful blogger sent me. I watch New Wave films, especially those with the lovely and charming Anna Karina who inspired me to get a new hairstyle and I even found the missing Truffaut film in my collection after years of searching which I hope to watch later.

A few weeks ago, I also tried to remind myself to enjoy the last of the autumn leaves but somehow didn't notice the moment when they all disappeared completely until last Sunday when I saw the naked branches of the trees stretching up to the sky. I had finally made it to Köpenick, somewhere I had never travelled, in East Berlin. It's just 20 minutes from Alexanderplatz but it feels really different and it's much easier there to imagine how things were before reunification, unlike in Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain which have become the coolest places. The streets were fairly empty, except for small groups emerging from church and stopping outside to chat. The sky was colourless and overcast but by the waterfront, faint rays of sunlight flickered on the water for a few moments.

I strolled over to the charming castle with a small park behind it. Fallen leaves lay scattered on the ground, families were playing outside because it was so mild or walking around together, taking pictures. A sign for the Schloss café advertised a delicious sounding soup with pumpkin, ginger and salmon and also apple strudel with ice cream but inside the little room was packed with people savouring brunch and it was impossible to get served. By that time,I was feeling in serious need of refreshment and I wandered through the streets looking for another place to eat.

The Altstadtcafé is one of the most delightful places I've been to. Pushing the door open, I stepped into another world; there was a cosy room smelling of candle wax with wood panelling and German music from the 40s and 50s playing. The walls were covered in floral paper and the waitresses wore traditional long, white costumes. Around were shelves of books about coffee or Marlene Dietrich, cake stands, silver samovars and coffee grinders. Flicking through the menu, you find an neverending range of teas, coffees, chocolates and pastries to choose from, accompanied by charming sentences like "Ein Mann mag kein Herz haben aber er hat bestimmt einen Magen" (A man may not have a heart but he certainly has a stomach) or "Besser eine klare Brühe als ein reines Gewissen" (better to have a clear brew than a clean conscience). I ordered a hot chocolate with cream which was not as thick as Angelina's but was intense and rich and then quark strudel with cinnamon and vanilla sauce. It was perhaps not as good as in Austria but combined with such a wonderful ambiance, I had the impression that I was tasting something really special. People came in to order whole cakes which they took away in large boxes, the sound of the coffee machine mingled with the delicate clinking of china cups and Sunday morning conversations.

On the way back to the station, the sky had turned dark and I felt a few raindrops on my face but the tops of the buildings were golden with the most intense light. I wished that I could capture all of these beautiful moments but no pictures or words seem enough so I just felt good being there to observe them. It was the perfect Sunday.


Of course, one the best things about November is also the fact that baking in the kitchen is a real comfort and makes you forget the cold and darkness outside. Today is also the reveal date for my Daring Bakers' challenge. I missed last month because it was macaroons; my first attempt was a disaster and I wished that I could have had lessons with the
best macaroon maker in the world, then I was ill and didn't manage a second attempt. This month I was very excited to learn that we had to make cannoli; I had been dying to try them ever since I saw Patoumi's holiday post. At first I wanted to make them with cannoli tubes so they could be filled in the middle but no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find any. Finally, I decided to stack them and fill them with mascarpone and cream, topped with red currants. Thanks to Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives for choosing such a great challenge:

CANNOLI SHELLS

Ingredients for the "Shells":
2 Cups (250g/16 ounces) All-purpose flour
2 Tbs (28 grams/1 ounce) Castor sugar
1 Tsp (5g/0.06 ounces) Unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 Tsp (1.15g/0.04 ounces) Ground cinnamon
1/2 Tsp (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) Salt
3 Tbs (42g/1.5 ounces) Vegetable or olive oil
1 Tsp (5g/0.18 ounces) White wine vinegar
~1/2 cup (approx. 59g/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125ml) Sweet Marsala, red Porto or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 Large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 Cups/approx. 2 litres)
Confectioners' sugar

Note
If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).


Directions for the "Shells":
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
2. Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough coveredwhile you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.
3. Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.
4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.
5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.
6. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
7. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.


Directions for "Stacked Cannoli":
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).
2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

CANNOLI FILLING


100g mascarpone
100g double cream
1 tablespoon sugar
Some redcurrants to decorate
Icing sugar to dust

1. To make the filling, beat the mascarpone with the double cream and sugar until you have the consistency you want - it should be thick but not too stiff. Apply a layer of the cream to each round cannoli and top with red currants. Sandwich the different layers together and dust the top and sides with icing sugar. Delicious!


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