Cannoli Cookies Combine The Best Of 2 Desserts

Before we start talking about cannoli cookies, it's necessary to clear up a little confusion. The kind we are talking about are, first and foremost, pretty typical drop cookies. If you're thinking, "Well, duh, what else would they be?" let us explain: In some contexts, the words "cannoli cookie" are used to refer to the cannoli shell, which itself could be considered a kind of wafer cookie. In fact, if the shell were rolled out flat instead of into a tube, that is exactly what it would be. Other sources, however, may use the phrase "cannoli cookie" to mean an entire cannoli, filling and all. This begs the question, is a cannoli a cookie? Well, if you consider a hot dog to be a sandwich, then such a cookie classification isn't inconceivable.

Semantic digressions aside, let's get back to the cookies. There are numerous different recipes for cannoli cookies, and, as far as we can tell, not one of these could be considered a standard version. Still, the one thing that all of these recipes seem to have in common is that they are meant to have a flavor that is somewhat reminiscent of the classic Sicilian dessert, but they are generally easier to make. Unless you use pre-baked cannoli shells, as is the case in our easy cannoli and pumpkin cannoli recipes.  In this case, cannoli cookies are rather more labor-intensive, yet they still retain the advantage of being less likely to get soggy if not eaten ASAP.

History of cannoli cookies

If we were talking about cannolis in general, we'd have all kinds of material to work with here. They date back to A.D. 1000, were originally known as cappelli di turchi (Turkish hats), blah blah blah ... Yes, no shortage of stuff to say about standard cannolis, including the racy legend that this phallic-shaped dessert was created in a harem. (Sicily was under Arab rule at the time, and the emirate would have featured such an establishment). Cannoli cookies, however, have a much shorter and less storied history with a background as vanilla as the extract used to make them.

The first published recipe that we've been able to find for cannoli cookies is in a 2009 cookbook called "Kentucky Cooks: Favorite Recipes from Kentucky Living." Interesting, since we'd have expected an Italian-inspired recipe to come from a state like Connecticut, New York, or New Jersey — Kentucky actually ranks 43rd in terms of the percent of the population that claims Italian descent. Perhaps it's not such an anomaly, though, since cannoli cookies appear to be more of an American phenomenon than an Italian one. A recipe for "dolci al cannolo" from a 2018 cookbook entitled "Cooking with Nonna: A Year of Italian Holidays" turns out to have been created for that cookbook rather than being anything traditionally Italian.

How cannoli cookies are made

Cannoli cookie recipes, as we stated from the outset, aren't really all that standardized. A typical one, if such a thing exists, is generally a fat, puffy drop cookie made with ricotta cheese. While the sweetened ricotta makes its flavor known in the filling of a cannoli, ricotta incorporated into cookie dough is far more subtle and adds more fluff than flavor. As the ricotta in these cookies doesn't exactly scream "cannoli" on its own (your tastebuds have to be listening pretty hard to catch so much as a whisper), they may include a variety of other flavor enhancers.

Cannoli cookie mix-ins generally include a variety of ingredients that may feature in cannoli filling. Chopped pistachios are often added to the cookie dough, along with orange zest and mini chocolate chips or grated chocolate. To make the cookies look prettier, they may be topped with a powdered sugar glaze or a chocolate drizzle and can also be decorated with glace cherries or more chopped chocolate or pistachios.

Cannoli cookie variants

While many cannoli cookie recipes seem to adhere, more or less, to the formula we've described above, others opt for a more literal, yet labor-intensive, approach to fusing cookies with cannoli. The way they do this is by using the ricotta as a filling, rather than a dough enhancer, although how that filling is applied varies from recipe to recipe.

One way to make a cannoli-filled cookie is via the sandwich technique, using two thin cookies and then gluing them together with a layer of sweetened ricotta cheese. Another involves making what amount to large thumbprint cookies, only instead of jam, the "thumb" indent (which may be made with a spoon) is filled with cannoli cream before baking. There are some cannoli cookies, however, that are essentially just mini cannolis made with tuile cookies in place of cannoli shells. Each of these different cannoli cookie types, like the simpler drop cookie kind, may also be enhanced with the addition of chocolate chips and pistachios, either in the cookies, the filling, or both

Where to buy cannoli cookies

While it is possible that cannoli cookies originated with home bakers or food bloggers, or possibly a Kentucky lifestyle magazine (with the disclaimer that we don't know for sure), at this point in their evolution Italian bakeries seem to have adopted them as a newer, more portable spin on an old favorite. Among the bakeries that sell them are Abate in Matawan, New Jersey; Doris Italian Market, a mini-chain with five Florida locations; and Sweet Bites of Italy in Greenville, South Carolina. Artuso Bakery in the Bronx makes a different kind of cannoli cookie, sandwiching the cannoli cream between two pignoli, which are chewy almond-flavored cookies topped with pine nuts.

Even if you don't have a local Italian bakery, you can still get your hands on cannoli cookies without having to bake your own. Insomnia Cookies makes a cinnamon-chocolate chip version with a sweetened ricotta filling — not only does it have over 200 locations nationwide, but the chain also ships cookies. Ghost kitchen bakery Brooklyn Delights ships its cannoli cookies, too, and these are available on Amazon. If chocolate-drizzled cannoli cookies are what you want, you may purchase these online from Baking Coach or else from Etsy vendor Dew Line Dairy (the latter are gluten-free).