I have a serious Cannoli recipe problem, which I've been unable to resolve for several years. As many cannoli-philes have probably figured out, none of the recipes posted online or on this forum actually produce what I would now call the "Brooklyn style" cannoli, which is the cannoli of my youth.
I am reaching out to the Chowhounders out there who have worked in a bakery to share their secrets, because at this point, I am convinced that the recipe or secret to producing the cannoli I am looking for (and the cannoli style most beloved by most new yorkers) is simply not in the public domain.
What do I mean by Brooklyn style cannoli? First, let's get it straight - after trying to track down the "brooklyn style" cannoli recipe for over 10 years, I have noticed that in the US, there are several cannoli styles present. In Boston, most cannoli are just ricotta and sugar (think Fortunato brothers or Rocco's). Many people love this style, and to them, this IS cannoli. However, that's not what I'm looking for. If you get a cannoli in most spots in Manhattan, they will at least use impastata, which is a higher fat, low moisture version of ricotta, and candied citron. There is also other variants, such as Villabate's in Brooklyn, which seems to use some sort of orange or other liquer base (I only tried it once, not my thing, though they use a great ricotta), but it is a variation you won't find often. Occasionally, you will also find a cannoli that uses cinnamon oil, which is one of the key "secret" ingredients often listed on boards.
However, if you have ever been to a cannoli spot like Court Street Pastry, Alba's (now Luigi's in Staten Island), Cristoforo Colombo or even Veniero's, you probably have found out that absolutely no cannoli recipe out there can get you the flavor of these bakeries (which I am calling "Brooklyn" style, although you can find similar cannoli on Staten Island, parts of New Jersey, and other random areas). It is a hard flavor to describe, which definitely uses cinnamon oil or some other cinnamon source and of course, citron, but there is another flavor there that I've been unable to replicate using any of the recipes online (and I don't think it's Sheep's Milk Ricotta, which I've obtained from several sources on different occasions, with no success).
At first, I thought it might be some sort of anise extract, and perhaps that is part of the "secret", as that at least seems to get me part of the way. At times, I've thought that perhaps I am limited in my selection of ricotta, or that perhaps they do something to the cheese to create more flavor (though I don't think most of these places add mascarpone). Recently, I visited a pastry place in Philadelphia called Potito's that has a very interesting filling, and they informed me that they actually make their own ricotta - perhaps that is part of the secret (although I note theirs does not use cinnamon oil)?
Either way, despite my efforts to use every possible combination of the following: anise extract, cinnamon oil, sambucca, rose water, orange flower water, strega, maraschino liquer, rum, cacao liquer, Almond extract/Amaretto, etc, my cannoli filling still tastes absolutely nothing like these "brooklyn style" cannoli places.
If anyone has any advice, I would incredibly appreciate it. I have tried every variation of every recipe on the internet and am using high quality impastata and have tried maybe a dozen different cinnamon oils at this point.