Each of the fresh pastries in the case at Egidio's Pastry Shop is made from a secret recipe passed down by Don Pasquale Egidio who first opened the shop in 1912. On January 15, 2017, we hosted our first cooking class using the historic spaces of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Carmela Lucciola graciously hosted seven guests in the kitchen and taught us how to make cannoli, the specialty of the house. But rather than a class where guests would learn how to make cannoli at home, it was an experience of what it's like to work in a historic bakery.
Our guests got to play with all the tools that the bakers at Egidio's use daily, including these dough cutters for large and small cannoli, heavier than doors stops. Indeed, they don't make 'em like they used to because you only need to buy a new one of these every 500 years.
After the dough was made and rolled through an ancient industrial roller, guests cut hundreds of circles and laid them out on giant sheet pans. The next step was small, but crucial--just a light paint stroke of egg wash so that the dough stays closed when pinched around the roller.
"Here is one of our secrets," said Carmela as she picked up a wooden dowel. "These have been here for over 100 years." She explained how most bakeries today will use the metal rollers that are sold in kitchen supply stores. But the wooden rollers don't disperse the heat and over time and also become seasoned, much like a cast iron pan.
One secret Carmela wouldn't give up was the secret to the cannoli filling. Allison Scola who leads small group tours in Sicily explained how Sicilian cannoli are filled with sheep's milk ricotta. In the United States cow's milk is preferred. Carmela would only say that her is an impastata. She inherited the recipe from the bakery's founder, Don Pasquale Egidio when she purchased his shop.
Throughout the class guests enjoyed wine, cheese and salume from Calabria Pork Store as well as fresh baked focaccia that Carmela made right at the start of class. When it was time to fill the cannoli, guests had all become friends.