I think it's very important to try to make everything from scratch at least once. Then you have a good idea if pre-made or store bought short cuts are the way to go. There are a few things I always make at home now - fresh pasta, cakes and cookies from scratch, icing, soft pretzels, and veggie burgers to name a few.
One item I will always buy at the store now is cannoli shells.
I'm sure these are something you get better at making if you have more experience, more metal forms, even oil temperature, etc. However, I think once was enough for me!
For the shell, I looked at many recipes and found that some varied from over 1 c. of crisco to 2 tbsp. of butter... 1 tsp. of wine to 1 c. Since it was all over the place, I kind of made my own recipe that's similar to a pie crust, which is basically what you're going for with cannoli shells.
I tried my best to seal them, but a few puffed and broke. Also, my oil temperature was not stable. Sometimes they would float, sometimes they would sink and stick... even though I had my thermometer in there, it was a challenge!
So here's the recipe and believe me, they were awesome, but no better than any Italian bakery.
Also, please remember after you photograph them that they roll... they roll right off the plate and smash on the floor into Pumpkin's territory... and you can spend 2 hours making 6 presentable cannolis for your dinner party, but in the end you have to make a pan of brownies and ask the guests to pick up some ice cream.
Mini Chocolate Chip Cannolis
Shells, makes about 20
2 c. AP Flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. crisco
1 egg yolk
1/4 - 1/2 c. Marsala wine
8 oz. ricotta (recommended Pollyo brand)
1/2 c. powdered sugar (plus more for garnish)
1/2 c. crushed pistachios (plus more for garnish)
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (plus more for garnish)
In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar and crisco.
Cut crisco in until it's pea sized, add yolk and steam in the wine until it creates a dough ball.
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
Heat a pot with oil about 4" deep over medium heat, about 350 degrees.
Roll out the dough, cut and wrap around cannoli forms. Seal well with water.
Drop into oil and fry about 2 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove, place on paper towels and drain.
Slide off the form and continue.
In a bowl, mix together ricotta, sugar, pistachios and chocolate chips.
Add to a piping bag and fill shells right before serving.
If desired, dip ends into extra pistachios or chips and dust with powdered sugar.