Monday, October 29, 2012

honey buns

Will you be my honey bun? ;)


Last year during musical auditions, I listened to my friend Tessa practice the song Honey Bun from South Pacific.  I tried my hardest to pay attention to her singing...I swear! But all I could think about were buns covered in honey. (I'm so weak!).


Thanks to Sandy (aka "Frankenstorm"), I actually had time to satisfy the honey bun craving that has been tormenting me since last year.  These little buns are absolute perfection.


They are crisp and crusty on the outside, but extremely light and airy on the inside.  Due to their light texture, it is possible to down about five of these in one sitting (not like I know anything about that...).  And what really takes these little buns to the next level is the honey butter glaze.


I didn't merely "brush" these with glaze like the recipe suggested. Oh no, sir. I full-on dunked these into a piping hot bowl of butter and honey. Oh baby.


These were the perfect thing to munch on while drinking a big mug of tea and watching the blustery storm outside, praying to the storm gods to cancel school for one more day.

With love,
Erica


Yields: 20 mini buns
Ingredients

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
2 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey


In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment, combine flour, salt, honey and yeast. Add milk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla and stir until just combined. Remove dough from bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 7-10 minutes (or knead on low speed in stand mixer until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes). Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch down risen dough and divide into 20 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place in lightly greased cups of a mini-muffin pan. Spritz lightly with cooking spray on top, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
When buns have risen, remove plastic wrap and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes in muffin pan before turning out onto a plate. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Place butter and honey in a microwave-safe bowl and heat 45 seconds to melt butter. Dunk the top of each bun in honey glaze. Serve warm.

From Girl Vs. Dough

everyday vita: the calm before the storm

There's a storm a-brewin'. I can feel it in my bones...
(not actually, but I'm jealous of the people who can.)
This is supposed to be the storm of the century, "Frankenstorm," the Stormpocolypse.
I couldn't be more excited.


I don't have to take my Chinese test tomorrow, I don't have to change out of my red flannel pajama pants, I don't have to pick out an outfit...

Tomorrow I plan on spending about 5 hours on Pinterest, and I won't feel bad about it because hey, there's no school!  Maybe I'll bake some honey buns, because I'll actually have time for the yeast to rise.

This morning, I made rye flour crepes for my mom and me.  I love the nutty flavor that the rye gives them.  My favorite way to eat these is with a big squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar.  It reminds me of Paris.



Then I spent a little while reading Othello (see, I wasn't totally unproductive despite the storm!).


Sitting by the window, listening to rain, with a slice of healthy applesauce bread (recipe soon) and big cup of my favorite tea (Aveda Comfort Tea) is my idea of heaven...


Especially with this little cutie sitting by my feet.



What have you been doing during the storm?
With love,
Erica



Sunday, October 28, 2012

everyday vita: i'm on twitter!

Want to keep up with all of the latest Cannella Vita action?
Follow me on Twitter!

With love, 
Erica

recipe showdown: apple pie

Last year when we went to my grandma's house for Thanksgiving, I made Grandma Ople's famous apple pie and it was a huge hit.  But I have never believed the saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" So I invented my own saying.

"Even if you think it's the best, try everything else to make sure that it really is the best. Only then can you earn bragging rights."   -- Erica

Pretty profound right? That's basically  the philosophy of Recipe Showdown, and why I encourage you guys to challenge me to try your recipes.  The quixotic task of finding the perfect recipe is never-ending, but the process is delicious.


As soon as the leaves begin turn orange, I start thinking about Thanksgiving.  Stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, mashed potatoes, and the essential assortment of pies.  Chocolate pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, boysenberry pie, and my personal favorite, apple pie. 

This year, I want to make sure that I make the best apple pie yet.  I saw a very enticing recipe on one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo, and decided to put it against the reigning champion (Grandma Ople's Apple Pie).

For both pies, I used Smitten Kitchen's All Butter, Really Flaky Pie DoughI believe that pie crust should always be all butter, and always be very flaky; hence, this is the perfect recipe.



Caramel Apple Cider
Grandma Ople

An all-American apple pie, with a lovely caramel made from reduced apple cider!
This pie has over 1000 5 star ratings on All Recipes for a reason!
Taster’s notes
·      Nice notes of cinnamon
·      More “normal”
·      Very liquid-y (from caramel)
·      Pretty crust (with egg wash)
·      Very apple-y
·      European taste
·      Notes of vanilla
·      More unusual, exotic
·      Needs cinnamon

The verdict:
Both of these pies are absolutely delicious; however, good ol' Grandma Ople did better in the taste tests. I made two, small changes to the recipe.
  1. Pour the sweet, syrup mixture onto the apples before adding the lattice crust. Last year, I did it afterwards (as the recipe suggests) and I ended up with burnt, sugar pieces on the top. 
  2. The tasters suggested adding cinnamon to the recipe, so I added two teaspoons of cinnamon to the syrup. 

With love,
Erica

Ingredients:
  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie (I used Deb's)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 8 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored, and sliced)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (*my personal addition to the recipe 


Melt butter in a sauce pan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add white sugar, brown sugar and water; bring to a boil. Reduce temperature, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon.

Meanwhile, place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off. Cover with a lattice work crust.

Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes.

custard cornbread

When the air gets chilly, there is nothing I love more than a big, steamy bowl of my mom's soup.  She makes ratatouille, chili, and minestrone. But my all time favorite is her butternut squash soup.  It is delicious on its own, but it's absolutely perfect with a big wedge of custard-y cornbread on the side.

It's kind of a funny story how I found this recipe.  I was perusing the internet, the usual suspects (i.e. Pinterest and Foodgawker), and saw something strange, almost disgusting, and oh-so intriguing.  It was called spider cake. (perfect for Halloween right?!)
A cake with spiders in it? God I hope not!
A spider shaped cake? A spider shaped cake? Won't that be hard to get out of the pan?
Soon enough, I found out that this cake has absolutely nothing to do with spiders. Whew. Because I am completely arachnophobic.
It's actually a delicious cornbread with a lovely, custard filling.  Crumbly, buttery, and with a super-crisp outside.  Exactly how cornbread should be. I love how it gets baked in a cast iron skillet.  It makes me feel all nice and rustic.

A warm slice of this cake covered in maple syrup is about as good as it gets.

With love, Erica


Custard-Filled Cornbread (The Breakfast Book by Marion Cuningham)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square (or 9-inch round) cake pan that is about 2-inches deep. Put the buttered dish or pan in the oven and let it get hot while you mix the batter.
Put the eggs in a mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Beat until the mixture is well blended. Add the sugar, salt, milk, and vinegar and beat well. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, mix just until the batter is smooth and no lumps remain.
Pour the batter into the heated dish, then pour the cream into the center of the batter—don’t stir. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm with maple syrup.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

apple pie ice cream

You may be under the impression that I have boundless energy.  Decorating pumpkins, taking endless pictures of leaves, and churning my own butter in my spare time.  Confession, I'm one of the laziest people I know.


Here is why.  When an apple pie craving strikes, the thought of cutting myself a slice, walking to the freezer, finding the vanilla ice cream under all of the frozen fruit, searching every single drawer in the kitchen for the ice cream scoop, warming the slice in the microwave for an entire minute and a half, and scooping the ice cream is way too complicated.  I usually end up eating the pie cold. With my hands. And that's no fun.

That's why I invented this little concoction, apple pie ice cream.  This recipe does not require an ice cream maker.  Mainly because I am too lazy to order one. But boy is this stuff good.  Apples sauteed in butter, graham cracker crumbs, and homemade caramel sauce make this ice cream taste just like apple pie.

Funny how I'm totally willing to churn my own ice cream, yet too "lazy" to reheat a slice of pie in the microwave.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients 
 
2 cups heavy cream
1 (14 oz.) Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 apple, diced
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup caramel sauce of your choice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks in large bowl.
In a large frying pan, sautee the diced apple with 2 tablespoons of butter.
Whisk sweetened condensed milk, melted butter, and cinnamon in large bowl. Stir in apple slices and caramel sauce. Fold in whipped cream.
Pour into a 2-quart container and cover. Freeze 6 hours or until firm. Store in freezer.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

everyday vita: boo


Hello everyone! I hope you all are having a relaxing Sunday!
This past week was pretty busy for me.  I had to take the PSAT on Wednesday. The worst part about standardized tests isn't reading about the agriculture of the ancient Mayans, locating the misplaced modifiers or (trying) to remember the distance formula.  The worst part is the "personal information sheet." I spent about 5 minutes alone trying to remember my school's address (before realizing that it was written on the white board).  But oh well. At least we got an hour and a half for lunch after that ordeal.

Since it was a stressful week, I needed plenty of butter, sugar, and other shenanigans to distract me from all of the work I was supposed to be doing.  Let me tell you about them. 

1) I made a chevron pumpkin when I was supposed to be studying vectors. Isn't it pretty?

 2) I went for a nice 4-mile run yesterday. I told myself I would think about my early modern European history reading while I ran. Did that happen? No. But I took some pretty snazzy leaf pictures.


3) Before writing my Chinese sentences, I thought it would be a good idea to churn my own ice cream. (I mean, when is it NOT a good idea to churn your own ice cream?!). This is apple pie flavored, with sauteed apples, fresh caramel, and graham cracker crumbs. (I also made pumpkin pie flavored!).


 3) I bet you were wondering where all those butter wrappers at the top of this post came from. My next "recipe showdown" is Apple Pie. I made a triple batch of pie crust. We're putting Grandma Ople against Caramel Apple Cider. Let me just say it's a fierce battle..


 4) Since we bought about 4,000,000,000 apples (more like 40... but you get the idea). I decided to make my own apple chips. Sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and baked at 250 for 2 hours. Healthy and delicious. Maybe these will give me the energy to finish that Great Gatsby chapter...

 5) We can't only have apple pies! What about a chocolate chip cookie pie? With a Ritz Cracker crust? Oh Yeah. I got this recipe from one of my readers, The Cooking Actress. You are an absolute genius!

 6) I also am working on a yellow cupcake recipe showdown. Have you ever eaten chocolate sour cream frosting with a ladle? I have ;)


 Maybe I should finally get started on that homework... Or maybe some chocolate chip cookies.

With love,
Erica

Saturday, October 20, 2012

oreo cheesecake brownies

We have already established that cream cheese brownies are an absolute must-have in the repertoire of any baker (especially when that baker is often called upon to supply high school bake sales and fundraisers).  But what would happen when you throw a box of Oreos into the batter?

Amazing things, I tell you.

Imagine a big wedge of the Cheesecake Factory's Oreo Cheesecake that you can hold in your hand.  Sure, it's not the classiest thing to ever come out of my oven... but who cares.  Warm one (or two) up in the microwave, top with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, and enjoy a filthy good treat. 

With love,
Erica

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups coarsely chopped Oreo cookies

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 8 inch metal baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up two sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends. (This will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after they have baked.) Butter the parchment.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in sugar and bring to a boil, whisking frequently; boil 1 minute. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract until combined, about 1 minute.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder and salt; whisk until combined.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs until combined. Whisk in melted butter-sugar mixture until well combined. Stir in flour mixture until just combined, followed by Oreo cookies.
Spread half of brownie batter into the prepared baking dish, followed by cream cheese layer. Distribute the remaining brownie mixture in 8 dollops over the cheesecake layer and spread evenly. Swirl in with a knife or spatula.
Bake for 24-28 minutes, until brownies and cheesecake are set. A knife inserted into the cheesecake mixture should come out clean and the edges will be lightly browned.
Let cool completely in pan on a cooling rack before lifting out the parchment paper to remove the brownies.

Friday, October 19, 2012

apple pancake rings

 Yesterday after school, I bought 30 gala apples at the grocery store. 30 APPLES!  I nearly broke my back trying to carry them all home.  But my efforts payed off when I made these apple pancake rings. 

Why so many apples? I am in the process of doing a new recipe showdown -- searching for the best apple pie ever (just in time for Thanksgiving!).  But alas, I needed something to do with all of the extra apples.  I have a couple exciting ideas -- including some apple pie ice cream... but that's for another day. Today, we're talking about apple pancake rings!

These are a great way to use up this seasons bounty of apples. Plus, they are a bit healthier (and may I add tastier?) than regular pancakes.  If you are ambitious and would like to use your own recipe for pancake batter, go right ahead (just make it a bit thicker than usual so that it sticks to the apple slices).  These are so yummy though, I use premade mix *gasp!* to get these drowned in maple syrup ASAP.

In addition to being amazing for breakfast, I imagine these being a great dessert as well.  I'm thinking lazy night apple pie (with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream). 

Treat yourself to these this weekend, they take minutes to whip together, and capture the autumn spirit perfectly.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients

1 Cup Pancake Baking Mix
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Milk
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
a dash of cloves and nutmeg
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
2 large apples, sliced 1/4 inch thick

  • Beat baking mix, egg and milk until smooth. Add spices and lemon zest to batter and mix until incorporated
  •  Using a toothpick dip apple slices into batter. Cook on hot griddle until golden brown, turning once. Serve hot with syrup.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

soft salted caramels (no corn syrup!)


Holiday season is quickly hurdling our way.  It seems like just yesterday I was sitting by the poolside eating frozen watermelon cubes and trying not to bake in the sun.  However, today, I am knee-deep in homework with a dire craving for baked goods (particularly Christmas cookies and anything caramel-y).  Instead of starting my history paper, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to start building my holiday inventory #procrastibaking.  From November to January, the area surrounding my house permanently smells like butter and sugar, chocolate chips are shipped by the pound to my doorstep, and my Kitchen Aid's busy whipping up egg whites like it's nobody's business.  I must have plenty of cookies, toffees and other goodies stashed away at all times. It makes me feel secure.  What would happen if I was caught off guard without a cookie in store?  I don't know, but I don't want to find out.  Just like squirrels start hoarding nuts around this time or year, I start hoarding candies.  It's my natural hibernation instinct, and I don't want to mess with nature...


Things are all fine and dandy until I make things like these soft, salted caramels... I can't simply "stash these away."  They are incredibly addictive.  Everyone who has received these as a holiday gift can't stop eating them.  Problem is that since I'm human, I love these too, and if I keep stuffing them in my mouth at this rate I won't have  any leftover to give as gifts.  I've tried everything to stop nibbling into my stash, but my efforts are futile.  I even tried freezing them... did you know salted caramel is delicious frozen? Yeah. It tastes like the dreamiest caramel ice cream ever.  These bring out the animal in me.

But you won't do that right? ;)


Do yourself a favor and make these this weekend.  Trust me, they are surprisingly easy and I felt like an absolute magician when I sliced into real-live caramel that I made myself from cream, sugar, and butter.  Plus, they have none of that icky corn syrup mumbo-jumbo, so you can feel a little bit better about eating all a few of these.  Share the love and give them away to friends, family, neighbors, the mailman, and the security guard on L1 who always remembers your name... or you could eat them all yourself.  Either way, you'll thank me for the recipe.

What kinds of gifts are you planning to make this holiday season?

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tb vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • 4oz salted butter, room temperature
  • coarse sea salt (I used La Baleine Coarse Sea Salt)
  • special equipment: candy thermometer 
Combine sugar, honey, and vanilla extract in a large non-reactive pot. Turn on the heat and let the sugar and honey melt and cook until caramelized (it will slowly become a deep, dark brown color.)
While the sugar is cooking, bring the cream to a simmer.
When the sugar reaches the color you like, whisk in the butter in small knobs, until well mixed, then add the warmed cream, whisk until smooth.
We let this mixture cook until the temperature reached 233F. 
Pour the hot caramel onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Let cool about ten minutes, and then sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Continue to let it come to room temperature, and then cut into small squares, roll, and wrap in packets of parchment or waxed paper.

recipe showdown: cinnamon rolls


I like big buns and I cannot lie.  I would choose a warm, gooey, buttery cinnamon bun over chocolate cake any day.  Since they are always the star of the brunch table, they better be good.


This may have been my favorite experiment yet.  What would I rather do on a Monday night than play with pounds of butter, sweet brown sugar, and huge blocks of cream cheese? Um, nothing. 


Even hours after these magical buns came out of the oven, my entire house smelled like that heavenly corner of the food court near Cinnabon.  The aroma is so distinct, sweet, buttery -- just the smell of Cinnabon can catch me halfway across the mall.




maple glazed cinnamon buns
clone of a cinnabon
description
This recipe was developed by none other than Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.  It has a unique, maple coffee icing. I have made these buns in the past and finished almost the entire tray singlehandedly.
This recipe has over 4500 five-star ratings on All Recipes, and is said to taste even better than the shopping mall favorite.
taster’s notes
moist
liquidy
rugelach-like
unexpected taste
sticky
rich
messy
drenched in icing (is that a bad thing?)
classic cinnamon bun
bready
better for breakfast

I prefer this one by a landslide

More traditional

I like the light-dark appearance of the icing and the bun

prettier
funny looking, but oh-so good!
Both of these buns were amazingly delicious, so it seems a bit unfair to choose a "winner."  Most of my taste testers favored "clone of a cinnabon" due to its familier taste.  Plus, I have to admit that the "clones" looked much prettier -- swirled tight and slathered with rich, tangy, cream cheese icing.


However, personally, I preferred Ree's recipe for maple-glazed cinnamon buns.  Despite their homely appearance, I found these much more addictive.  The maple and the coffee flavors in the icing conjured up memories of wonderful weekend breakfasts.



I brought both varieties to my English class this morning to try to narrow down the competition.  Although I did a great job distracting my class from The Great Gatsby with my icing-slathered buns, I did not do a great job narrowing down the competition. The "clones" were all chosen first.  However, everyone who tasted the maple-coffee variety raved about it.  It was a tough call. 


The verdict:
If you are a traditionalist, the "clones" never fail to impress. Plus, they are (slightly) less messy than the Pioneer Woman's and present really well.

If you are looking for a sinful, sticky, highly addictive treat that should be eaten with a fork -- make Ree's.

With love,
Erica

P.S. Here is the link to Ree's cinnamon buns 
Clone of A Cinnabon
{All Recipes}

1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 1/2 cups AP four
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened

1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
  2. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  4. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving