flaky mooncake

The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival was last Monday.  It’s sort of like the Chinese version of Thanksgiving — a time for reflection, giving, and family.

I celebrated in my own way by reflecting a little on this blog of mine.

Sometimes, I click the”older posts” arrow on my blog a bunch of times until I get back to freshman year.

Sometimes, I have this urge to delete all of my old blog posts and start fresh, so I can have one of those pristine, consistent blogs like Smitten Kitchen or Martha Stewart.
I want to erase all of the times that 14-year-old me gave embarrassing Instagram “lifestyle” posts, the times my pictures were taken with a Pentax point-and-shoot, the times I listed “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” as an ingredient, the times my font size was all wonky and I tried to sound like the Barefoot Contessa (and failed).
… but then there’d be nothing.  So I stop and restrain myself from pressing delete.
As tantalizing as the idea of a fresh start is, I don’t think I’ll ever do it.   There’s something endearing about those old recipes, and having them lined up all neatly in order chronicles my life all the way from ratatouille to flaky mooncakes. All the way from being awkward during my Freshman Orientation scavenger hunt to sitting here as a Senior in the library, tapping away at my college applications.  It’s my whole high school existence archived in buttercream, brownie batter, and banoffee banana bread.  It includes all of those milestones:  finding my blogging voice, learning how to get a DSLR, going to the emergency room while making layer cake, and getting butter inextricably wedged into the dials of my camera.
My backdrop has evolved from a leftover piece of poster-board from my 8th grade science fair project to the fancy-pants piece of marble that my dad got me for Christmas.
Yes, the perfectionist in me will surely look back at this time with this same sort of head-shaking disdain in a few months when I think I’ve got funnier stories, better backdrops, and tastier recipes than I do now.  But isn’t that the whole point of a blog?  We are moving onwards and upwards from here!
Here’s a tasty recipe for flaky mooncakes, traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival.  Something that hasn’t changed much since I started blogging is that I’ve still got to get this timing thing down so I can get you all these holiday recipes before the holiday happens.  Planning, someday it will happen.  Anyways, I was going to bring these into my Chinese class but ended up eating them all singlehandedly with my mom (sorry).  The flaky crust is surprisingly simple to make — using an oil and water dough technique (much less tedious than rolling puff pastry.  Give it a try!
With love,
Erica

Flaky Matcha Moon Cakes

Servings 4

Ingredients

water dough:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening or butter
  • 1/2 cup water

oil dough:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening or butter melted

filling:

  • -red bean paste
  • -lotus paste
  • -coconut paste recipe below

topping:

  • one egg for egg wash
  • sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. For the water dough, mix the flour, sugar, and shortening together roughly.  Pour all of the water in at once and knead to form a soft dough. Set aside.
  3. For the oil dough, mix the flour and melted shortening together to form dough.
  4. Dust the water dough with flour and roll into a 1/2 inch thick circle.  Roll the oil dough into a ball, place in the middle of the water dough, and seal it inside of the water dough.
  5. Roll out the new ball of dough (the oil dough wrapped in the water dough), into an oval shape.  Then, roll it up like a swiss roll.  Turn it lengthwise, and roll out into an oval again.  Roll up swiss roll-style once more, and roll out into a 1/2 inch thick oval once more.
  6. Cut the oval into four even sections, fill each section with filling of choice and seal.  Place seal side down on a baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining pastries.  Brush each pastry with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Coconut paste:
  8. 1/2 cup cream of coconut or condensed milk
  9. 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla, matcha powder, or cocoa powder for flavoring (optional)
  11. Mix all the ingredients together into a paste.

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

avocado chocolate chip pound cake

I’m currently studying for my U.S. History exam, and to be honest, it’s a lot of mindless memorization.  The kind of memorization that makes my brain mushy and eyes dizzy.

The one thing that keeps the subject mildly interesting are the diary excerpts that sometimes show up in the DBQ section (document-based essay section).  I recently read an excerpt from a diary of a Lowell factory girl talking about how awful the other girls at the factory were, and how terrible the conditions were in the summer — this humanized the dates and numbers behind the Industrial Revolution; suddenly, history got a lot more interesting.  It’s literally reading someone else’s diary, but in a socially acceptable way.

In this digital age, I’m not penning my thoughts with a quill on parchment, or even scribbling in a fancy-pants moleskine notebook.  But the thought of a diary fascinates me.

In a way, my diary is the Notes section on my iPhone. It’s a lot less romantic than a diary, but just as raw.

I used to get super paranoid when my friends would look at pictures on my phone, for fear that they might stumble across my notes page.  I’m less paranoid now because A) my notes are hidden deep in the depths of my app folders where no one can find them and B) even if you read my notes you wouldn’t be able to figure them out.

To get totally crazy here are the first few notes in my phone, and what (I think) they mean.

“Plan:” (followed by no plan to do anything) ~ classic.

“Gm cherry get cash not target demographic” ~ this was probably written at a dark moment while studying for some test.  I wish I could tell you what this means, but I have no idea. Sounds interesting.

“Bunky” ~ an old man who takes drop-in advanced adult ballet with me.  He wears loafers instead of ballet shoes and, thus can’t point his feet.  He has a faded tattoo that spells “bunky” on one of his arms.

“Write about how good it feels to get your scalp massaged at Hair Cuttery” ~ self-explanatory

These bits of jibberish are pretty important to me.  I am always paranoid about forgetting things — so when some stroke of so-called brilliance hits me, I have to write it down or else I will forget it immediately. Sometimes, I’ll write down something like “avocados are the butter of the Earth.”  Some of these snippets end up being stories I tell to you all, some of them end up being baked into pound cake, most of them remain in the gigabytes of my phone collecting cyber-dust.

Nonetheless, these shards and memories are the good stuff, like the artichoke hearts of life. When I’m rolled over in bed at 2 a.m. furiously typing a note to myself, you best believe it’s important.

With love,
Erica

Avocado Pound Cake

Servings 12

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil melted
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line and grease a 9-inch loaf pan.

  2. In a stand mixer, beat the coconut oil, avocado and sugar together. 

  3. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth, add vanilla extract and beat once more.

  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and baking soda. 

  5. Stir into avocado mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and spoon into loaf pan. 

  6. Bake 65 minutes or until golden brown. Cool, slice, and enjoy!

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

nutella and biscoff pocky sticks

I really like my job as a hostess because I get to see so many people in one day. Every shift, I probably see over a thousand people, and talk to all of them.

Yes, my job is technically just to say “good morning/afternoon,” and simply jot down their name and number so I can call them when a table’s ready.  I am supposed to show them to their tables, tell them about the brunch specials, and move on to the next party.

However, I approach it a bit differently.  I like to think that I give a little piece of myself away to every person I meet.

I’m the girl who talked to you about how weird bratwurst is.  You helped me pick up my fallen menus when it got windy, I thanked you.  Your kid kicked me in the shins, and I laughed it off.  A lady spilled her heart out to me as she waited for her table about her recent divorce.

Over winter break, I visited Providence with my mom.  We were exhausted, and decided to have dinner around five in a big empty restaurant.  I will never forget our waitress.  After we placed our orders, she just started talking to us.  She told us how she wanted to go into nursing or criminal justice, she told us about how she and her ex-boyfriend had joint custody of her dog, she talked about her big Portuguese family and showed us her Instagram.  I think many people would have been really annoyed by this, but I will never forget her.

Of course, I’m not going to give my customers my whole life story (I’m not trying to get fired…), but I want to leave an impression on them, figure them out a little bit, scratch the surface. I like to think that one day, when that recent divorcee is old and sitting on a park bench watching her grandchildren play on a tire swing, she’ll remember me, the hostess she talked to for half an hour about her new lifestyle choices.

I don’t know what this has to do with Pocky sticks, I just wanted to talk about it. Enjoy this recipe for jazzed up Pocky sticks!

With love,
Erica

Biscoff Pocky Sticks

Ingredients

Cookie sticks

  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 egg white

Nutella coating

  • 1 cup candy melts
  • 1/4 cup Nutella

Instructions

  1. To make the cookies, beat all of the cookie

    ingredients except for the egg white together in the bowl of an electric

    mixer. 

  2. Beat until a dough forms around the paddle. If the dough is

    too stiff, add a tablespoon or two of water.


  3. Transfer dough to a piece of plastic wrap, pat into a

    disk, and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.


  4. Preheat the oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

    Divide the dough into 32 balls (divide into quarters three times).


  5. Roll each ball into a thin stick, about 5-6 inches long. Transfer each stick to the parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with egg white.


  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the sticks are golden brown. Cool completely.


  7. To make the coating: Melt the candy melts either in the microwave or a double boiler. Once the candy melts are melted, stir in the Nutella (you can substitute Biscoff for a different flavor!). Pour this mixture into a tall glass.


  8. Once the cookies are cool, dip each cookie stick into the candy melt/Nutella mixture and decorate with sprinkles. If the candy melt mixture is no longer smooth, add a drop of vegetable oil to the mixture until it is a good dipping consistency.


  9. Repeat with the remaining cookie sticks. Refrigerate coated cookie sticks until just before serving. 

 
Enjoy!

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

almond butter blossoms

“Live in the moment!,” “Savor the moment!,”

“Yeah!” we all think to ourselves, “obviously that’s a great idea!” when we read these word in magazines and hear them from our friends.

Then we brush these words off and continue worrying about what’s for dinner, whether one of our friends might be mad at us, and the future in general, because, as humans that’s what we tend to do (I tend to do this a lot).

I recently read this article about a woman who is trying to sue her wedding videographer for a ridiculous amount of money because she hated her wedding video.  I watched the video and I couldn’t find anything offensive about it… but that’s totally beside the fact!  The fact is that she had a beautiful wedding and is now happily married.  Sweating the details of the video of it all totally killed the “happily ever after” vibe.  Instead of savoring the moments of her happy new life, she’s now preoccupied with a mega-lawsuit against her poor wedding videographer.

Speaking of weddings and such — today is Valentine’s Day, a totally perfect day to start living in the moment!  Personally, I think that the reason a lot of people hate Valentine’s Day is because they have totally unrealistic expectations.  The media has told us that today, we are going to get taken out to a fancy dinner,  someone will profess their love to us, we’ll receive heaps of cards in the mail, and eat buckets of chocolate and not feel sick.  Unrealistic? A little bit.  Unrealistic expectations are the antithesis of “savoring the moment.” If you keep waiting for what’s next, or keep wanting more, no matter how wonderful your day was, you will always feel dissatisfied and upset. 

Thus, instead of wondering why you didn’t receive two dozen roses today, why the cute guy who takes your bus route didn’t profess his love to you today, or why you feel sick after eating two heart shaped boxes of chocolate,  think about the love that you did experience today, no matter what it was.

Today, I felt lucky to be woken up by doggy-kisses from my dog Carly this morning. I was relieved that since today is Valentine’s Day, eating 20+ of those Dove chocolate hearts with the messages inside of them was totally acceptable.  I was really happy that I wore my rain boots today so I could stomp through puddles, instead of having to walk precariously around them like everyone else.  I savored the weather, as today was the first warm, sunny day in weeks.  I delighted in the serendipity of running into my dad on the street and joining him for a cookie on my way home. 

No stereotypical Valentine’s Day shenanigans going on here — just a really great day… with cookies!

melty chocolate… now that’s a moment I want to savor

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I made these almond butter blossoms with heart shaped chocolates instead of Hershey Kisses.  I know by now Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and you might think it’s silly of me to be posting a V-Day recipe this late.  But who said that heart shaped cookies are only for one day a year? Who said that today is the day to have a fancy dinner and send lots of cards to your friends and loved ones?  Who said today is the day you should be sent flowers?  This all seems super restrictive to me.  Today is just a day among many other days.  I think that sending flowers, eating heart-shaped chocolates, and telling those around you that you love them should not just be a once-a-year occasion. I’m for more flowers, more chocolate, more love, and more savoring the moment!  Who’s with me?

With love,
Erica

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup butter or shortening
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar (for rolling)
  • 1 9oz. bag Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Hearts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large
bowl, cream together the butter, almond butter, brown sugar, and 1/2
cup white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and stir
in the milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir
into the almond butter mixture until well blended. Shape tablespoonfuls
of dough into balls, and roll in remaining white sugar. Place cookies 2
inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 10
to12 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from oven, and immediately
press a chocolate heart into each cookie. Allow to cool completely; the chocolate  will harden as it cools.

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookies

Look at these chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven. So innocent looking, right?
There’s nothing about these cookies that could possibly reinforce your trust issues.

They’re chocolate chip cookies. They look so inviting and comforting sitting next to a tall glass of cold milk.  They’re a little large and lumpy… but a homemade chocolate chip cookie is a homemade chocolate chip cookie. The largeness/lumpiness just enhances their whole “homemade” vibe.  Right? 

WRONG!  These seemingly innocent cookies were all large and lumpy because they were hiding a full on double-fudge brownie on the inside!  You sneaky cookie you!

Let me tell you how these stealthy cookies came about.  I was experimenting with a new brownie recipe, and I screwed up… they tasted pretty good but they were unbelievably skinny, and no one likes skinny brownies.

I was about to chuck messed up batch in the trashcan when I felt a bout of sympathy for those brownies.  It wasn’t their fault that they were too little to cut it in the harsh world of thick cut, chocolate chunk brownies.  They hadn’t done anything wrong… it was my duty to save them.

So with a little help from some homemade cookie dough, those sorry little brownies were saved.  I wrapped each one in a big layer of soft cookie dough, and they were transformed into these huge, amazing mounds of bake-sale-worthy-goodness.

With love,
Erica


Ingredients
1 pan of baked brownies (either homemade or from a mix)
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 oz. chocolate chips

Cut your brownies into 10, 1 inch squares.  Enjoy the leftovers for yourself 😉

To make the chocolate chip cookie dough, beat butter and sugar with a mixer until creamy. Add the eggs, yolk, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl and add to the butter mixture until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Let dough chill covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Scoop out 1/2 cups of the cookie dough (I told you these are HUGE!).  Place the dough onto the baking sheet. You can only fit six cookies on a standard sized baking sheet — so you will have to make several batches.

Make an indention in each mound of cookie dough and
place a cut brownie in the center. Press the brownie down
and work the remaining dough around the brownie. Shape the dough into a ball.

Once all your cookies are “stuffed” with a brownie, bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes. Return the remaining dough
to the refrigerator until time to bake the second batch. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

nutella cake

Have you heard about “The Smearing”?
No, it’s not some new horror movie.  I really don’t like horror movies.  



I mean, in the most basic of horror movies (i.e. PSAs about avoiding your basement),  the characters are so asking for it.



If I were home alone and heard screeching/whispering/scratching/bubbling coming from my basement, the absolute last thing I would do is grab a flashlight and “investigate.”  I mean why would I do that when I could just stay above ground level with Pinterest and a big mug of Bohemian Raspberry tea? What’s even worse is when they ask: “anyone there?” I mean, do you really want to know the answer to that question?  Moral of the story, avoid unnecessary confrontation.  Don’t check noises in your basement. 



Now back on topic — if it’s not a new horror movie, what is “The Smearing”

“The Smearing” was a campaign run a long time ago by the Ferrero company in Italy, where kids could bring a slice of bread to their local food store and get a free “smear” of Nutella. I’m patiently waiting for them to bring this service back.  My day will come.

Is there anything in this world better than Nutella? Free Nutella. That’s all. A jar of this smooth, spreadable, chocolate-y brown gold is sold every 2.5 seconds (a baby is born every 8 seconds… do the math).


So to honor Nutella, one of the tastiest things that comes in a jar, I created this cake.  There were no rules, just that it had to be absolutely redonkulous (because Nutella deserves that kind of respect…).

I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe for the layers (simple, velvety, with a nice cocoa bean-y flavor).  Then things started to get scandalous.  I slathered a thick, generous layer of Nutella between the cake layers, and then covered the whole thing with this dangerous Nutella buttercream (I always make a double batch in case… you know… I get hungry).  While my first layer of frosting was chilling in the fridge, I went to the grocery store and ran up and down the aisles, just whacking every somewhat hazelnutty/chocolate-y thing I saw into my cart (ended up using the Hazelnut Ritter Sport and Ferrero Rocher).  Then I piped some snazzy little Nutella buttercream ripples on the sides, and some big, vanilla rosettes on the top (to class up this monster of a cake).  Finally, I smushed a little baby jar of Nutella in the middle.  And my creation was born. 

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
One, 2-layer batch of chocolate cake (here’s my favorite)
One jar Nutella
One batch of Nutella Buttercream
One batch of Vanilla Buttercream (this recipe without the Oreos)
Ritter Sport/Ferrero Rocher for decorating
melted chocolate for drizzling

Assembly

Place once cake layer onto a cake stand, plate, or cake board.  With an offset spatula, evenly spread a generous amount of Nutella onto the layer.  Place your second layer face down on top of the Nutella filling and place the cake in the fridge for a few moments until it firms up a bit.  Meanwhile, whip up your two buttercreams (if you’re like me and only have one stand mixer, make the vanilla one first so it doesn’t get streaked with Nutella!).

With your offset spatula, carefully smooth a bit of frosting in a thin, even layer over the entire cake (to seal in the crumbs, a.k.a a crumb coat).  Chill again until the frosting is firm (about 15-30 minutes).

Place the cake on a turntable or cake stand.  Using a clean offset spatula, spread the Nutella buttercream in a smooth, even layer over the crumb coat.  To make the “ripple effect” on the sides, fill a large pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip with Nutella buttercream.  Pipe a vertical row of 4 dots about 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter.  Once you have your line of dots, use a spoon to smush down one side of each dot to form a line of petals.  Keep repeating this process until you make your way all around the cake.  For a picture of this technique, click here.

Next, fill a clean piping bag fitted with a medium star tip with the vanilla buttercream.  Pipe big swirls of frosting on top of the cake. Place a Ritter Sport or Ferrero Rocher in the middle of each swirl.  Lastly, drizzle with melted chocolate and enjoy your crazy, Nutella creation!

© Cannella Vita. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission/linking back to Cannella Vita. If you want to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.