easy king cake

Ever since I was young,  I have been disturbed by the concept putting trinkets into cake.  

Yule logs with coins in them, Epiphany cakes with thimbles in them, Mardi Gras king cakes with babies in them (plastic babies).  They’re all a disaster waiting to happen. 
I’m expecting to bite into a soft, sweet, cream cheese laden cake, and then ouch! I just chipped my tooth on a plastic baby Jesus.  How do I know that the “lucky” coin hidden in my slice of yule log wasn’t on the floor of the subway last week… not feelin’ so lucky anymore. Or worse yet, what if someone choked on the thimble in the Epiphany cake? That would be awkward. so.many.issues

The lore behind the Mardi Gras king cake is that the person who gets the slice with the baby wins.  Winning means that they have to host the next King Cake party.  To some that would be a real treat (I would have a field day buying my weight in cream cheese and sanding sugar), others not so much. 
So if last year you were the one to get the slice with the baby in it, were lucky enough not to choke/chip any teeth on him, and you’re not too enthused about whipping up this years king cake, I have the recipe for you.  All this recipe takes is: 1) whacking pressure packed cinnamon rolls on the kitchen counter 2) whipping up some cinnamon-y cream cheese frosting (licking the spoon required) 3) shaking sanding sugar all over the whole thing and making it look all festive.
Easy enough right?

No proofing, zesting, waiting, or (god forbid) kneading.  Just pop, lock ‘n drop it…. not exactly, but you get the point: this recipe is easy. 


Naturally, since it’s made with Pillsbury, it doesn’t taste exactly like the traditional, yeasty sweet bread.  However, it’s absolutely delicious and addictive nonetheless (nobody will complain). It tastes a little bit like sopapilla cheesecake.  If you’ve never heard of sopapilla cheesecake, google it now and prepare to have your life changed.  
All of this being said, I won’t be putting a plastic baby in my king cake, but if you’re into that, by all means do it.  It’s fun and festive and kudos to you for not being a total party-pooper like me with my concerns about sanitary/dental issues.  Just remember to stick the baby in after the cake comes out of the oven (if you put him in before, you’ll end up with a gooey plasticky mess).  
Happy (almost) Mardi Gras to everyone!
And for all of you overachievers out there (or those of you that just like to play with dough), I have a real yeasted king cake recipe coming your way. 
With love, 
Erica

Ingredients

  • 2 cartons Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, 8 Count (12.4 Ounce Cans) — save the containers of icing!
  • 1 8oz. block cream cheese 
  • ½ cups dark brown sugar 
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons purple sanding sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons yellow sanding sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons green sanding sugar
  • 1 dry bean or plastic baby jesus (if you’re into that) 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Take all of the cinnamon rolls out of their containers, and set the frosting containers to the side.  Dust a rolling pin with flour and roll each cinnamon roll into a flat disk (about 4 inches in diameter).  You should end up with 16 rounds.

Arrange 8 of these rounds on a piece of parchment paper, overlapping a bit in a wreath shape.  Press down where they overlap so they stick together.  

Beat together the cream cheese brown sugar and powdered sugar.  Add the cinnamon, and vanilla
extract. Beat well until combined. Drop this mixture by tablespoonful
on the cinnamon rounds that have been sealed into a circle, staying as
close to the center as possible.

Place the remaining 8 cinnamon rounds on top of the filling, overlapping
and sealing the tops and tucking under to seal the sides.

Bake for 17-20 minutes.

Let cake cool for a few minutes (now is when you stick the trinket into the cake). Frost with the Pillsbury Frosting that came with
the rolls. Sprinkle all over with purple, yellow, and green sanding sugar.

Enjoy!

Adapted from So Domesticated

© 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 twists

“I realized this week that I just cannot do it all, so I will choose to do what I can, fabulously.” 
— Clinton Kelly 

In school, I’ve heard a lot of pep-talks.  From teachers, coaches, mentors, etc.  They all go along the lines of “work hard,” “always do your best,” “never give up.”

spread

I am a firm believer in all of these things, and I take pride in doing my best and really putting my heart into things that I care about.   However, I’ve realized is that no matter how hard I work, it is physically impossible to do it all.   And that’s OK.

Moderation is a tough concept to grapple with, especially for a young person like me.  I want to learn things, I want to be able to do things, and I want to understand things.  And I’m impatient.

slice

In Japanese, there’s this word, tekitou.  In English, it translates to “halfhearted.”  However, to me, the word means quite the opposite. “Halfhearted” has such a negative connotation.  To me, tekitou means doing the things that I love and care about wholeheartedly, and in regard to living a balanced life (and not driving myself totally crazy), not sweating the little details in all of the other things I have to do, and remembering that not everything has to be picture perfect.

twist

So onto the recipe, there’s nothing quite like homemade pastry.  But ask anyone who has rolled out their own puff pastry — it’s an ordeal and a half.   Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Sometime’s it’s OK to cut a few corners.  Especially in the baking world.  Like for instance, (this is for all of you food bloggers and avid bakers out there), how many times have you actually taken butter out of the fridge an hour before baking to let it “soften to room temperature?  I’ve never done this (except for the one time I simply forgot to put it back in the fridge after buttering my toast).  I always just give the stick a 30 second zap in the microwave.  Tekitou. 


I’m always in the mood for some buttery, flaky, Nutella-swirled goodness.  And although I am often in the mood to play with dough as well, my schedule doesn’t always allow for making homemade puff pastry.

Here’s a quick-and-dirty little recipe for beautiful, Nutella twist pastries.  They look like I slaved for hours over them — rolling and folding puff pastry.  They taste all insane, buttery and chocolatey, and take minutes to twist together.  Win win win.  I finished my math homework, and got to make these awesome little twists of goodness.  Tekitou.


powdered sugar always classes things up

How were you tekitou today?


With love, Erica 

Ingredients 
1 box frozen puff pastry (thawed)
Nutella
1 egg
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Roll out your defrosted puff pastry into a 2mm thick long, rectangular shape.  Spread a thin, even layer of Nutella onto the pastry.  Roll the puff pastry up jelly-roll style from the long end.

Using a sharp knife, slice the roll in half vertically, exposing all of those layers of Nutella.  Cut each half into fourths.

Hold one piece of puff pastry from both ends and start twisting it, turning each hand in opposite directions
until you have a tall spiral shape. Hold one end of the strip in place
with a finger, and roll the rest of the spiral around it until you get a
small spiral. Tuck in the last end underneath the pastry, making sure
you do so tightly so it won’t uncurl during the baking process.

Repeat with the other sheet of puff pastry.  Place each
spiral about 3 inches apart from one another on the prepared baking sheet.

Lightly brush each pastry with beaten egg.   Bake in the preheated oven for 14-18 minutes, or, until the puff pastry has turned into a
golden brown.

© 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.

fool-proof no-knead bread

Fall is a crazy wild ride.  There are a million-and-one things to do and  I used to wish that I could do all million-and-one things at once (or at least a nice hand-full of them).   I used to think that doing just one thing at any given moment was a luxury — sometimes, even wasteful!  I would catch up with friends via text on my walk home from school.  I would study my Chinese vocabulary while doing my nails.  I once attempted to study for a physics test while making gooey Nutella butter cake (as you can imagine, that was a gooey, chocolatey mess).

Then I finally realized, after all of these years of trying to paint my toes, while listening to a book talk, while doing my math homework — that multi-tasking sucks.   Here are my five reasons that multi-tasking sucks.

  1. It’s actually less efficient.  If I have my history reading open on one tab and my Pinterest tab open on the other, most likely I will find a killer pumpkin bread recipe and leave poor old Thomas Jefferson neglected. 
  2. Things happen and I don’t notice them.  While I’m attempting to text my friends about my day while crossing the street, I don’t notice that adorable little pug puppy being walked on the other side of thestreet from me (not to mention oncoming traffic…).  A study at the University of Washington found that 75% of students who walked across the quad while on their cell phones didn’t notice a clown riding on a unicycle in the quad.   A CLOWN RIDING ON A UNICYCLE! He was probably wearing a bright red fright wig… if they didn’t notice that, think about all of the other things they were missing . 
  3. It’s rude.  Having my cell phone on the table while having lunch with a friend is distracting. I am totally guilty of this, but sometimes, I at least try not to read the message until I’m on my own.  
  4. It’s stressful.  That little “bing” of a new message sends my heart racing.  Spilling sea foam green nail polish on my Chinese workbook sends my blood-pressure through the roof.   
  5. It kills creativity.  Brilliant strokes of genius (putting Nutella in baklava) only happen when your brain has a little extra room to be crazy.  Multitasking requires a lot of “working memory,” leaving very little wiggle room for those awesome strokes of genius.  
So, I’ve decided that when I’m reading about Thomas Jefferson, I will give him all of my attention, and when I’m painting my nails sea foam green, you better believe I’m not going to screw one up attempting to crack open my math text book.   When I’m working, I’m working, when I’m playing, I’m playing, and when I’m baking, I’m baking.  Work hard, play hard (wise words from Wiz Khalifa).  
That being said, there’s one little exception when multi-tasking is a good thing. 
This no-knead bread.  
Basically, I just stir up the ingredients in a big bowl — then proceed to paint my nails, make Nutella baklava, talk to some friends,  spend some quality time with Thomas Jefferson, and totally forget about my bowl of ingredients.  While I’m doing all of these things,  the yeast in there is working hard to make the bubbliest, chewiest, dough I’ve ever seen.  Multi-tasking at its finest. 
Then, as an afterthought, I throw it into my big dutch oven and uncover a perfectly crusty, yeasty loaf of artisan bread.  

This is not the kind of bread that I cut into slices and make elaborate sandwiches on (although you totally could, whatever floats your boat).  This is the kind of bread that I tear off big chunks of while it’s still warm, and smother them in melty butter and honey.   It’s got that thick crust that snaps when you break off a piece and a soft center with tons of scraggly nooks and crannys just begging to be filled with melty butter. 


Are you a multi-tasker?

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups luke-warm water
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2-1 tsp yeast

Dump all of the ingredients in a large bowl and give them a stir until they resemble a shaggy dough.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in room temperature for 8-18 hours. Dough will bubble up and rise.
After dough is ready, preheat oven to 450 F.

Put your dutch oven in the oven while it preheats.
Turn
the dough onto a well-floured surface and shape dough into a ball.
After
the oven has preheated, carefully remove the dutch oven and with floured
hands place the bread dough into it.
Replace
the cover and bake for 30 minutes covered. Then remove the cover and
bake for an additional 15 minutes uncovered.  Now you have a perfect, crusty, artisan loaf of bread!

© 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.

naan pizzas

It wouldn’t be summer if I wasn’t wiping noses and playing Bop It alone in a dark room.  (click on the link for a description of Bop It a.k.a the greatest game in the universe).

Wait, what?! You all probably expected me to say something more glamorous like “putting on tanning oil and playing volleyball in Aruba.” Nope, not me.

I’ve been working at the same summer camp for the past six summers.  Every year by week three, I ask myself why in the world I come back every year to clean up “accidents” and listen to “Down By the Bay” for the millionth time.  But nevertheless,   I find myself back at camp every June — with a box of Clorox wipes and an open mind.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If there’s one thing that playing with kids as a job has taught me, it is the importance of being able to roll with the punches.  I never know when a game of duck duck goose will turn into a WWA showdown.  I’ve learned that it can be an emotional experience when the lunch ladies switch from strawberry to grape jelly.  I’ve learned never to let my kids play Doodle Jump on my phone — it always ends in a dead battery and a lot of goo on my screen.  I’ve learned the importance of censoring spooky stories before telling them (recapping the Paranormal Activity 2 = not the move).  I’ve learned that when I tumble down a concrete staircase while daydreaming and sipping my Venti triple-shot latte, I need to take a break (I have the knee bruises to prove it).

I play patty-cake on the reg.  I can climb up a plastic slide faster than you ever will.  I smell like Clorox, play dough, and sunscreen.  Unstoppable? Kind of.

Working with the little munchkins is a ton of fun, but it can get noisy, messy, and sticky really fast.  I have no time to color-categorize pony beads, disinfect Legos, or bedazzle our class sign.  I just dump multicolored glitter on everything and call it a day. #yolo

Just like a class sign that is not made with a ruler, there’s something to be said about a recipe with no measurements.  That leads me to the recipe of the day: naan pizza.  Super easy, super savory.  It gives me time to scrub the tie-dye off my hands, and it’s always a hit. You’re a bacon guy?  Throw that hickory-smoked goodness all up in this pizza.  You’re vegan?  Slather this with tofu.  Go nuts with it (meaning you could even add some pine nuts to this).   Or just let it be, and make an easy-peasy Margarita with pesto like I did.  Just toss things on, add a little extra cheese, and add some fresh herbs to be classy.

Dinner = done.
Now I have time to buy more puffy paint at Micheal’s. 

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
Naan
Cheese
Basil
Toppings of Choice (pesto, tomatoes, Parmesan, bacon, whatever your heart desires)
Olive Oil

Preheat your broiler.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan.
Assemble all of your toppings (cheese + everything else) onto the naan.
Grill the pizza in the frying pan over medium-high heat for 5 min
Transfer pizza to the oven and broil until cheese is melty.
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.

insanely easy nutella cookies

Would you believe me if I told you that you could make the fudgiest, butteriest, most delicious chocolate cookies on the planet without beating butter or chopping chocolate in less than 20 minutes?  Probably not. But hopefully by the end of this post, you will.

This morning, I had a cookie catastrophe.  Last night, I got home around 10 from a track meet.  I walked though the door and flopped into bed (I was still in my racing singlet).  I woke up around 11 this morning, and realized that I was meeting my friends Bella and Mimi for lunch at 12!  I threw on my leggings, and quickly slopped on some mascara.  Then I realized that there were no cookies. :0

I met Bella and Mimi at ballet school in seventh grade.  I have tons of great memories with them — gossiping in the locker room, running to Starbucks before barre, and making fun of our ancient Russian instructor behind his back.  We used to play a game to see who could pay attention to him the longest (I always lost).  The three of us haven’t been together in ages — the last time I saw Mimi I was an 8th grader!  This was a really important occasion, and really important occasions call for really good cookies. 

Sadly, I didn’t have time to whip together my famous compost cookies and I couldn’t even pick up a box of Oreos for my Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies!

Thank god for Nutella.

Thanks to that magical, chocolaty spread, these cookies came together in a matter of seconds — no butter left? Used all those chocolate chips? No problem! I didn’t even need to touch my Kitchen Aid.  By the time I finished doing my hair, they were already cooled and ready to eat!

When I came home from lunch, my mom had eaten one of the extra cookies that I left on the counter.  She said that they were out-of-this-world delicious, and one of the best cookies I’ve ever made. 

Everyone should know this recipe — because you never know when the next cookie catastrophe will strike!

With love,
Erica

 Ingredients
1 cup Nutella
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup flour + 1 tablespoon
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine all
ingredients except for the sea salt in a large bowl until well
combined. Place dough in freezer for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes
roll dough into 1-inch balls, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from
oven and let cool for a few minutes until cookies are set, then very
carefully transfer to a wire rack. Generously sprinkle with sea salt.
Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

© 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.

cinnamon bun muffins (in half an hour!)

You all know about my slightly insane love for cinnamon. Nothing beats a warm, buttery cinnamon bun for breakfast — but since the recipe usually calls for a yeasted dough, they take overnight planning to make, which a little too much hassle for all of us busy people with a weekday cinnamon craving! These muffins are big, buttery, and full of fragrant, ground cinnamon, the perfect substitute for traditional yeasted buns. When they take only a half an hour from start to finish, why not treat your family to a cinnamon-filled weekday breakfast sometimes? Oh, and nothing beats how delicious your kitchen will smell with these heavenly muffins baking in the oven.
With love,
Erica

Cinnamon Roll Muffins

Makes 12
Ingredients

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
3 cups flour

Filling:
5 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, baking soda, salt, vanilla and egg. Add the buttermilk, then the flour. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for two minutes. Roll the dough into a 12-inch by 24-inch rectangle. 
  4. Spread with butter, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  5. Roll the dough into a log beginning with the wide side. Stretch the log slightly as you roll to keep it tightly rolled. 
  6. Cut the log into 12 even pieces
  7. Place the rolls swirly side up in a greased muffin pan
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the muffins to cool for about 5 minutes, then remove them from pans to a cooling rack. Combine ingredients for glaze and drizzle over the top