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.

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.

blueberry scones

By now, you guys are probably getting sick of “sights and bites,” and are hungry for a real, meaty recipe post. Am I right?
Well here you go.
After being away from my kitchen for over a month, I went absolutely cray when I got home.  I really should have been unpacking, but you know what I did instead?  Whipped up a batch of this granola, a green smoothie, and these scones.  Oops. #noselfcontrol.  
Those of you who follow me on Pinterest know that scones have been on my radar recently (even created a new scone-themed board).  Now that I’ve dove headfirst into the world of scone-ery (?), I’ve learned that there are two types of scones, British scones and American scones.
The British are world-famous for their scones (pronounced “scon,” if you want to be authentic).  British scones are plain and simple (none of these crazy blueberry shenanigans going on across the pond…), and always served with tea.  They’re hot, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth, and barely sweetened.  These guys are the perfect vessel for jams, marmalades, clotted cream, butter… you name it.
The American scone is really not a scone at all, it’s more like a snazzed-up biscuit.  And unlike the Brits, we like stuff in our scones, not on them.  We fold in cranberries, white chocolate chunks, fruits, cinnamon chips, even cheddar cheese and jalapenos.  Leave it to America to fold cheddar cheese into everything…  we seem to have a knack at taking recipes and corrupting them until they’re unrecognizable (Chicago-style deep dish pizza/Auntie Anne’s Bacon Jalapeno Pretzel Nuggets).  Sometimes it’s just plain nasty (corn dogs… sorry if there are any corn dog lovers out there…), and other times, that “corruption” can be a beautiful thing (the (in)famous cronut).  Kind of like when Dylan went electric, the abandonment of tradition outrages some, but it opens the door to entirely new genius and possibilities for others.  Like these maple bacon brown sugar scones.  Whoa.
this is what butter looks like after being grated in a cheese grater
I feel kind of sorry for scones.  They’re severely underrated.  Does anyone actually say that they like scones?  People love their blueberry muffins, coffee cakes, and doughnuts; a scone always seems to be seen as that thing that you order when you go to Starbucks at 10pm and the glass case is basically empty.
But scones are awesome.  They’re 100000x classier than any muffin I’ve ever seen, and they’re wickedly easy to make.  Scones don’t deserve the prejudice they are subject to.  Especially these blueberry scones. 
Before I wrap up my rambling, let me tell you about these scones.  These scones are leaning toward the American variety of scones, as they’re a tad sweeter than traditional scones and can be eaten plain.  They’re jam-packed with summer blueberries.  They’re crisp and crumbly on the outside (thanks to a generous sprinkling of raw cane sugar), and fluffy and muffin-y on the inside.  Basically, the classed-up cousin of my favorite blueberry muffins in the world.
With love,
Erica
Ingredients:
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons. baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Raw cane sugar for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Grate the frozen butter with a cheese grater (neat trick right?!).
  
Whisk together the milk and sour cream.  Whisk together the flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl.  Add the grated butter to the flour mixture and mix. 

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula just until combined (dough should be shaggy). Transfer the dough to a generously floured work surface.  Dust the top of the dough with flour, and knead a few times.  DON’T OVER-KNEAD!!!!! (sorry if I scared you… but it ruins the scone-y texture)

With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12-inch square.  Fold the dough into thirds, so it’s a longish, skinny rectangle.  Then fold that rectangle lengthwise into thirds, so it’s a small square.  Chill in the freezer for 5 minutes. 

Roll the dough into a 12×12 inch rectangle.  Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough, and gently press down (try not to squish them).  Roll the dough up to form a tight log (cinnamon bun style).  Lay the log seam side down and gently flatten the log into a 12 by 4-inch rectangle.  Using a sharp, floured knife, cut the rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles.  Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles.  Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.

Brush the tops of the scones with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with raw sugar.  Bake for 18-25 minutes, until the tops and bottoms are a nice, golden brown. 


Adapted ever-so-slightly from the wonderful Indigo Scones

© 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.

apple triangles

When I was in elementary school, I always ate breakfast in the car.
Some of my staples were oatmeal, microwave french toast sticks, and croissants. But my favorite were always apple turnovers. 

My dad would always pick up a box of four at the grocery store bakery. I loved the sweet, cinnamon apples and the coarse, grainy sugar crystals dusted on top.  I
loved them so much, that today I made a simple take on them.

I made mine with crisp, delicate phyllo pastry, and filled them with fresh, cinnamon applesauce from the Farmer’s Market. If you wanted to get fancy with this recipe — you could add some freshly diced apples to the sauce. But today, I wanted to keep things simple.

These are flaky, buttery, and delicious. Since they are bite-sized, I can eat four or five in a sitting, and that’s totally acceptable. The warm cinnamon-apple flavor is perfect for fall, and reminds me of dad’s apple turnovers that I used to eat in the car on the way to school.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients:18 sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup apple sauce
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar


Preheat the oven 375°F.  Stir the cinnamon into the apple sauce.
Cut phyllo sheets in half horizontally and cover with a damp towel.
Lay 1 sheet on your work service and using a pastry brush, brush with
butter then sprinkle with sugar and follow with 2 more sheets {cover the remaining with a damp cloth}.
Slice lengthwise into 3 strips.
Place a heaping teaspoon of apple sauce at one end and fold into a triangle as you would a flag.
Arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Adapted from Oh Joy!

morning buns

A five star recipe. These were deemed by my family the best thing I have ever baked. I had heard so many things about the legendary morning buns from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco — and was curious to taste these illustrious cinnamon buns for myself.

Let me start off by saying these are not your average cinnamon rolls. What’s the
difference between a morning bun and a cinnamon roll? Morning buns are made with my perfect croissant dough that’s buttery, flaky, and shatters when you bite it, rather than a chewy, denser, more bread-like dough. They
are sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar, and orange zest, and
peel apart in delicate, fluffy layers.

I baked these for my dad’s Father’s Day Brunch, and my entire family raved about them. My dad’s old favorite were my cinnamon sugar croissants, and these are basically the same thing rolled to a new, crazy, cinnamon bun level.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever baked?
With love,
Erica

Ingredients
1 batch croissant dough (my simple recipe here)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 medium oranges
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
pinch salt


Follow all of the steps from here until the last one indicating form croissants. You will prepare your rolls the day before, to be cooked the following day.  Mix together the sugars with the zest, cinnamon, and salt. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it into a rectangle, about 12 x 20″. Mist it with water from the spray bottle. Cover with the sugar mixture and roll it into a log. Cut into 12 equal rolls and place them into oiled muffin pans. Cover with
plastic wrap and let proof in a warm room for 1 hour (min 70 F) before
placing them in the fridge for 8 hours min, or overnight.  The next morning, take the rolls out of the fridge and let rest at
room temperature for 1 hour. Then preheat your oven at 385 F and cook
the rolls for about 20 min. Pop the rolls out of the pan when you take them out of the oven, or else they will stick to the pan when they cool.

Adapted from La Tartine Gourmande

perfect cream puffs

My mom has a thing for cream puffs. That is why I chose to take on the challenge of making my own fresh cream puffs at home for Mother’s Day.
Whenever we go to visit family in Hawaii, we always set aside a moment to share a delicious Beard Papa’s puff together. When we were in New York City this past Spring, we savored some of the most delicious cream puffs ever — made by a little Japanese woman behind at a tiny counter in a busy market. I guess you could say that sampling the world’s cream puffs has become one of the special things that we do together.
When I took on this challenge of making these simple puffs at home, I realized that a lot of the recipes out there were quite complicated, with various rituals such as leaving the oven open to let the puffs dry out, or with complicated recipes for french pastry cream. However, cream puffs don’t have to be this complicated — with a good pate a choux recipe up my sleeve, and a fool-proof recipe for fresh whipped cream, I was able to create these beautiful, fluffy, eggy pastries with ease.
With love,
Erica

after being popped out of the freezer
fresh from the oven, before being piped with cream

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting) 

Recipe Notes:
You can freeze the piped dough rounds on the baking sheets, then transfer to resealable plastic bags and freeze for up to 1 month. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing apart (do not defrost) and continue with recipe (brushing with egg wash and baking at 375F). This is especially helpful because cream puffs are best when freshly baked, and do not keep very well after being piped with cream.  

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit 1 large pastry bag with plain 1/2-inch tip (I usually use a plastic freezer bag with 1/2-inch cut from one bottom corner.



Bring milk, butter, 1 tsp. sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium sauce- pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add flour all at once; reduce heat to medium-low. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a dough forms and pulls away from sides of pan, 1–2 minutes.
Continue beating vigorously for about 1 minute. Transfer to a medium sized bowl.

Add 1 egg and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until egg is incorporated and dough looks dry again, about 2 minutes. Repeat with 4 more eggs, adding one at a time and stirring vigorously to incorporate before adding the next. Dough should be smooth, shiny, and thickened.

Scoop dough into prepared pastry bag; pipe out rounds about an inch high and with a 2 1/2 inch diameter on prepared sheets, leaving 2 inches between rounds.  (now would be the time to freeze the rounds if you plan to bake them later)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk remaining egg with 2 tsp. water and brush each puff all over with egg wash. Bake for 25 minutes until puffs turn a deep golden brown.



Prepare a second bag with 1/2-inch open-star tip. Beat heavy cream and remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form (I flavored the cream with a fresh vanilla bean, but feel free to flavor it however you please). Place whipped cream into prepared pastry bag. Puncture a small hole in the side of each puff, and fill each puff with cream. Dust tops of cream puffs with powdered sugar.