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.

banana oatmeal nutella pancakes

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of “in the larger scheme of things…” thinking.  Here at astronomy camp, we’ve been talking a lot about big things, like black holes, supernovae, and ominous things like “dark matter” and “dark energy.”

Thinking “in the larger scheme of things” can make me feel small and insignificant.  I am smaller than a dustbunny of a dustbunny of a dustbunny in our solar system, which is one of many in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is one of billions of billions of galaxies in a universe that is constantly expanding.  We are living on the periphery of a very average galaxy, orbiting a very average star… puts my seething rage toward the dude who took my java chip frappuccino at Starbucks yesterday into perspective.

That’s the thing…if I’m so incredibly small, do things really matter?

The universe isn’t going to care if I smiled at you on the Metro.  Space aliens will never find out if I replaced the toilet paper roll.  Mars wouldn’t know if I wrote you a handwritten letter or a sloppy Facebook message.  The black hole at the center of our galaxy definitely doesn’t give a damn whether I washed my hair this morning (thank god).

I guess this is one way of looking at things, “in the larger scheme.” But the other geeky way of looking at our place in the universe is that every action has a reaction.  Every shake and rattle sets off another and another.  In this scenario, the little things do matter.Although the former way of thinking about it is tempting (and gives me an excuse not to wash my hair so often), I’m pretty convinced that the latter is better.

Think about flipping pancakes. The trick to making good pancakes is to wait until you see little bubbles form around the edges of the pancake. These super tiny bubbles signify that the pancake is “flippable.”

These bubbles are smaller than my pinky fingernail.  In the “larger scheme of things” they are  practically invisible. However, that little bubble makes the difference between a big, shriveled, goopy mess of pancake batter and a glorious, fluffy stack of pancakes. The difference between a grouchy, hungry morning spent washing batter off my black yoga pants, or leisurely watching pools of butter melt atop fresh flapjacks while sipping a mug of coffee.
With love,
Erica

 

Banana Oatmeal Nutella Pancakes

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 banana mashed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Nutella

Instructions

  1. Stir together all of the ingredients except for the Nutella in a large bowl until well combined.  Gently swirl in the Nutella.

  2. Spoon the batter into a hot skillet over medium heat.  Cook each pancake until the batter starts to bubble at the edges, flip and cook until golden brown.  Continue cooking remaining pancakes. 

  3. Enjoy with butter and maple syrup! (and perhaps some more Nutella!)

© 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.

rainbow cake

So last week I gave you a little talk about real talk.  Basically, I don’t want to be a confectioners-sugar-dusted-phoney.  That’s why I’ve decided to get crazy with some real-life confessions on here.

Confessions. That’s a scary word.

So here it goes, here’s my first confession.

I like reading Craigslist Personal Ads.

Disclaimer: I would never ever ever in a million years even think about posting an ad on Craigslist (or answer one), but I like to read them.

Yes, some are creepy, some are weird (ex. “I enjoy theatrical-quality tomfoolery”…what), and some are downright fake.  But some are nice.  My favorites are in the “missed connections” forum.

This is where people leave messages hoping to find people they’ve crossed paths with.  There is something less sinister about this forum than the others, no creepy requests, no augmented biographies pleading for a date.  Instead, there’s a sort-of-sad sad sincerity in these posts.

These people couldn’t get a face/aura out of their mind all day, and are now beating themselves up for not saying anything. There is hope and regret intertwined in all of the posts (“I would have talked to you but I was too shy”).  The regret of not seizing the moment, the hope that maybe this little “message in a bottle” (via Craigslist) will miraculously reach that special person.

The sweet, sad thing about this is that 99 times out of 100, these ads are never reciprocated.  That person who was reading Harry Potter 5 on the train is probably back at home, flipping through the pages and eating Lean Cuisine and will never see the post on Craigslist.  But the admirer posts it anyways.

Here’s one I liked:
“I wish I went and sat next to you and said
hello, but obviously I didn’t and here I am posting this note you will
probably never read. Wherever you were going, I hope you got there safe,
and that despite the rain you are having a great day”

I like think about all of the faces I see in a day, and all of the stories, fears, and adventures that lie behind all of those faces. I’m not advocating talking to strangers.  But I guess this should inspire us to seize the
moment and not miss an opportunity to speak to someone.  Yolo?

Anyways, now that I’ve shared something weird about myself with you all, I am going to share this weird cake recipe! It’s super easy, super funky, and will knock all of your friend’s socks off when you serve it.  It looks like an unassuming vanilla cake… and then BAM! Rainbow madness on the inside. Check it out.

With love,
Erica

Rainbow Cake

A beautiful rainbow cake that will surprise everyone with a burst of color upon the first slice. 

Keyword buttercream, cake, dessert, rainbow
Servings 16

Ingredients

  • White cake batter divided (you can use box mix or homemade)
  • Food coloring
  • Your favorite buttercream frosting
  • Rainbow sprinkles!

Instructions

  1. Prepare the cake batter, and then divide into however many colors you would like.
  2. Use food dye to color the batter, use a lot so that the colors turn out really nice and saturated and brilliant.
  3. Drop the batter into a prepared cake pan(s) and bake as normal.
  4. Frost, decorate with sprinkles, 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.

cookie monster cupcakes!

I’m sick and tired of subtweets.

Subtweets are basically the epitome of digital passive-agressiveness… precariously bordering on downright aggressive.  According to Urban Dictionary, “subtweet” is short for “subliminal tweet” which is directly referring to a particular person without mentioning their name — i.e. talking about someone behind their back (but actually directly in their face on Twitter).

Subtweeting happens all the time at my school.  There is a group of people who think they’re awesome that they always have these “witty” observations about everyone else.

Examples:

“Wearing sunglasses and carrying a purse to school. #whodoyouthinkyouare.”

“I feel so awkward for some people #awkward”

“I love it when girls act like they’re still in middle school. It’s so adorable.” (condescending tone)

The funny thing is, sub-tweeting is probably the most middle school move of all.   So what if a 14-year old is concerned with their eye-health, and likes to carry a purse?  So you feel “awkward” for someone… thanks for sharing! I feel awkward for you, spending hours a day thinking of “witty” little things to say about people on Twitter!  I can see that you “love it when girls act like they’re still in middle school” — that’s what you’re doing!  Yay for self-love!

Subtweeting works the exact opposite of how you want it to.  First, subtweeting just makes you uncool. Second, you’re blatantly admitting that whoever you’re subtweeting about has the influence to occupy your mind. 

Can’t we all just relax a little bit?  Let the sunglasses crew
wear their sunglasses, let the awkward people be awkward, and you all
can just go about acting like middle-schoolers and not bother the rest
of us who just want to read our tweets in peace. I think we should all just eat a cookie and relax, even better, a cookie monster cupcake!   I was inspired to make these by a tweet I saw — I would have seen this tweet sooner if it wasn’t for all of the subtweets I had to scroll through!  *sigh*

But alas, I have realized that this blog post is sort of a “subliminal blog post” against all “subliminal tweeters.”  Oh well, before I dig myself deeper into this icky, subliminal hole, let me show you all how to make cookie monster cupcakes! Yay!

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
1 batch of your favorite cupcake recipe
24 small chocolate chip cookies, such as Chips Ahoy.  If you’re feeling ambitious you could even make your own!
48 white candy melts (for the eyes)
48 chocolate chips or brown M&Ms (for the pupils)

3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
blue food coloring. 
Prepare the cupcakes, and allow to cool fully. 
In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and confectioner’s sugar until blended and fluffy.  Add the vanilla extract and blue food coloring and beat for five more minutes. 
Fill a piping tip fitted with a star tip with the blue frosting, and pipe onto cupcakes.  Press two candy melts onto each cupcake as the “eyes” and glue on a chocolate chip with frosting as the “pupils.” Cut each chocolate chip cookie in half, and place upright on the cupcake as the mouth.  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 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.