yeasted king cake

Snow days are better than regular holidays for three reasons…


1) No expectations
of doing something super fun and fabulous. When people ask me “what did you do with your snow day?” “rolled around on the floor for a while,”  “watched three episodes of Jerseylicious” (does that show still exist?), and “played with dough all day” are all totally acceptable answers.  There’s no expectation that I went on some super fancy cruise ship, took a bunch of pictures wearing fancy/sparkly things, or changed the world through some community service trip I took.  Nope.  This is a day when I can wear fuzzy socks and eat a king sized bag of pita chips and not feel even a little bit guilty about it. 

2) No expectations of hanging out with people.  Not that I don’t like people.  But I feel like it’s socially unacceptable to lock yourself in the house and talk to your dog over a long weekend.  On a snow day, not so much.

3) No expectations of it coming.  What?  Ok, that didn’t make total grammatical sense, but what I’m trying to say is that snow days are unexpected, which make them that much more awesome. I wake up, remember all of the procrastinated assignments that I am obligated to do that day, and then oh wait! I don’t have to do any of them because there’s white stuff falling from the sky! It’s like confetti celebrating the procrastinators of the world.

So yay for the unexpected!  Since on snow days I have oodles of time to waste time/avoid humans/avoid responsibilities, they’re the perfect opportunity to play with yeast, and make a somewhat involved recipe that has a rising time (a luxury that someone who has to go to school rarely has)! I shared my super lazy way of making king cake with you all a few days ago, but for those of you who are itching to make the real-deal (maybe you have a snow day too), here it is!

As cliche/cheesy as this sounds, nothing compares to the real thing, there’s a certain special layer of flavor (love?), that just can’t be achieved with something that comes out of a can.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 3/4
    cups warm milk
  • 2 1/4
    teaspoons or one packet of dry yeast
  • 1/4
    cup plus 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1
    stick of butter, melted and cooled
  • 2
    egg yolks
  • 1
    teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3
    cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/4
    teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • zest of one orange 
  • 1
    teaspoon kosher salt
Filling:

  • 1 block Cream Cheese (8 Ounce Block)
  • ½ cups Dark Brown Sugar (packed)
  • ½ cup Powdered Sugar
  • ½ teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • yellow, green, and purple sanding sugar

Warm the milk in the microwave or a saucepan until it is warm to the touch.  Mix the milk, yeast and 1 Tbs. of the sugar in a medium bowl and proof  While it is proofing, whisk together the melted butter, egg yolks, and vanilla in a medium bowl.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, stir together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, flour, nutmeg, orange zest, and salt.

Add the butter mixture and the yeast mixture to the flour mixture in the stand mixer.  Knead for 5 minutes with the dough hook until smooth.  Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise for two hours.

After the dough has finished rising, prepare the filling.  Beat together the cream cheese, brown sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon and vanilla until smooth.  Transfer the dough to a large sheet of parchment paper and roll it out into a 9×13 inch rectangle.  Spread the cream cheese filling evenly onto the rectangle, leaving an inch along one of the long sides so it doesn’t overflow.  Starting on the long end, roll up the dough jelly-roll style. 

Grease an empty metal can and place it in the center of a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Gently wrap the dough around the can (seam side down), and pinch the ends together to form a ring.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Let the cake rise as the oven preheats (about half an hour).   Bake for 30-40 minutes until it is golden brown.  Remove the can and let cool.

Make the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar and milk.  Add a little more milk if the glaze is too thick.  Pour on the the glaze and then decorate with sanding sugar.

Adapted from Food 52

© 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.

sweet bread from valtellina

If everyone in the world had to bake a loaf of bread from scratch, the world would be a better place. 

Let me elaborate.


Basically, bread baking is a huge pain in the butt.   It requires patience, planning skills, and upper body strength — all things that I lack…

If it’s such a pain, then why do I bake bread from scratch?  Because baking bread has taught me many life lessons… and because that first slice, fresh out of the oven with a big smear of melted butter (because I totally deserve it) is worth all the hassle and *minor* mental breakdowns. 


Anyways, here are the things that bread has taught me: 

Bread has taught me to plan ahead.  I’ve learned the hard way that if dinner’s at seven, I better start the loaf at four.  There are few things more painful to watch than hungry people crunching on spinach salad while the bread is still in the oven — especially when they can smell all of that carby-goodness wafting out of the oven. I’ve also learned not to run out the door while the dough is rising.  Personally, errands always take twice as long as they should.   Thus, I end up  returning to a kitchen that smells like a brewery and being confronted by a ball of dough the size of a large toddler. 


Bread has taught me perseverance (and given me some *somewhat* defined biceps).  Sure, there are dough hooks, bread machines, and other fancy kneading gizmos — but I’m a firm believer that the best loaves come from some good, old-fashioned pounding.  The glutens in the dough need to be stretched and warmed by human hands.  It’s a labor of love.  With every loaf of bread, I knead a little bit of my soul and spirit into the dough.  That sounds so incredibly cheesy, but you can taste the difference, I swear.  


Bread has taught me that patience pays off.  I am the kind of girl who seldom uses measuring cups and has no idea where my teaspoons are.  I have one “cup”-ish sized mug that I use for everything.  I’ve got to admit I love to cut corners (and hate doing dishes).  I feel like I’m totally winning at life when I make a layer cake in one salad bowl with a fork.  But bread baking requires patience and a lot of spoons. I’ve learned to even break out the kitchen scale when baking a loaf of bread.  Crazy stuff, I know…  But it’s all for the love of bread.  


Lastly, sometimes, yeast can just be a little bit of a bitch.  You can use all the measuring spoons in the world, and your bread will still sometimes come out of the oven looking like a hot mess.  Bread has taught me how to say “hey, it’s ok.”  When my country boule ends up looking like a giant chicken McNugget, I’ve learned just to call it “rustic.” No one complains. Trust me.  Especially when I serve it with Vermont maple butter. 

This my adaptation of a traditional recipe for bisciola — an artisan fruit and nut loaf from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bordering Switzerland.  The addition of figs and anise seeds makes it both sweet and savory.

Have you ever made bread from scratch?

With love, 
Erica


 


  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 1/2 cups
    all-purpose flour, divided

  • 2 cups
    whole-wheat flour

  • 1 1/2 cups
    warm water 

  • 1
    package dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

  • 1 cup
    coarsely chopped dried mixed fruit (I used apricots, figs and dates)

  • 1/3 cup
    packed brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon
    salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons anise seeds 
  • 1
    large egg, beaten 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine 1 cup of all-purpose flour, warm water, and yeast in a large
bowl, and stir well with a whisk. Cover and let stand at room
temperature 1 hour.


Add the nuts, 1 cup all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, dried
fruit, anise, sugar, 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and egg to yeast mixture, and
stir until a soft dough forms (dough will feel tacky). Turn dough out
onto a lightly floured surface. 
Knead dough until smooth and elastic; add enough of remaining all-purpose flour, 1
tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.  Place dough on a
baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
Shape into an 8-inch round
loaf. Brush dough with 2 teaspoons oil. Cover and let
rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until
doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains,
the dough has risen enough.)
Preheat oven to 375°.
Uncover dough. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until the loaf sounds
hollow when tapped. Remove loaf from baking sheet; cool on a wire rack.
Adapted from La Cucina Italiana
 


© 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.

overnight raised waffles

I just wrote about waffles, and I thought I found the one.
But then yeast came in the picture, and things got complicated.

Last night, Emilia, Veda and I had our annual end-of-season girl’s night out to celebrate the end of the winter track season.  I don’t know about you all, but I love traditions. 
Last year, we saw a chick-flick (The Vow) and ate at our favorite Mexican restaurant (I look forward to their fried plantains all track season!).

This year, we did the exact same thing — except this year, we were not carrying all of our track bags and book bags with us.  We learned our lesson last year when we had to check 7 bags into the coat check at the restaurant.

After dinner, we headed over to CVS to buy candy.  We got 5 packs of candy for the same price as one pack at the theater.  Emilia thought ahead and brought a huge bag to carry our stash into the theater.  It’s great to have friends who think ahead when you’re as forgetful as me.

We saw Safe Haven.  Was it cheesy? Yes.  Was there not a single male in the theater? Yes.  Did I cry my eyes out? Yes.

Emilia and I always start crying around the opening credits, when the soft music starts to play and they show snapshots of cattails blowing in the breeze.  This only intensifies as the movie progresses.  Veda is the rock that sits between us and comforts us.

Even though the movie got bad reviews from the critics, I really liked it.  I’m always a sucker for Nicholas Sparks, and as a dancer, I have the biggest girl-crush on Julianne Hough. She was always my favorite on Dancing With the Stars.

After the movie, we all slept over at my house.  I have learned from experience that we always have boundless energy for midnight baking (Nutella and pretzel stuffed chocolate chip cookies anyone), but when breakfast rolls around, we end up eating Frosted Mini Wheats from the box.  Since my friends are always thinking ahead for me (shout out to Emilia and her giant tote bag), I decided to think ahead for them for once — and I prepared the batter for these raised waffles the night before. 

In the morning, when I was foggy-eyed and sugar deprived, I just heated up the waffle iron and shazam. Breakfast = done.

With love,
Erica

Ingredients

½ cup warm water
1 package (2 ¼ tsp.) dry yeast
2 cups whole milk, warmed
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp. baking soda

Pour
the water into a large mixing bowl. (The batter will rise to double
its volume, so keep that in mind when you choose the bowl.) Sprinkle
the yeast over the water, and let stand to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add
the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour, and beat until well blended
and smooth. (Electric beaters do a nice job of this.) Cover the bowl
with plastic wrap, and let it stand overnight at room temperature.

Before
cooking the waffles, preheat a waffle maker. Follow your waffle
maker’s instruction manual for this, but my guess is that you’ll want to
heat it on whatever setting is approximately medium-high. My waffle
maker has a heat dial that runs from 1 to 7, and I turned it to 5. My
waffle maker is nonstick, so I didn’t grease it, and Marion Cunningham
doesn’t call for greasing it, either.

Just before cooking the
waffles, add the eggs and baking soda, and stir to mix well. The batter
will be very thin. Pour an appropriate amount of batter into your hot
waffle maker: this amount will vary from machine to machine, and you
should plan to use your first waffle as a test specimen. Cook until
golden and crisp.

From The Breakfast Book

© 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.

“gourmet” auntie anne’s pretzels

Today I went shopping with my friend Tessa.  Exams are starting on Monday, and after hitting the chemistry book for hours on end, we both deserved a little bit of retail therapy.  A few peplum tops and lululemon sports bras, and my woes of homogenous mixtures were far behind me!  
While we were shopping around, I realized how much I love mall food.  That fruity smell of self-serve fro-yo, the basil and oregano wafting out of Sbarro pizza, freshly popped buttery popcorn filling the air from the cinema — it’s the aroma of retail therapy! The smells and tastes of the mall remind me of that inexplicable joy that comes with finding the perfect pair of shoes for half-price, or finding the perfect jeans, or getting a complimentary hand massage at one of those little kiosks. 
There is not a mall in America that doesn’t have a Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s (I made the infamous Cinnabun a while back).  Today, I tackled Auntie Anne’s big, buttery, twisty mall pretzels.  Except these are better (take that Anne!).  I topped mine with some delicious, gourmet ingredients that elevate these from the standard sprinkle of kosher salt.  I dipped some in truffle oil and sprinkled them with truffle salt, I sprinkled some asagio cheese on some, and even did a maple-butter glaze!  Of course, I had to make a few plain cinnamon-sugar ones. 😉
With love, 
Erica


Ingredients

1 cup milk
1 packet active dry yeast
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoons fine salt

1/4 cup baking soda
1 1/2 cups warm water
Coarse salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted in a shallow dish 



My “gourmet” toppings:

  • Instead of dipping in butter, dip in truffle infused olive oil, and spinkle with truffle salt
  • Mix in some Vermont Maple Syrup with the butter for a maple-glazed version
  • Sprinkle with some grated Parmesan and Asagio 
  • When all else fails, roll ’em in cinnamon sugar

Warm up the milk in the microwave for about 1 minute. It should be about 110º. If it’s too hot it will kill
the yeast.  Stir in the yeast and let it sit for about 3 minutes. Add the butter and
sugar. Add the flour about 1 cup at a time and the add the fine salt.
Kneed for about 10 minutes with a stand mixer, or by hand. Put it in a
greased bowl and cover with greased cling wrap. Let rise for 1 hour in a
moist, warm place until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 450º.
Punch down dough and divide into 8 chunks. Roll them all out as thin as you can. Combine the warm
water and baking soda in a wide bowl. Form the dough into pretzel
shapes, then dip in the baking soda water. Place on a greased baking
sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for about 7-11 minutes or
until browned. Dip each in the melted butter while hot and roll in desired toppings. 

Adapted from Yammie’s Noshery

muesli bread

During the school week, I usually have about 3 minutes and 24 seconds to grab breakfast.  Staples include overnight oats with chia seeds, toast with mashed banana and almond butter, and pre-made quinoa with coconut milk.  All of these breakfasts are made the night before and take less than a minute to dump in a bowl (because brewing my coffee takes up over half of my 3 minute, 24 second breakfast).

On Saturday morning after a week of tests, quizzes, and track practices, there’s nothing I crave more than a simple, sit-down breakfast.  The thought of sitting down with a piping hot cup of coffee, having time to toast my bread for the full three minutes, and slowly spreading the entire surface with soft butter is so novel, so luxurious, and so delicious.  To make Saturday morning breakfast even more special, I like to use homemade bread. Yeah, we’re getting crazy.  Take that, overnight oats!

All homemade breads are delicious — wheat, rye, rosemary etc.  However, I adore breads with character. Breads with nuts and seeds and dried fruits.  That’s why this muesli bread is a favorite of mine.  Muesli is simply a combination of raw oats, fruit, nuts, and seeds stirred around with yogurt or milk — kind of like my overnight oats.  This bread is muesli in toast… and it kind of shows my overnight oats who’s boss.

A slice of this bread with slathered with butter and honey is a nearly perfect breakfast.  It’s almost like the wholesome cousin of panetonne.  Leftovers would make a wonderful french toast or even a sweet and savory panini.

Treat yourself with a loaf of homemade bread this weekend.

With love,
Erica

 Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached flour + ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • ¾ tablespoons fast acting yeast (~ one pack)
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup raisins (or craisins)
  • ¼ cup raw almonds (or any other nut you like)
Instructions
  1. Combine
    warm water (like bath water, or 110*), yeast, salt and flours in a
    large mixing bowl and stir. The result will be a sticky, rough dough. If
    using a stand mixer, beat at medium speed for about a minute. Otherwise
    just use a spoon to stir until well combined.
  2. Lift
    the dough out and lightly grease the bowl with nonstick spray or olive
    oil. Cover and let rise in the refrigerator for two hours.
    Alternatively, let rise for 2 hours at room temp and 2 hours in the
    fridge. I went straight for the fridge to save time.
  3. Once
    risen, lightly sprinkle the dough with flour and transfer to a floured
    work surface. Knead a few times and then add pumpkin seeds, almonds and
    raisins. Knead until until just combined, trying to keep the add-ins on
    the inside of the loaf, or else they’ll get too crisp while baking.
  4. Place
    on parchment-lined baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet. Sift a
    light coating of flour over the top; to help keep the dough moist. Let
    rest for 45-60 minutes.
  5. Preheat
    oven to 450°F while the dough rests. Place a metal or cast iron pan
    (not glass, Pyrex, or ceramic) on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup
    of hot water ready.
  6. When ready to bake, slash the bread 2 or 3 times with a knife, making a cut about ½-inch deep.
  7. Place
    bread in oven and carefully pour hot water into the shallow pan on the
    rack beneath. Expect it to bubble and steam; then close oven door
    quickly.
  8. Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, or until deep, golden brown.
  9. Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a rack. Store leftovers in a plastic bag at room temp.

Adapted from the Minimalist Baker