Saturday, 30 March 2013

Easter...and other treats!

I think that I love Easter baking above all other occasions...it's all so light and pretty and there's so much inspiration!

Yesterday, of course, was Good Friday and it's traditional to eat hot cross buns - even though they seem to have been in the shops since Christmas! I've never really understood that...why not just sell them as spiced currant buns and leave the crosses off until the right time? Bizarre...
Anyway, I love to bake them and I take them around to all our neighbours at breakfast time while the buns are still warm and the glaze is sticky...



Once you get the hang of it....the feel of it....yeast is very easy to work with. I was lucky in that I had a grandfather who'd been a master baker for many years...he taught me early on about proving, kneading and shaping. Even though he died 20 years ago, I still talk to him when I'm baking sometimes...especially buns and bread!



the neighbours were happy.....

At the Farmer's Market on Tuesday...surely the coldest I have ever been at, in the whole 7 years!!...I had an Easter theme along with the usual favourites. My brownies of the month were full of milk chocolate mini eggs...



And I made these darling little simnel cakes...wrapped them in cellophane and tied them with pastel bows...



the marzipan eggs on top represent the disciples of Jesus...minus Judas, so there should only be 11. There is no definitive recipe for simnel cake...I make a lighter version of fruitcake, using light brown sugar, apricots and cherries with just a little spice to warm things up. They are baked with a layer of marzipan running through the centre...



then the remainder of the mixture is smoothed lightly on top...



before baking. Then more marzipan goes on top to finish...it should be gently browned under a hot grill...then I like to glaze with apricot jam for a glossy shine!



I also baked Mexican Hot Chocolate Shortbreads...they were something I haven't tried before, but certainly will again!



Here they are ready to go into the oven...the combination of dark cocoa, cinnamon and cardamom plus a tiny pinch of cayenne ( hence the 'hot chocolate') is really delicious. Don't be scared of the chilli...it's only warming, certainly not intrusive...in fact, it's quite hard to identify in the finished biscuit. I loved their simple, dark beauty...



A few weeks ago, we were invited to a St Patrick's Day party by an Irish friend who lives nearby. It was a great night...she is a brilliant party giver, her house is always warm and welcoming with lots of food and plenty of drink! As a gift, I wanted to take more than the ubiquitous 'bottle'...so I baked her a special cake!



Three layers of vanilla sponge, in varying shades of green! And the Gaelic for Ireland piped on top...






together with shamrocks, of course! It went down really well with coffee after dinner...and looked good on the table, surrounded by green & white & orange balloons and shamrock garlands!

It's been so cold recently...spring hasn't really sprung yet, despite the fact that it's almost April. Usually I'd be looking forward to salads and lighter dishes, but we are still enjoying heartier food...wild mushroom and spinach lasagne...



...sprinkled with pine nuts for crunch...and chicken pie...



...eaten with fluffy, crunchy baked potatoes...foods like these warm and cheer the soul and mean that the dull, dark days aren't quite so depressing!

I hope that your Easter...or Passover...or long weekend...is going beautifully and that you are enjoying something delicious over the holiday!

My working life is mainly about...



brownies! But I'm more than happy with that. What could be nicer than a spring coffee outside...? We just need the weather to go with it...



I have faith that it WILL soon be here!

Xo

5 comments:

  1. Rachel I want so badly to be your neighbor...lol all of these baked items look soooo good! Those cross buns look amazing! My mother was a baker in her day! One thing I remember were her cloverleaf buns! They were amazin..maybe that is why I love bread so much..lol anyway..great post, spuring great memories on this blessed Easter weekend!

    Blessings,
    Gert

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  2. Oh Rachel! Another feast for the eyes that almost opens the sense of smell in a "virtual" way, if that makes any sense! I would LOVE to be able to sit outside with you for coffee and brownies! Your neighbours are very blessed to have you nearby with all your sweetness and generosity! Happy Easter, sweetie! xoxo...Karen

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  3. Nicer than spring coffee outside? Spring tea outside. Here I wonder where Easter is: apart from the hot cross buns, there aren't any Easter desserts. I mean there are no Easter chocolate bunnies!

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  4. Hello dear Rachel,

    I have been so busy these past few days and have finally stolen a moment to ready your wonderful post! How I wish I was one of your neighbours so I could sample your warm hot cross buns! They look so delicious. Can I tell you a secret? I don't think I've ever tried one before!
    All of your baking looks divine! I love the simnel cakes and the meaning behind them. Your wild mushroom & spinach lasagna looks scrumptious. It would be perfect for a day like today...snow is on the ground and the wind is bitterly cold. Winter still resides here. Crossing my fingers that spring arrives very soon for both of us! Beautiful post, sweetie! Hope you had a lovely Easter also! xoxo

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  5. Wonder how I can nonchalantly wander by your door as you r making your Easter deliveries...hmmm...it's a goal. I have an old recipe for Simnel cake. I knew it was part of Easter, but not how. So now I know. I may need to make it for a pretend-Easter! You know I love it allll. I'm hoping for a chance for a few meals of morels when they're in season. And your chicken pie looks divine! I make a mean chicken pot pie with plenty of peas. We'd make fabulous neighbors. Hope you are having a cozy evening. The kitchen timer is going off--have to run finish supper. Much love.

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