Thursday, April 05, 2007

Easter Treats

What wonderful weather we are having, and it looks set fair for the Easter weekend. A good time to hide those Easter eggs in the garden as we used to do in the old days.

Although we think of Simnel Cake as being traditional fare during Easter, it was originally meant to be made and eaten on Mothering Sunday. Hot Cross Buns definitely eaten on Good Friday, and Easter Eggs are a later addition. However, Easter Biscuits have long been made to be eaten on Easter Saturday although there is some confusion as to whether that is the Saturday following Good Friday, or the one a week later. Either way, here is the recipe:

Easter Biscuits: makes 2 dozen
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
7 oz (300g) plain flour
1 egg, separated
1 tsp mixed spice
2 oz (50g) dried fruit
1 oz (25g) candied peel
milk to mix
Cream the butter and sugar together with the egg yolk until light and fluffy. Sift the flour with the spice and stir into the butter mixture. Stir in the fruit and peel with just enough milk to make a softish dough that can be rolled out.
Put the dough onto a floured board and knead lightly then roll out to 1/4 inch thickness(5mm). Cut into rounds with a 2 1/2" (6cm) scone cutter and place on lightly greased baking trays.
Bake at 200C, 400F, Gas 6 for 8 minutes then brush biscuits with very lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle over a little more caster sugar. Return to oven and bake for a further five minutes or until pale golden. Remove to a wire cake airer to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Tip: Avoid overcooking biscuits as they will continue to cook for a minute or two after removing from oven especially if you leave them on the hot baking tray. then remove to a cake airer and they should will crisp up even further as they cool. If you feel any biscuits have been removed too soon, and still stay soft, then return them to the oven to cook on for a further 2-3 minutes. They will come to no harm.

Easter Eggs with a difference:
Empty egg shells
assorted flavoured and coloured jellies
Shredded Wheat
Take as many eggs as you need and very carefully make a small hole in the round end. Break up the yolk with a skewer and tip the egg into a bowl (these eggs can be used for cooking).
Rinse out the empty shell with water and stand, hole side down, to drain.
Take the jellies and dissolve each in a separate bowl using HALF the recommended amount of water (the jellies need to set firmly). Stand the eggs in egg cups or egg trays with open end uppermost and fill each with a different coloured jelly. Put in the fridge to set.
When ready to serve, gently crack the eggshells and hold under running water to aid peeling off the shell - you should then be left with egg-shaped jellies. Place these in nests made by crushing Shredded Wheats.
Serve with cream (this makes the cereal very pleasant to eat).

Marbled Eggs:
Eggs and food colourings.
Put the eggs into cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 8 minutes then remove and stand in cold water. Crack the shells all over but leave them on the eggs. Have bowls of water fairly strongly tinted with food colourings - red, blue, green etc and put eggs into these. Leave for an hour or so, and, when ready to serve, peel off the shells and each egg should have a beautiful marbled appearance due to the colour which has seeped in through the cracks.
Tip: Do not use really fresh eggs when hard-boiling as these are almost impossible to peel without breaking into the white. Best eggs to use are those that are about 10 days old, and once cooled, cracked and again put into cold water, the shells should peel off easily.

Worth a mention. If you have any dried fruit which may be looking less than succulent ( perhaps fruits left over from Xmas) then put them in a glass jar and pour in some brandy, rum or red wine. Keep covered, shake or stir occasionally and they will plump up. They should keep well for some weeks. Any liquid left in the jar can be added to fruit cakes to make them even more special, or can be poured over ice-cream. Never let it be said that I waste anything!

Happy Easter Weekend everyone.