#FestiveFood: Easter Treats

Hot Cross Buns
Traditionally eaten on Good Friday, hot cross buns have become a firm Easter favourite…however, I can testify that they taste just as good all year round.

Best served warm with apricot jam!

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 x 7g sachets easy-blend yeast
  • 50g of caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • 100g of currants
  • 450g of strong white flour
  • 50ml of warm water
  • 150ml of warm milk
  • ¼ teaspoon of grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon of mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons of plain flour (for the cross)
  • Oil, for greasing

Method:

  • Put the flour, yeast, caster sugar, salt, spices and dried fruit into a large mixing bowl and mix well.
  • Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm milk, warm water, the beaten egg and the melted butter.
  • Start mixing everything together with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough and then finish by mixing with your hands (if the dough is too dry, add a little more warm water; if it’s too wet, add more flour).
  • Knead in the bowl or on a floured surface until the dough becomes smooth and springy.
  • Transfer to a clean lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with a clean, damp tea towel.
  • Leave in a warm place to rise until roughly doubled in size (this should take approx. 1 hour).
  • Tip the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few seconds, and then divide into 12 pieces (easily done by quartering and then dividing each quarter into 3 pieces).
  • Round each portion into a flat spherical shape and place on a baking sheet greased with butter, leaving some room between each bun for it to rise.
  • Use a small, sharp knife to make a shallow cross on the top of each bun, then cover with the damp tea towel again and leave in a warm place to prove for 20 minutes until almost doubled in size again.
  • Pre-heat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.
  • When the buns are ready to bake, mix the plain flour with just enough water to give you a thick paste.
  • Draw crosses on the buns into the cross scorings made earlier using a piping bag (or use a plastic food bag and snip the corner off) or simply drizzle the paste with a spoon for a more rustic effect.
  • Bake for approx. 12-15 minutes until the buns are golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • If desired, brush the buns with some warmed apricot jam when still hot from the oven.

Simnel Cake
Arguably the more exciting of the two seasonal fruit cakes, this one contains a secret layer of marzipan hidden within the cake.

Simnel Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 3 eggs
  • 30g of candied peel, roughly chopped
  • 90g of currants
  • 90g of glacé cherries, quartered, rinsed, and dried
  • 175g of soft butter or margarine, plus extra for greasing
  • 175g of light muscovado sugar
  • 175g of self-raising flour
  • 175g of sultanas
  • 1 teaspoon of ground mixed spice
  • Grated zest of 1 large lemon

For the decorating:

  • 1 egg white
  • 500g of almond paste
  • 2 tablespoons of apricot jam

Note: You’ll need a deep 18 cm (7 inches) round loose-bottomed cake tin

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2.
  • Roll out one-third of the almond paste and, using the base of the cake tin as a guide, cut out an 18 cm circle.
  • Grease the cake tin and line the bottom and edge with greaseproof paper.
  • Combine all the cake ingredients in a bowl and beat well until thoroughly blended.
  • Spoon half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
  • Top with the circle of almond paste, and then spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level the surface.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for two and a quarter hours or until golden brown and firm to the touch (cover the top of the cake with greaseproof paper if it is browning too quickly!).
  • Take the cake out from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes, and then remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely.
  • Warm the jam and glaze it on the top of the cake.
  • To decorate the cake, roll out half of the remaining almond paste and once again, using the tin, cut out an 18 cm circle.
  • Place the almond paste on top of the jam and crimp the edges.
  • Roll the remaining almond paste into 11 even-sized balls.
  • Place around the edge of the cake and brush each of them (and the almond paste base) with egg white.
  • Place under a hot grill for one to two minutes or until the balls are golden.
  • Leave to cool, dust with powdered sugar (optional) and enjoy!

Chocolate Cornflake Nests
This is so old school. A ‘Baking for dummies’ favourite, perfect for using up leftover cereals at the end of the term.

An all-time favourite!

Ingredients:

  • 50g of butter
  • 100g of milk or dark chocolate, broken into chunks
  • 100g of cornflakes (recommended) or shredded wheat or any cereal of your choice
  • 3 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • Mini chocolate eggs, to decorate

Method:

  • Put the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a saucepan or microwavable bowl.
  • Put the cereal of your choice in another large bowl.
  • Melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in the saucepan over a low heat or briefly in the microwave.
  • Allow the mixture to cool a little before pouring over the cornflakes.
  • Stir the ingredients together gently using a wooden spoon.
  • Spoon the mixture into 12 cupcake cases arranged on a muffin tray (or a baking sheet if you don’t have one).
  • Place them in the fridge to set.
  • Decorate with a couple of mini chocolate eggs per nest.

AND REMEMBER:
(For the more traditional among you)
Fish on Good Friday! Fried, baked, steamed or battered.
Eggs for Easter breakfast! Scrambled, boiled, fried or poached.
Lamb for Easter lunch! Roasted. There’s no other way.

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