Easter recipes

Easter recipes

Sweet treats, traditional simnel cake and hot cross buns.

Easter is a wonderful chance to spend time seeing friends and relatives; there is something so relaxing and enjoyable about this long spring weekend. It doesn’t have the manic pre-event shopping stress of Christmas, kids love the choc-fest of egg hunts, parents can relax with a long Sunday lunch knowing there’s no work on Monday, and usually the weather is finally beginning to improve too. While some grown-ups might be happy to scrum in with the kids for the hidden chocolate treats, most adults are more interested in sitting back with a coffee and a slice of something good. 

If you’re hosting a family get-together, you don’t want to spend forever in the kitchen, so go for an easy buffet lunch of salmon, cooked meats and salads, and max up the good hostess bit with some homemade cakes, or prepare a traditional but simple Sunday lunch and opt for a fun, uncomplicated ‘dessert’ of chocolate nests…

And don’t forget, put the other grown-ups in charge of  your SuperSavvy egg hunt!

Hot Cross Buns
Most of us might have made rolls or pizza base with yeast or made cakes, but here you’ll need all your skills for both.

Mix 900g of sifted plain flour with two sachets of dried yeast (these come in 7g sachets), 50g of caster sugar, 1-2 tsp of allspice, 150g of currants (or a mix of currants and dried fruit chunks if you prefer), and a pinch of salt. Add other spices like cinnamon if you want to. Stir into this 40g of melted butted that has been blended in a pan with 300ml of warmed milk. Beat two eggs and add these to the mixture before working it into dough. Then knead the dough on a floured surface, shape into a large ball and place it in a bowl covered with clingfilm for over an hour, to allow the dough to rise.

Take the dough and divide it into 10-15 smaller balls (according to the size of bun you want, but bearing in mind that after reworking the dough it will swell a bit more). Place these on a greased baking tray and cut a deep cross shape in the top of each bun. Again cover with clingfilm and leave until they have risen – about half an hour.

In the meantime, to make the crosses on the top, just add about 100g of plain flour to about 4 tbsp of warm water to make a paste. If you have a piping bag, pipe this across the buns once they have risen, following the cross marked in the top of each bun. (If you don’t have a piping bag, a clean plastic bag with a small hole cut in the corner should work just as well.) Bake for about 20 minutes at 190 degrees C or Gas Mark 5. Leave in for a few more minutes if they do not look cooked through. Some people like to add the shiny top a la supermarket buns. Add this effect by brushing sugared water (a couple of tbsp of caster sugar melted in a small amount of warm water) lightly over the top of each bun whilst still hot from the oven.

Traditional Simnel Cake
This richly fruited cake should be decorated with a layer of marzipan and topped with 11 marzipan balls (to represent all the apostles except Judas). However marzipan is a less popular taste these days so you could make this with rolled icing, mouled into little balls, if you really wanted to. The sweetness should be compensated for by the density of the cake.

For the cake, cream 175g of caster sugar and 175g of butter then add three medium eggs one at a time. When these are all well mixed together, add 175g plain flour, a pinch of salt, then your dried fruit – according to taste, but usually about 300-400g mix of sultanas, raisins, mixed peel and the zest of one lemon and/or one orange. Some cooks add different fruity ingredients such as a jar of mincemeat as this will add a little more moisture, but if it’s your first go you might want to just stick to making quite a simple version. Bake on a low heat (Gas Mark 1 or 140 degrees C will be fine) for one and half to two hours. After 90 minutes cautiously try the cake by putting a thin knife blade or skewer into the centre – if it comes out with any gooey cake mixture on it, it needs more time, so try again in another 15 then 30 minutes, by which time it should definitely be ready.

Let it cool, then add the marzipan topping, help this layer stick by melting just a little marmalade or apricot jam in a small amount of hot water to give you a sticky ‘glue’ to coat the top of the cake first. Top with the layer of marzipan and the optional ‘apostle’ balls in a ring round the perimeter of the top. Then lightly toast this under a grill and delicately brown.

Chocolate nests

If either hot cross buns or simnel cake sound too ambitious, or you want to have a treat for the little ones to enjoy alongside these traditional offerings, make Easter nests.

The easiest way to do these is to make cornflake or rice crispie cakes by melting about 50g butter with 100g chocolate and a couple of generous tbsp golden syrup. Into this add about 50g of rice crispies or cornflakes (they’re quite light so that amount should be ample, but you can always add more if it doesn’t look how you want it to). Give this all a good stir, making sure not to crush the cereal too much.

Arrange the mixture in small clusters – by using two large spoons to mould each cluster – onto a large flat plate and gently create a dip in the top of each. Allow to cool, then into the dip add three little candy-covered chocolate eggs and serve.


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