When I lived in France, Easter meant a trip. Off to Ile Ouessant we went! The trip wasn’t so great. I got sick on the ferry ride and it rained the whole weekend. It also became a scary trip for me personally. You see, cars are not allowed on the island, so we rode bicycles everywhere. That wasn’t the scary part: the rain and lack of streetlights were. My bicycle brakes almost failed as I was riding downhill, and I fell off rather than hit a wall. I survived, but unbeknownst to me, my host family thought it would be funny to hijack my postcard to my parents and draw out me actually hitting a wall! A panicked phone call the next week ensued to explain that I was in fact fine. On the upside, I played with spring lambs in the fields any chance I could 🙂
What I do (fondly) remember about France and Easter is the great chocolate I was given. Coloured, dark, milk, all in great seashell shapes and creamy. Oh, and Belgian! Mmmmm. I hoarded that chocolate for a month, doling out small amounts every day as a treat, it was so good. That was about the only similarity between Easter there and here, because here there are egg hunts, hard-boiled coloured eggs, more chocolate (but not as good) and family dinners.
To celebrate this year, I decided to be baker-ly. Hot cross buns (2 flavours) and some cute M&M cupcakes were to be made. And for Passover, meringues with lemon curd filling.
Hot Cross Buns
I cut this recipe out from the now defunct President’s Choice Food magazine they published years ago, hoping one day to have a kitchen big enough to make these in. Ironically, I now do, but ended up making them at my parents’. WineGuyTo wanted chocolate chips (like Cobs Bakery), so the dough got divided up; one traditional, one chocolate chip.
Recipe (its long!)
1/3 (75ml) cup plus 1 tsp (5ml) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 ml) warm water
1 tbsp (15ml) dry active yeast
2 1/2 cups (625ml) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2ml) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2ml) mixed ground spices (such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice) ***I cheated here and just did cloves, adding a little more cinnamon and nutmeg overall
1/4 tsp (1ml) freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp (1ml) ground ginger
1/3 cup (75ml) milk
2 tbsp (25ml) melted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (125 ml) currants ** I used raisins
3 tbsp (45ml) candied mixed peel
2 tbsp (25ml) each milk, water and granulated sugar
In a small bowl, dissolve 1 tsp (5ml) granulated sugar in warm water. Sprinkle in yeast. Let stand 10 minutes until frothy.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/3 cup (75ml) sugar and all the spices. Make a well in the middle. Add yeast, milk, melted butter and egg. Combine well. If dough is sticky, add a little more flour **If dividing, do it as it is JUST combining. Stir in currants and mixed peel (or chocolate chips|). On a lightly floured surface, knead 10 minutes or until dough is smooth, shiny and slightly elastic. Place dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
***Side-note, my mother tells me that as a child they would leave the bowl on the radiator. We put ours in the oven at 125° F.
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead 1 minute. Roll into a long cylinder, then cut into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a small bun: Bring together the tips of your thumb and forefinger in the shape of an O. Using your other hand, push a piece of the dough up through the hole to make a smooth ball. Pinch together the bottom of the ball to seal. Place pinched side down on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with all dough pieces. For soft-sided buns place 1/2 inch (1cm) apart. For crusty buns, place 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) apart. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise 30-45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425° F( 220° C). Just before baking, remove plastic and use a sharp knife to slash a cross into each bun, if desired. Wait until the crosses open slightly, then place pan in oven and bake buns 15-20 minutes or until browned. Remove the buns to a wire cooling rack.
Prepare Glaze: in a small saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp (25ml) each milk, water and sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved and glaze is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Brush glaze over still warm buns.
Chocolate on left, traditional on right
Unfortunately I don’t think the yeast was quite fresh enough (was borrowed) and they didn’t rise to the consistency I wanted. Will still enjoy them though!
I totally went quick on this. Saw the recipe from my M&M newsletter (yes I get one, those who know me well know I LOVE M&Ms) and decided to make for the family dinner. Box of french vanilla cake mix, some green dye in vanilla pre-made icing, and voilà!
Meringues with Lemon Curd
I hate eggs. An allergy as a child meant that I really never acquired a taste, so no scrambled, hard-boiled, over easy eggs for this girl. But meringue; meringue I love. So the Jewish connection: those who know Passover, know that there isn’t anything leavened allowed. So out goes a traditional lemon meringue pie and in comes meringue with lemon curd!
Everyone has their own meringue recipe. I found that piping out into a cup shape worked, or using a wet finger to make a well is just as good. I used a lemon curd recipe from Alton Brown, and I don’t put it in until almost ready to serve, or the meringue gets too soft. I did use the modification in the comments by MRubenzahl and it turned out great!
At the mushy stage, but so delish!