Easter

Cardamom Easter Bread

Right now as I write this post I am snacking on some of this bread warm from the toaster with my afternoon coffee.  It’s such a treat and I want you to experience the same pleasure.  So do yourself a favor and go make this bread for the weekend!

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Sometimes I hit a wall when I’m writing a blog post.  I am having that experience now with this post.  Big time.  My mind is just a big foggy mess and when I sit down at the computer my hands freeze.  For some reason I feel like I should have something to say other than, “I made this.  It was delicious.  Here is the recipe.”  But that’s all I have!

So.

I made this.

Easter Bread

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It was delicious.

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Here is the recipe.

Hope you all have a very Happy Easter celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Cardamom Easter Bread

Makes 2 loaves, 1 loaf and 4 buns, or 8 buns

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 envelopes (4 1/2 teaspoons) dry active yeast
  • 8-9 cups all purpose flour
  • eggs, one for each bun you plan to make (colored with egg coloring and RAW) and one for the egg wash
  • sprinkles

Directions

  1. Heat milk over medium-low heat until bubbles form on the edges of the pan and the milk is steaming.  Turn off the heat. Stir in melted butter, sugar, salt, ground cardamom and nutmeg.  Let mixture cool until lukewarm, 100-110°F. Stir in the yeast and let sit for about 10 minutes until foamy. Pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add 2 cups of flour and mix on low with the dough hook until flour is mixed in.  Add 2 more cups, mix, and repeat until you’ve added 8 cups total.  Turn the mixer up to medium and mix for 3-4 minutes.  If the dough does not pull away from the sides of the bowl add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until it does.
  3. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a bit, then place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
  4. Punch dough down and place on a floured surface.  Divide in half.  For Bread: Divide a half into thirds and roll each third into a rope about 14 inches long.  Pinch ends together and then braid the ropes together, pinch the ends together and tuck the ends under.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover and let rise for an hour.  For Buns: Divide the half into 4 pieces, then each piece in half.  Take those pieces and roll them into ropes about 10 inches long.  Pinch the ends together and twist the pieces together, then pinch the ends and connect the ends by pinching them together.  Repeat with the rest and place all 4 buns on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover and let rise for about an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Beat an egg and brush onto buns or loaves.  Sprinkle with colored sprinkles if desired.  Place egg in the center of each bun.  Bake for 20-25 minutes for buns and 25-30 minutes for bread.

 

Hot Cross Buns

It’s Good Friday, and while I have never personally associated hot cross buns with today, a lot of people in the UK, Australia and other countries with British ties do.  And The Pioneer Woman.  So of course she has an incredible recipe for them.  That’s just what she does.

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I can see this becoming a tradition in our house.  My kids are too young to understand what Good Friday really means, but I did talk to Carson this morning about Jesus dying on the cross today after he ate (picked at) his hot cross bun.  As they get older I can see us starting the day on Good Friday eating these and talking about the importance and the meaning of the coming weekend.

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I followed the recipe, found here, exactly.  The only thing I think I would do differently is to tear the dough into larger pieces.  The recipe says golf ball/ping pong ball sized, and that the recipe yields 18 buns.  When I was tearing them that small I was going to get more than 18.  I’d say make them a little bigger, maybe tennis ball size.  Also, watch them as they bake.  The smaller dough balls do not need 20 minutes in the oven.  Check them after 10 minutes, rotate the pan, and then keep an eye on them.  At 400°F they go from nicely browned to too dark very quickly.  The ones I overcooked were not as good at the ones I pulled from the oven before they got too dark.

The flavor of these buns is incredible.  I baked these last night and I just had to try one warm from the oven.  I was planning to have a pinch, but I stood there in the kitchen taking pinch after pinch until that bun was gone.  The frosting on top makes them extra beautiful, makes the name fit them, and adds a nice bit of extra sweetness.

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I hope you try these, if not on Good Friday, just as a nice breakfast bread anytime.  If you lived back in the days of Elizabeth I you wouldn’t be allowed to enjoy these on any days but Good Friday, burials and Christmas!  Enjoy celebrating Easter this weekend!

Hot Cross Buns

From The Pioneer Woman

Makes 18-24 depending on size

Ingredients

Buns

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup (additional) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Filling

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  •  Spices: cardamom, nutmeg, allspice (I used 1/2 teaspoon cardamom and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (I accidentally used 1 cup, and they were still great)

Glaze

  • 1 egg white
  • splash of milk

Frosting

  • 1 egg white
  • powdered sugar
  • milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Buns

  1. Heat milk, oil and sugar over medium heat until hot, but not boiling.  Remove from the heat and let cool until warm, between 100 and 115°F.
  2. Transfer milk mixture to a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the top, followed by 4 cups of flour.  Mix it all together well, then put a towel over the bowl and let it rest for 1 hour.
  3. Stir the sugar and spices together and set aside.
  4. Mix in the extra 1/2 cup flour along with the salt, baking powder and baking soda.  After it is combined, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and flatten the dough evenly.
  5. Sprinkle some of the sugar over the dough, then sprinkle with some raisins.  Fold the dough over it self, flatten it out again and repeat with the sugar and raisins.  Fold over again, flatten, sprinkle with sugar and raisins, then fold once more and flatten slightly.
  6. Pull off pieces of dough, about tennis ball sized for larger buns, golf ball sized for smaller buns, roll into balls, pull the edges of the dough down and underneath the dough ball, and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Repeat for all the dough, leaving buns enough room to spread and rise in the oven.
  7. Place a clean towel over the buns and let rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  9. Whisk egg white and a little milk for glaze and brush on the buns before putting them in the oven.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes, then check buns and rotate the pans.  Bake until buns are lightly browned, 10-12 minutes for smaller buns, 13-18 for larger buns.
  11. Let cool completely on wire racks.

Frosting

  1. Mix egg white with powdered sugar until it is smooth and thick.  Add a little milk to thin it out slightly, but still at a consistency that will not run off the buns.
  2. Put frosting in a piping bag or a ziploc, cut the tip and pipe a cross onto each bun.  Let harden (or not!) and enjoy.

 

Easter Cookie Placecards & A Thick Cut-Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

What could be better than a lovely place card to designate your place at the table this Easter Sunday?  Why, a cute and sweet one that you can eat, of course!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to give Betsy her own china place setting.

I’ve made my fair share of sugar cookies but haven’t ever stuck with one recipe.  I almost always find myself trying a new one.  Not because the others have been bad, but I have an idea in my head of what I want a decorated sugar cookie to look and taste like, and I haven’t yet found it.  This one is much closer to what I’ve been looking for.  It’s sturdy and thick, it holds up well to rolling, transferring and baking and also has good flavor.  Part of that is due to cutting them thicker than I normally do, and part to a new method I tried this time around for cutting the shapes.  It’s genius and greatly decreases the floury mess my kitchen becomes when I make cut outs.

Whenever I decide to make these decorated cookies I have the tendency to make too many shapes which means lots more coloring of icing and piping different designs which translates into late nights, a messy kitchen, color dyed fingernails and sore hands.  It’s more work than you think on those muscles!  Making just a couple different shapes makes life easier and allows you to get really good at decorating that particular shape and design.

I chose eggs (no fancy edges) carrots and bunnies.  I kept everything simple since I’d be writing names on the cookies.  And I kept the colors muted to not distract from the table or stick out like a sore thumb.

The icing recipe here is the best I’ve tried for these cookies.  It takes a while to dry completely, but dries with a nice gloss and isn’t rock hard like royal icing.  You can add more powdered sugar to small amount of this icing to make it good for piping.

For rolling these out I used a new method.  Instead of chilling the dough and then rolling it out (which can often be difficult when the dough is cold from the fridge) I rolled it out right after mixing  in between two pieces of parchment.  Then I placed the sheets of dough in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.  Then I cut out the shapes, moved them to a parchment lined cookie sheet and baked them.  The dough never once touched the counter and I didn’t have to use any flour or get frustrated with a cookie falling apart or sticking to the counter top.  This is definitely the method I will be using from now on.  Thanks to The Kitchn for introducing me to it!

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I used the recipe from The Kitchn for these cookies, just left out the lemon zest and added an extra egg yolk for a sturdier cookie.  Since they’re made with all butter, the flavor is still there, but without the super crunchy texture some sugar cookies often have.  And to be honest, I prefer that texture if I’m eating the cookies plain or with just a sprinkling of sugar.  But when I’m going to be decorating them and giving them as favors or gifts, I want them thicker and therefore not as crunchy.  Since the cookies are so thick, I reduced the baking temp to 325 to prevent the bottoms of the cookies from getting too dark before the centers are set.  Then I increased the baking time.  The baking time with depend on what size and just how thick your cookies are.  Mine, which were just about 1/4 inch thick, cooked for almost 15 minutes.  They should be just beginning to brown on the edges  when you remove them from the oven.

You can find lots of good tips on decorating sugar cookies on the web.  But here are some of the cookies I’ve decorated, some with step by step instructions and some without.

And here are the tools I find to be very helpful when making these types of cookies.

  • Frosting tips (Wilton plain tips 2 and 3 are the ones I use most, I have a few of each)
  • Piping bags
  • White-white, it makes white icing solid white instead of semi-translucent and can tone down a color that is too dark
  • Gel colors for coloring the icing, it produces the best color
  • Toothpicks for coloring icing, pushing icing into small spaces and for popping bubbles that form in the icing as it settles and dries
  • Small bowls for coloring small amount of icing
  • Small spoons for filling the cookies
  • Space to work and a place for cookies to dry away from little hands

Thick Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Adapted very slightly from TheKitchn

Makes 18-24 thick cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Beat butter, cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Add in the egg, egg yolk, and extracts and beat until well combined.
  3. Add in the flour, salt and baking powder and mix just until combined.
  4. Prepare 4 sheets of parchment, each about the size you’d use to line a cookie sheet.
  5. Lay a towel down on the counter, then place one piece of parchment on top.  Spoon half of the cookie dough onto the parchment and then lay another piece of parchment on top.  Use a rolling pin to roll the dough evenly to the thickness you desire.
  6. Set the sheet of dough onto a cookie sheet.
  7. Repeat with the rest of the dough, stacking them on top of each other.
  8. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer and let them chill for 20-30 minutes.  You want the dough to be firm but still be able to cut it with the cookies cutters.  If you leave it too long in the freezer, just let it sit for a few minutes before cutting your shapes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  10. Using your desired cookie cutters, cut your shapes from the dough and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, leaving space between the cookies, 8-12 per sheet depending on the size
  11. Bake for 10-15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown.  Let them sit on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
  12. Repeat with the remaining dough.  Any dough scraps can be combined and re-rolled, chilled, cut and baked.
  13. Let cool completely before decorating.

Gluten Free Coconut Pavlovas with Lemon Curd and Raspberries

In preparing for Easter lunch this coming weekend I wanted to make a dessert that was light and fresh and beautiful.  These coconut pavlovas with tart lemon curd and fresh raspberries will fit the bill perfectly.

coconutpavlova3A good friend made pavlovas for Easter a few years ago and they were not only delicious but beautiful.  When served individually, they’re an extra special dessert for your guests.  Pavlovas might sound fancy, but they are just baked meringue layers.  Topping them with lemon curd and berries makes them completely lovely.  You can use the recipe below for lemon curd, or buy lemon curd at your grocery store.  I love the combination of raspberries with the coconut and lemon, but blueberries, strawberries or blackberries would be nice.  And in fact, pineapple might be amazing…

You can make the lemon curd and the meringue a day in advance.  This will free you up on the day of your lunch or dinner to tend to everything else you have to do.  But this also means that if you’re bringing these somewhere you don’t have to worry about them in transit.  Bring everything in separate containers and assemble right before serving.  No balancing cake plates in your lap and getting mad at the driver for taking those corners too quickly!

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If you’re not a fan of coconut, then you can leave it out and make plain meringues.  You could also add nuts, pulsed well in a food processor, in place of the coconut to create a different flavor.  The coconut adds a texture you won’t find in a plain meringue, which I found to be really nice against the smooth and creamy lemon curd.

coconutpavlova2 Coconut Pavlovas | Hottie Biscotti

These are gluten free, not because I did anything to make them that way but because the ingredients are all gluten-free friendly.  It’s nice to serve something like this when serving a group that may contain some people who do not or cannot eat gluten.  Since it’s becoming more and more common, at least in my experience, to encounter those people, it’s great to have some recipes that don’t leave anyone out or make it hard for them to enjoy the meal.  Any gluten-free readers who see something wrong with the recipe below, please let me know so that I can correct it.  Enjoy!

Coconut Pavlovas with Lemon Curd and Raspberries

Lemon Curd from The Dessert Bible and Pavlovas adapted from A Passion for Desserts

Serves 6

Ingredients

Lemon Curd

  • 2 egg yolks (reserve the whites for the pavlovas)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche OR 1/4 cup whipping cream + 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 9 chunks

Coconut Pavlovas

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • fresh raspberries for serving

 Directions

Lemon Curd

  1. Combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium sized saucepan.  Whisk together over medium low heat, whisking constantly until mixture begins to thicken.  Reduce heat to low and continue to cook and whisk until mixture reaches a pudding-like consistency.
  2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the creme fraiche or cream mixture all at once.  Add in the butter, 3 chunks at a time, and stir to almost melt them before adding the next few pieces.  Stir until all the butter is melted.
  3. Pour the lemon curd through a fine mesh sieve to remove any pieces of cooked egg.
  4. Let cool at room temperature for about an hour, then cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface so that a skin does not form, then refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Pavlovas

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Find a cup, bowl or glass that will serve at your guide for piping the meringue.  It should be small enough to fit 6 circles on the cookie sheet with enough space for them to spread a bit.  Trace the circle with a pencil on one side of the parchment, turn the parchment over on the cookie sheet and set it aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites and the vanilla on high speed until mixture is very foamy.
  4. Add the sugar in a steady stream, and continue to beat on high until mixture is very thick.
  5. Fold in the cornstarch, vinegar and coconut.
  6. Transfer meringue to a large ziploc bag, cut off one corner, and pipe circles onto the parchment paper.  With the back of a spoon smooth out the circles and make a crater in the center of each.
  7. Put pan into the oven, then reduce the oven temperature to 300°F and cook for 45 minutes.
  8. Remove from the sheet to a wire rack and cool completely.
  9. If not using right away, store in an airtight container.

Assemble the Pavlovas

  1. Divide the lemon curd evenly among the meringue circles.
  2. Place a few raspberries on top of the lemon curd, then sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.