Long-time readers will know that I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Easter – no hot cross buns before Good Friday; no Easter eggs before Easter Sunday. That’s not to say that it doesn’t get extremely hard to resist these things sometimes, especially when a packet of hot cross buns turns up in  your kitchen at breakfast time on a Saturday morning.
My resolve to give up chocolate for Lent has wobbled a bit in recent weeks – chocolate icecream doesn’t really count, does it? – but I’m staying strong on the HCBs. Mainly that’s because I’ve invented some you can eat at any time, guilt-free. Here’s how.

‘Pretend’ Hot Cross Buns
These lookalike ‘buns’ – really bliss balls with the flavours of hot cross buns and white chocolate crosses – have many things going for them. My favourite, though, is that you can eat them while you’re waiting for the real ones to cook (or toast). What are you waiting for?

1 cup sultanas
1 cup ground almonds
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 Tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 Tbsp honey
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup roughly chopped white chocolate

Put all ingredients except the chocolate into a food processor and whiz until you can pinch together small amounts. Take dessertspoon-sized heaps of the mixture and form into square-ish ‘buns’ and place on a tray lined with baking paper.
Gently melt the white chocolate – put it in a small bowl, then set this over a bowl of freshly boiled water from the kettle – and put into a small ziplock bag or piping bag. Pipe crosses over the buns and leave to set. Store in the fridge – makes about 18 ‘buns’.

T. S Eliot was wrong. April is not the cruellest month – at least not in the southern hemisphere, where it means a slew of public holidays, Easter and settled autumn sunshine. April is all about chocolate and hot cross buns and house guests and ‘is it drinks o’clock yet?’. At least, that’s how it was at our place.

First, the chocolate. As well as the gorgeous gilded bunnies I made with my pal Agnes (I was allowed to do the gilding, she did everything else), the single best Easter chocolate that passed my lips was a dark chocolate bunny filled with cinnamon-infused salted caramel from my local chocolatier, Bohemien Chocolates. I ate it in about three bites, then lay on the sofa in a state of complete satisfaction.

I made two huge batches of hot cross buns – the ones pictured above are made to the Little & Friday hot cross bun recipe, though I found the recipe in the book itself to be rather counter-intuitive and fiddled with it a bit to be sure it would work. I’ve found this to be true of several Little & Friday recipes and I think it’s more to do with editing than anything else. But it’s not very helpful to first-time bakers, is it? Anyway, these were good, but pretty heavy going to eat. I made a mega-batch of the Dan Lepard spiced stout buns the next day and they were much better. A little fiddlier to make, sure, but with better flavours and a much lighter texture.

As for the houseguests – they were of the very best kind. They performed magic tricks, provided high quality childcare, filled the fridge with exciting foodstuffs and good wine and cooked lovely dinners. The house hasn’t been quite the same since.

Instead, I’ve been cheering myself up with this – quite possibly the BEST peanut butter I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t think anything could top Pic’s Peanut Butter (the one with a poem written inside the label, if you can ever soak it off in one piece), but Fix and Fogg Peanut Butter is incredible. The super crunchy is so crunchy you need to spread it in a thick, chunky layer. Essentially, it’s peanut butter made for eating out of the jar. I am addicted. If this keeps up the only thing keeping me from the debtor’s prison will be that I’ll be too wide to fit through the doors…

What helped you get through April?

Do you dream of waking up on Good Friday to a trayful of freshly made hot cross buns? Me too. Over the years I’ve tried many ways of achieving this, ranging from buying them in the day before, to getting up at the crack of dawn. Neither one is particularly good – especially if you already get up at the crack of dawn and everyone in your household is ravenous at breakfast time. The first hot cross bun of the day is like the first cup of tea; you shouldn’t have to wait for it.

But this way – using a clever, no-knead, no stress method – is perfect. All you do is make up a batter-like dough the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight. Then all you have to do in the morning is wait for the oven to heat up, then these lovely, light, buttery buns are ready to eat 15 minutes later. If that’s not an Easter miracle, I don’t know what is.

Easy Easter Brioche Buns Recipe And Photo: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Easy Easter Brioche
If you’ve had hot cross bun disasters in the past or are a novice yeast baker, this is the recipe for you. There’s no kneading, just a bit of energetic stirring with a wooden spoon. If you don’t have a muffin tin you can make a giant loaf in a 23cm cake tin – it will take more like 25-30 minutes to cook.

200g raisins or sultanas
50g mixed peel (or finely chopped crystallised ginger, or other tangy dried fruit)
150ml milk
250g strong or high grade flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dried yeast
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
grated zest of one orange
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs, lightly beaten
140g unsalted butter, softened but NOT melted, and cut into little pieces

Put the dried fruit in a small heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Leave to steep while you get everything else organised.
Put the milk in a small pan and bring to nearly simmering point, then remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm.
Put the flour, sugar, yeast, spices and salt in a large bowl and stir well. Drain the dried fruit and set aside.
Pour in the milk, the orange zest, the vanilla, the eggs and the dried fruit. Beat well until you have a smooth batter. Set aside in a warm place until doubled – this will take about an hour.
Beat the risen batter until it deflates, then add half the butter and beat well with a wooden spoon until it is all mixed in and there are no lumps. Repeat with the remaining butter and beat until the batter is smooth.
Grease the holes of a 12-cup muffin pan with a little butter or oil, and divide the mixture between them.
Cover the tin with a plastic bag and put it in the fridge.
In the morning, turn the oven to 170C and take the tin out of the fridge. When the oven has reached temperature and the buns have lost their chill (about 35 minutes, in my house) put them in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
Leave them in the tin for five minutes, then gently ease out with a spatula. Makes 12.

Have a wonderful Easter, everyone x

I’m not really that keen on sweets or lollies, but it takes a lot of willpower for me to resist a marshmallow. This has been a lifelong problem – when I was about five I discovered a stash of marshmallows in a high cupboard and secretly scoffed the lot. I still remember the speech I got about how it was bad to take the marshmallows, but even worse to lie and pretend I hadn’t. I’ve been a terrible liar ever since (and still feel guilty about indulging my marshmallow habit.)

How To Make Marshmallow Easter Eggs

Last weekend my friend Agnes came over and made a swag of beautiful Easter eggs while I found whatever kitchen tool she needed and kept our daughters out of the chocolate (one of those tasks was much easier than the other). Agnes and chocolate are like Picasso and paint – it’s amazing watching her work. I was too embarrassed to make these eggs – the way I remember doing them with my mother – in front of her, but my taste for nostalgia (and marshmallow) meant I’ve been dreaming about them all week.

So if you’ve ever wondered how to make marshmallow Easter eggs at home without any fancy kit, this is how to do it.

Homemade Marshmallow Easter Eggs
Don’t be alarmed – the flour and egg are only used in the shaping process. Both can be reused in the normal way. You need electric beaters, or preferably a stand mixer, to make the marshmallow. Don’t attempt it with a rotary beater, it will only end in tears. This is a bit of a process but the results, which taste like chocolate-covered clouds, make it all worth it.

2 kg flour (use gluten-free flour if you have gluten woes)
1 egg – at room temperature (or the flour sticks to it)
1 Tbsp powdered gelatine
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup hot water
1 cups sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp rosewater
1 tsp lemon juice
Pink food colouring, optional
180g good quality chocolate – I used Whittaker’s Fairtrade Creamy Milk
1 Tbsp coconut oil or other plain, flavourless oil

Spread the flour into two or three large, deep baking dishes. The flour needs to be about 5cm deep. Gently press the egg (in the shell) into the flour to make a half-egg shape to make 20 hollows. Carefully set aside.
Put the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Stir well, then let swell for five minutes.
Put the hot water and the sugar in a large saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the gelatine mixture, stirring all the time, until it has dissolved too.
Bring this mixture to the boil and boil gently for six minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until lukewarm.
Transfer it to a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and add the vanilla, rosewater and lemon juice. Beat on high speed until thick and creamy (about five minutes, depending on your mixer). If you like, add a few drops of pink food colouring when the mixture is nearly done.
Carefully spoon the marshmallow mixture into the egg shapes, making sure it comes to the top.
Let set for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the halves from the flour by touching the top of each one with your finger and lifting it out. Join the halves together (the top stays sticky, so they ‘glue’ together nicely) and dust off the flour. A pastry brush is helpful here.
Cover a tray with plastic wrap and set aside.
Leave the marshmallow eggs in a cool place while you melt the chocolate and coconut oil together in a double boiler over low heat. Let cool until lukewarm, then carefully dip the eggs in, using a fork or a dipping spoon, then put them on the plastic-covered tray. This is a messy job – just resign yourself to the fact that chocolate will go everywhere. When the eggs are covered (or as best as you can get them), put them in the fridge to set. Store them in a covered container in the fridge (wrap them in foil if you’re really fancy). Makes 8-10 eggs, depending on how much marshmallow you eat in the process…

Given that this is such a chocolate-filled time of the year (in our house, at least), it makes great sense to add this post to April’s We Should Cocoa challenge, where guest host Rachel Cotterill has chosen Easter as the theme.

Have a great weekend everyone x

After a truly hectic month, in which I spent far too much time out of my kitchen (not to mention being slightly out of my mind), I spent most of Easter weekend pottering between stove, sink and vegetable garden. It was great.

I even managed to make a menu plan and I only made one emergency dash to the dairy (in which I bought the last bottle of cream in the eastern suburbs). I managed to use some of my recent cookbook acquisitions AND my fancy new cake tin. The cake I made in it was a disaster, but that’s another story. My hot cross buns – Dan Lepard’s spiced stout buns – turned out a little heavier than I expected too, but anecdotal evidence tells me that a lot of people struggled to make decent buns this year. Let’s blame climate change, shall we?

Dan-Lepard-Hot-Cross-Buns
Buns, blue cheese and rose petal jelly

Anyway, today I achieved a longheld ambition and made the Cream Doughnuts from Treats From Little & Friday. For non-New Zealanders, Little & Friday is an Auckland cafe with a cult following. The cafe’s owner/founder Kim Evans published a gorgeous book of some of her best recipes last year and I’ve been dying to make the famous doughnuts ever since. I won’t reproduce the recipe here, but essentially you make brioche dough (about 900g flour, 3 eggs, 140g butter, milk, yeast, sugar, salt etc), which is then deep-fried (!) and filled with jam and creme diplomat (a half-half mixture of creme patissiere and whipped cream) until they are at near-bursting point. Then you roll them in icing sugar and eat them, until you are near bursting point (and covered with icing sugar).

Little-And-Friday-Brioche-Doughnuts-With-Creme-Patissiere

They are seriously, seriously good. I took a basket of them to an annual Easter bun-fest/chocolate frenzy at a friend’s place and while the kids ran amok hunting Easter eggs, the adults just ate doughnuts and reclined with beatific expressions. I can’t wait to make them again. But perhaps I’ll sign up for the Wellington half-marathon first…

What did you make this Easter? Have you made the L&F doughnuts before?