Thursday, 19 March 2015

Easter baking, Easter writing

It's almost Easter!  To celebrate, I've been doing some seasonal baking.  And I'm writing a special blog series for Holy Week.  It's called Conversations on the way to the Cross, exploring the events leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection through the mouths of some of the people most closely involved.  So watch out for a post every day from Palm Sunday, March 29, to Easter Sunday, April 5!


In the meantime, you may want something to eat.  Try these recipes.

Easter Biscuits


Some years ago, when I was living in Bristol, I wandered into a local chemist for something.  On the counter they had small bottles of cassia oil, with this recipe attached.  Intrigued, I bought some.  The cassia oil is long gone, but the recipe remains.  It works just as well substituted with cinnamon (a relative of cassia).  If you happen to come across any cassia oil, the original recipe called for 6 drops.

75g butter
75g sugar
1 egg
185g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
50g currants
caster sugar, for sprinkling

Cream butter and sugar, then beat in the egg.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, and stir into the creamed mixture.  Mix in the currants.

Place the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Roll out (the currants determine the thickness), and cut with a 7.5 cm round cutter.  Bake at 170°C for 12-15 minutes until just golden round the edges.

Sprinkle with sugar and place on racks to cool.  Makes 15 - 18.


Simnel Cake


The traditional recipe has a layer of marzipan baked in the middle of the cake.  This year, I decided to adapt Nigella Lawson's Marzipan Fruit Cake, which has chunks of marzipan mixed into it.  Here's my version:

150g raisins
100g glacé cherries, halved
150g ready-to-eat dried apricots, quartered
100ml apple juice
250g marzipan (plus 250g more for the topping)
50g ground almonds
zest of 1 lemon
175g plain flour
75g sugar
100g butter
2 large eggs

20 or 24 cm round cake tin, greased and lined

The night before you want to make the cake, mix the raisins, cherries and apricots with the apple juice and leave to soak.  Dice the marzipan and put in a bag in the freezer.

Making the cake is dead easy: just beat together the almonds, lemon zest, flour, sugar, butter and eggs.  Drain the fruit and add with the frozen marzipan.  Spread evenly in the tin and bake at 140°C for about 2 hours.  Leave to cool in the tin.

To make it into a Simnel cake, roll out about half of the remaining marzipan to a circle to cover the top of the cake.  Brush the cake with marmalade or apricot jam, and stick it on.  Use the rest of the marzipan to make 11 small balls, and stick these on top.  Brush with egg white if you like (I never do) and put under the grill for a few minutes to brown the marzipan.

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