Mini Easter egg biscotti

Mini Easter egg biscotti biscuit recipe - Ink Sugar Spice

Biscotti, I’m sure you know means ‘twice baked’ in Italian, and that’s exactly what you have to do with these lovely little biscuits. They make wonderful gifts packaged up in waxed paper, placed in gift boxes or wrapped in raffia.

I’ve also given two options on the second cooking time, 7-8 minutes will produce a marginally softer end biscuit, as I know some don’t like the hardness of a traditional baked biscotti. However, if you do want that typical hard biscuit to dip into your cappuccino or mocha, then just leave them in for the full 12 minutes.

You could use large chocolate chunks, or something like M&Ms, instead of mini eggs for biscuits that will go down a treat at any time of year, not just Easter.

I’ve used a mild olive oil for these, so there’s no need to waste your expensive extra virgin oil (and also the taste of the higher quality oils aren’t needed here)

Notes

  • It doesn’t matter if you use sugar-coated mini eggs or just solid chocolate ones. Equally use your favourite chocolate, whether that’s milk or dark (white is a bit too sweet for this bake)
  • Makes around 30 biscotti
  • Takes 10 minutes to prepare and around 40 minutes to bake in total (this includes cooling for 10 minutes in between the bakes)
Mini Easter egg biscotti biscuit recipe - Ink Sugar Spice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Two large baking sheets (or multiple small ones/cook in batches)
  • Baking paper/parchment (if it’s not reliably non-stick, wipe a kitchen towel moistened with olive oil over it)
  • Sharp knife, a heavy one is most useful
  • Spatula/slices (for lifting)
  • Wire airing rack

Ingredients

  • Plain flour or Tipo 00 flour – 270g
  • Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Eggs, medium/large sized – 2
  • Caster sugar – 120g
  • Olive oil – 95ml
  • Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
  • Mini chocolate Easter eggs – 2 x typical 80g packs

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160 C fan or 180 C conventional (325 F)
  2. Line your baking trays with the parchment
  3. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, caster sugar, olive oil and vanilla extract and bring this gooey dough together in the bowl
  4. Now gently mix in the eggs
  5. Have your worktop/table covered in a light dusting of flour
  6. Take the mix out of the bowl and divide into two
  7. Shape each piece of dough into a long, slightly flattened log about 6cm in width
  8. You may want to press in a few additional eggs into the top of the dough, so they are seen after baking
  9. Bake for 20 mins until just starting to brown
  10. Take the bakes out of the oven, but do not turn your oven off
  11. Leave the bakes to cool, still sat on their baking trays
  12. After about 10-12 minutes they should be cool enough to slice
  13. Using a sharp knife, cut off 1 cm / 0.5 inch slices and lay them on their sides on the baking trays (like in the image below)
Mini Easter egg biscotti - on Ink Sugar Spice
  1. Place the sliced biscuits bake in the oven
  2. Leave them for 8 minutes for a shortbread-like consistency or for 12 minutes if you would like hard biscotti to dunk in your coffee
  3. Leave to cool and store in an airtight container for 3 – 4 days (up to a week if you baked them harder)
Mini Easter egg biscotti biscuit recipe - Ink Sugar Spice
Mini egg biscotti - Ink Sugar Spice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Pane di Pasqua – Easter bread

FullSizeRenderA highly seasonal sweet bread, Easter bread has a long tradition across much of Europe developing from communion bread. Pane di Pasqua is not only symbolic, seasonal and delicious but is really fun to make because you can really be elaborate with the colourings for the eggs. It’s something that can easily be done with children: a bit of egg painting and then a delicious bread appears too!

Now I’m not religious but I appreciate the significance of this, so I’m not trying to make too light of it. It’s a bread with a lot of meaning for those who believe and for the rest of us it’s a fabulous sharing bread that can involve children, helping to interest them in learning to bake.

Notes

  • As this recipe uses tipo 00 or plain flour it will not rise much during the resting periods
  • Also, for the same reason, you will not have to knead the dough for quite as long as you do when using strong bread flour
  • If you have some cake release spray, you can use this instead of the butter and flour method of preparing the tin
  • This bread is a brioche-style bread, light and fluffy with a lovely taste of citrus. It’s nice eaten with a little butter, or toasted and slathered with a chocolate and hazelnut (gianduja) spread. The eggs can be lifted out, cracked open and eaten as per boiled eggs. Also, if it’s not eaten before it’s started to go stale, then it makes a lovely bread pudding, or simply warmed with custard and extra fruit.

Takes about 1 hour 40 minutes of preparation (of which 1 hour is totally hands off) and 35 minutes baking.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Knife or dough cutter
  • A 21-23cm cake tin, ideally springform
  • Pastry brush
  • Small bowls (one for each colour you wish to dye your eggs)
  • Additionally, you may want to use some art masking fluid to achieve the two-colour patterns. You can purchase this online, in a stationer’s or art supply shop

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sized eggs
  • 30g unsalted butter, softened but not melted
  • 30ml Classic mild olive oil
  • 360g plain flour, tipo 00 (or plain ‘cake’ flour will do)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 150ml warm milk
  • 4g fast acting dried yeast
  • 60g candied mixed peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of fine salt

Additional items

  • 1 additional egg for coating the bread
  • 1 or more food-safe colours
  • Extra butter, oil and flour

Method – dyeing the eggs

Dye three eggs – this can be done in advance. For each colour use a separate bowl and dissolve a little food colouring in enough water to cover the egg. I’d suggest one capful if you are using liquid colouring and, if you are using gel colouring, scoop out a little mound of the colour using the ‘wrong’ end of teaspoon (this should be about the right amount).

Leave for at least two hours and ideally overnight. Don’t place the eggs in the dough unless they are thoroughly dry or the dye will run across your bread.

FullSizeRender(5)

To achieve the look of the eggs in the image, I first painted the eggs with art masking fluid. Wait until the masking fluid is dry and then dye as below. Once the eggs are dyed and are touch-dry, rub off the masking fluid to reveal the shell colour below.

FullSizeRender(4)

Method

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk
  2. Put the flour, sugar, butter, olive oil, salt and extract in the bowl, and make a well in the middle
  3. Pour in the milk and yeast and mix together a little, then add in one egg
  4. When the ingredients have come together, tip out onto a clean worksurface to begin kneading
  5. This dough is quite wet and sticky, but does not need any extra flour. You will find you are ‘scraping’ at the dough with your fingers more than traditional kneading for the first 2 minutes or so – persevere as it does quickly get much easier
  6. After about 2-3 minutes the dough will start to come together and keep its shape, picking up all the stickier bits of dough left on your worksurface
  7. Knead for 5-6 minutes, the dough will be smooth and still a little tacky
  8. Lightly oil the bowl, putting the dough in it. Cover with a linen tea towel or some cling film
  9. Leave to rest for 30 mins. This dough will not rise much
  10. While the dough is resting, prepare the cake tin by brushing on melted butter and tipping a little flour into the tin and swirling round
  11. After the dough is rested, knead in the fruit, making sure it is spread out evenly throughout the dough
  12. Divide the dough into three and roll each out into a long strand. The easiest way to ensure your strands are long enough to plait is to make sure they fit round the outside of your cake tin and the ends just meet
  13. Make a simple three strand plait. It’s easiest to make a neat plait if you start in the middle, work towards one end then repeat from the middle to the other end
  14. Pick up your plait gently and lay in the cake tin (as below)FullSizeRender(6)
  15. Match up the ends into the design of the plait as neatly as you can
  16. Gently tease open a section of the plait a little and place one of the eggs into this gap. Be careful as at this stage the eggs are still raw
  17. Repeat with the remaining two eggs, spacing them equally apartFullSizeRender(3)
  18. Cover the tin and leave for 30 minutes in a warm spot
  19. Turn your oven on to 200°C fan / 220°C conventional / 425°F
  20. After 30 minutes (again, the bread will not have risen much) place in the oven
  21. Whisk up the additional egg briefly and use it to brush the tops of the bread plait – do not paint the eggs though!
  22. Bake for 10 minutes and turn the oven down to 180°C fan / 200°C conventional / 400° F
  23. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes more until it’s a lovely golden brown. If the bread looks like it’s browning too quickly, you can cover the top with foil
  24. Leave to coolFullSizeRender(1)

Easter Hot Cross Bunnies with rye and chocolate

hotcrossBunnies2016This is a reboot of the original hot cross bunnies I made and posted last year. So, Easter hot cross bunnies mk II 🙂

Very similar recipe, but I’ve included some rye flour and swapped out the dried fruit for chocolate chips for a different take on the traditional hot cross bun.

Again, the recipe is based on the River Cottage Handbook No. 3 Bread recipe for hot cross buns.

Notes

Makes 12 bunnies.

Equipment

  • Stand mixer and/or large bowl
  • Baking sheet
  • Pastry brush
  • Scissors
  • Piping bag
  • Two small bowls

Ingredients – buns

  • Strong white flour – 175g
  • Plain white flour – 175g
  • Rye flour – 150g
  • Tepid water – 125ml
  • Tepid milk – 125ml
  • Powdered yeast – 5g
  • Salt – 10g
  • Caster sugar (I used golden) – 50g
  • Egg, medium free range – 1
  • Chocolate chips – 100g
  • Orange zest – zest of 1/2 orange
  • Mixed spice – 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon – 1 tsp

Ingredients – crosses

  • Plain flour – about 2 tablespoons
  • Enough water to make a paste with the flour

Ingredients – glaze (optional)

  • Marmalade or apricot jam – about 1 tablespoon
  • Water – about 1 tablespoon

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together except the chocolate chips and either mix by hand (this will be messy – it’s like making a brioche! Stick with it though and don’t add more flour – it will come together eventually) or with a dough hook in a machine (much easier)
  2. Mix for about 10 minutes until the dough goes silky smooth
  3. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size
  4. Cut into twelve equal parts
  5. Taking a bun, stretch the dough out and fill each with roughly a twelfth of the chocolate chips
  6. Taking an edge of the dough, fold i over the choc chips and into the middle of the bun – repeat all the way round until you have encased the chocolate chips with dough (if you are used to hand shaping loaves and rolls this will not be new to you, as it can be a typical way of shaping bread)
  7. Turn over and the top should be nicely domed with a tight structure to the dough. Shape slightly into a pear or oval shape
  8. Space them apart on a lined, floured baking sheet – you don’t really want batch buns (ie where they touch), although if you’re clever you can face two bunnies away from each other and just have their bottoms touching – I found this looked a bit like fluffy tails when the pulled apart. You don’t want the faces touching)
  9. Cover and leave to rise again – about half an hour should do it
  10. Put the oven on to 190 C fan / 210 C conventional
  11. Make up the cross paste by thoroughly mixing the flour in with enough water (add little by little) to form a thick paste (about the thickness of cream cheese
  12. Pop the paste into a piping bag, ready for use
  13. Using a pair of scissors cut two snips towards the pointy end of each bun. You’re aiming to make a long ‘U’ on either side of the head to act as ears – or if you prefer and have a lame or sharp razor that you cut your bread with, you can etch our an ear shape on each side with that
    Make ears by snipping the
    dough with scissors
  14. Pipe the crosses onto each bun
  15. Put into the oven and bake for 18 – 20 minutes until dark golden
  16. Leave to cool
  17. You can add the glaze or leave it, as your prefer. If you want the glaze, heat the jam or marmalade and mix with the water (quick and easy in a microwave but can be in a saucepan over a hob). If you have jam or marmalade with shred or bits, then it’s best to strain it
  18. Using a pastry brush paint the glaze all over

Easter Hot Cross Bunnies

Hot Cross Bunnies

This is based on the River Cottage Handbook No. 3 Bread recipe for hot cross buns. A gorgeous book full of workable recipes – much better in my opinion than the ‘celebrity’ bread books that are out at the moment, even though this one’s not that old either. If you want a good bread book, this would be a smart purchase.

Notes

The recipe is lovely, although for me it doesn’t have enough spice/cinnamon. The original calls for just 1 teaspoon of mixed spice – I’ve doubled the flavouring here by also adding 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Makes 12 bunnies.

Equipment

  • Stand mixer and/or large bowl
  • Baking sheet
  • Pastry brush
  • Scissors
  • Piping bag
  • Two small bowls

Ingredients – buns

  • Strong white flour – 250g
  • Plain white flour – 250g
  • Tepid water – 125ml
  • Tepid milk – 125ml
  • Powdered yeast – 5g
  • Salt – 10g
  • Caster sugar (I used golden) – 50g
  • Egg, medium free range – 1
  • Sultanas (or raisins or currants or a mix – or you can substitute diced glace cherries or even choc chips) – 100g
  • Orange zest – zest of 1/2 orange
  • Mixed spice – 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon – 1 tsp
  • A few spare sultanas (or other fruit or choc chips) for eyes

Ingredients – crosses

  • Plain flour – about 2 tablespoons
  • Enough water to make a paste with the flour

Ingredients – glaze

  • Marmalade or apricot jam – about 1 tablespoon
  • Water – about 1 tablespoon

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and either mix by hand (this will be messy – it’s like making a brioche! Stick with it though and don’t add more flour – it will come together eventually) or with a dough hook in a machine (much easier).
  2. Mix for about 10 minutes until the dough goes silky smooth.
  3. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.
  4. Cut into twelve equal parts and shape each into a pear shape (the pointier end will be the nose).
  5. Space them apart – you don’t really want batch buns (ie where they touch), although if you’re clever you can face two bunnies away from each other and just have their bottoms touching – I found this looked a bit like fluffy tails when the pulled apart. You don’t want the faces touching).
  6. Cover and leave to rise again – about half an hour should do it.
  7. Put the oven on to 200C.
  8. Make up the cross paste by thoroughly mixing the flour in with enough water (add little by little) to form a thick paste (about the thickness of cream cheese.
  9. Pop the paste into a piping bag, ready for use.
  10. Once risen again to about double the size you can shape the ears:
  11. Using a pair of scissors cut two snips towards the pointy end of each bun. You’re aiming to make a long ‘V’ on either side of the head to act as ears.
    Make ears by snipping the
    dough with scissors
  12. Pipe the crosses onto each bun.
  13. Put into the oven and bake for 18 – 20 minutes until dark golden.
  14. Leave to cool a bit then mix up the glaze by heating the jam or marmalade and mixing with the water (quick and easy in a microwave but can be in a saucepan over a hob). If you have jam or marmalade with shred or bits, then it’s best to strain it.
  15. Using a pastry brush paint the glaze all over.
  16. When the bunnies are cooled a little, use some of the leftover sultanas (or whatever you used) and a little of the jam or marmalade and stick a couple of eyes onto each bunny.

Cornish saffron plaited loaf

image1This post has been a year in the making. Not that it’s complex, you understand, just that I’d originally written it for release in Easter 2016 but I so detested the photos I took of the bake at the time I just left the words hanging.

So, this is a revisit as I’ve once again made this wonderful fruit loaf for Easter. I really must make it at other times of the year – it’s too good to be seasonal.

Notes

One point about the bake is that because it has a lot of sugar in it does brown quickly and easily. I suggest that after the first 20 minutes you cover it with foil to stop the useful Maillard reaction going from a toasty brown to a charcoal black!

Saffron – the key ingredient

Saffron comes from the stigmas from the flower heads of a particular crocus, Crocus sativas. It’s assumed this is a cultivar from a native Crocus from Crete, grown all across the Mediterranean for thousands of years. As no other crocus has edible stigmas (so don’t try!), it follows that it must originate from this species (although different cultivars exist that suit different climates, such as Iran or Spain). Most crocus grown are spring flowering, but this one flowers in October and is apparently very easy to grow. I’ve dug in some corms last year so I’m waiting excitedly for my first crop (which will probably yield a dozen or so stigmas – but it’s a start!). James Wong, the botanist has some information about growing and cultivating Crocus sativas and where to buy corms on his Incredible Edibles site.

Saffron has been grown and cultivated in Britain since the Romans introduced it. What did the Romans ever do for us? Saffron Walden in Essex and Saffron Hill in London, were so famous for its cultivation that they adopted the plant name (I can see it being just ‘Walden’, but really just ‘Hill’ before? ha aha). Saffron was grown widely across England and Wales and it’s said that the Phoenecians were trading their saffron for Cornish tin before even the Romans came to Britain. Cultivation peaked in the middle ages in East Anglia, but saffron growing and use began to wane as tastes changed and new spices came from countries further afield as exploration and world trade took off. Such a shame as it’s apparently easy to grow here (although time consuming to harvest), is a beautiful flavour and is highly expensive to import. Still, a few smallholdings still exist in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Wales that grow and sell saffron and it’s easy to grow your own, so it seems.

I’ve bought “saffron” abroad cheaply in a souk or market, but it’s never saffron. Save your money and buy it properly – albeit expensively – here. This is one area where it’s definitely too good to be true. Fake saffron is likely safflower or even corn husks coloured with turmeric. As saffron remains the world’s most expensive spice it equally retains its appeal for forgery and scammers. Plus, by the time you’ve realised, you’re back home and that market stall is many hundreds of miles away.

The recipe

This recipe I’ve played around with was very loosely based the Cornish saffron buns in Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery (published by Penguin books) but was an amalgamation with some research into Cornish recipes and my own testing. Mrs David herself devised her recipe from a number of sources – happily stating this so it was already a bit of a mongrel. Delightfully in her book, in the index she lists ‘Saffron, travesties of’ which talks about fake Saffron cakes (when she was writing in the 1970s)  I’ve never seen these, so maybe production stopped after her ravaging! No doubt safflower and corn husks should fall under ‘travesties’ too.

Notes

I’ve used clotted cream with this recipe as I think it makes it a tad more Cornish. David’s recipe  calls for the saffron to be dried out in the oven first and then crumbled – I’ve chosen to warm the saffron strands in milk. I made a plaited loaf where traditionally this would be baked in a loaf tin or as buns – which you can choose to do.

Traditionally the saffron strands are left in the dough – don’t strain them out. Also, this is a fairly soft dough but not quite as wet as with a brioche (there is no egg in this) and it bakes out somewhere between a dense cake, a scone and a brioche. Serve with butter or clotted cream, either as is or toasted. Or, alternatively, like a Cornish cream tea with jam and (even more) clotted cream. And always jam first – unless you’re from Devon.

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Large bowl
  • heavy baking tray or loaf tin

Ingredients

  • Saffron strands – about 15
  • Milk (full or semi) – 230ml milk (this is a bit less liquid than you’d expect – but there is extra cream and the butter to add)
  • 2 tbsp clotted cream (or double/heavy cream if you can’t get it)
  • Strong white bread flour – 450g
  • Dried fast action yeast – 7g
  • Light muscovado or soft brown sugar – 60g
  • Nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice  – 1/4 tspn of each (ie 3/4 of ground spices in total)
  • Salt – a large pinch salt
  • Unsalted butter, diced and softened – 60g
  • Mixed fruit of your choice: I used a mix of berries and sultanas – 100g

Method

  1. Warm the milk in a small, heavy bottomed pan over a low-mid heat and pop in the saffron and warm gently (do not boil)
  2. When at blood temperature (dip your finger in and it should feel gently warm) take it off the hob and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes –  the saffron will start to dye the milk a lovely warm yellow
  3. When the milk is still fairly warm (about a minute or two after you’ve taken it off the hob) add the two tablespoons of cream and stir in gently
  4. While waiting for the saffron milk, put the flour, sugar, yeast, spice and salt in a bowl (put the yeast and salt in on opposite sides of the bowl – don’t let them touch directly at this stage – to see why read my post about how yeast works)
  5. Pour on the liquid (this should still be tepid/slightly warm) and gently mix until it’s all combined
  6. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and shiny – try to flour the surface as little as possible, or once worked it will be far too dry
  7. Knead in the butter a little at a time until it’s all incorporated (it will be quite a sticky dough after this) and then mix in the dried fruit
  8. Leave to rise in a covered bowl until it’s double its original size. Be warned – this is a slow rising loaf
  9. After it’s risen, knock it back (see my post about why knocking back is needed here) and shape it. This means either pat it into shape for a 500g/1 lb loaf tin (oil/butter any tin that you use) or split into three and plait (as I did here)
  10. Flour a baking tray or oil your loaf tin, and place the loaf in (or on), covered with a tea towel or couche
  11. Leave to rise a second time – again, this will take longer than normal
  12. Heat the oven to 180C/350F (this is lower than Elizabeth David recommends, but I think modern ovens must be better than in her day – when I tried this recipe first, her suggestion was just too hot and I nearly burnt the loaf and it had an almost raw quality inside, so the subsequent times I’ve baked this it has been done with this lower heat and longer cooking and came out fine)
  13. Cook for 50 mins in the middle or bottom half of the oven – although after 20 minutes if the loaf is looking brown already, cover it with foil to stop any potential burning (adjust the time to less accordingly if you have chosen to shape rolls)
  14. You can test ‘doneness’ as per a cake or normal loaf, that is you can do a skewer test and you can tap the bottom of the loaf to listen for that tell-tale hollow sound
  15. You can glaze the bread – either with a heated milk and sugar wash or with warmed apricot jam or leave it without
  16. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins and then enjoy 🙂