Easter Secrets by Val Stones

GBBO Contestant 2016 and Baking Expert for Stannah

Easter with my family

Eastertime truly is a movable feast. It can arrive early in the year and we see snowfall, or sometimes the sun is shining and folk have to wear sunscreen. I wonder what this year will look like.

As a child I had so many aunts and uncles that I would receive ten Easter eggs (my siblings the same), so altogether we had a chocolate mountain of forty eggs. My mum would put them all away and each evening she would share one egg between us. This chocolate fest would go on for weeks.

When we had our own children, Easter mornings always started with an egg hunt. I would write out some clues and place them around the house and garden. At the crack of dawn, the children would race downstairs and ask whether the Easter Bunny had been. They would be told that he had, but he had hidden the eggs, and only by following the clues could those eggs be found.

With our help, we would solve the clues with the kids. You can only imagine the shrieks of laughter as they figured out the answer, before racing to the next hiding place, until at last they found the eggs.

We would have boiled eggs for breakfast, and one year I played a trick on the children by making ‘Surprise Chocolate Eggs’. There were puzzled looks on their little faces as brown appeared instead of the usual runny golden yellow yolk. They persevered and chipped away until there was a sweet aroma and the penny dropped that their eggs were chocolate!

Surprise Eggs Recipe

  • 300g of good quality chocolate or chocolate chips
  • 6 large eggs
  • A long darning needle or a fine skewer
  • A jug to catch the raw egg
  • A disposable piping bag

Method

  • Pierce a small hole into the top of the fat end of the egg, and a slightly larger hole in the thin end of the egg.
  • Use the skewer to push into the egg yolk and break it up, before blowing through the small hole. It takes a lot of puff so have rests. Make the hole in the bottom of the eggs if the egg is slow to come away from the shells. Catch the egg in the jug and save for baking or scrambled eggs.
  • Rinse the shells out and leave to drain and dry out completely.
  • Place a piece of Sellotape over the small hole and stand the egg at the thin end in an egg cup.
  • Melt the chocolate/chocolate chips by placing them in a microwavable bowl and on medium to melt for one minute. Continue to stir the chocolate in this way until it’s smooth and fully melted.
  • Place the melted chocolate in a piping bag, snip off the end to allow the chocolate to flow into each egg until they are filled.
  • Allow to set.
  • Disguise the top hole with an Easter chick decoration.

Family Traditions

I learnt how to do the best Easter egg hunts from my own parents as we would play the same game every year as a child! It is good to keep traditions going and I will continue to do egg hunts for my grandchildren too.

Easter has always been an excuse for a big family gathering amongst our Yorkshire families. I provide hot cross buns, Easter biscuits and cupcakes, and my mum and mother-in-law provide the roast dinners.

I love hot cross buns – they are the perfect Easter treat. And I think most delicious eaten warm with butter. If you ever have any left over, they can be used to make a hot cross bun bread and butter pudding.

This recipe makes 12 buns, which can also be frozen for up to one month.

Buns Recipe

  • 500 g strong whole flour plus extra for dusting
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 2 rounded teaspoons of mixed spice (8g)
  • 1 level teaspoon of cinnamon (2g)
  • 1/4t of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 12g dried yeast
  • 50g of unsalted butter melted and cooled slightly
  • 150ml of whole milk
  • 150ml water (about 10 fl.oz)
  • 1 medium egg lightly beaten
  • 150g sultanas
  • Zest of an unwaxed orange and lemon
  • Light olive oil for greasing the baking sheets and proving bowl

For the crosses

  • 80g plain flour
  • 100ml water

For the glaze

  • 60 ml of half milk half water
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of sieved apricot jam

What else you will need

  • 2 baking sheets lined with parchment and lightly greased with oil
  • A disposable piping bag and a 3 mm nozzle/ tip (if you haven’t got this nozzle you can fill the piping bag with the flour and water cross mixture, then snip off the end to create a small hole for piping)
  • Large tumbler such as a pint beer glass

Method

  • Sift the flour, caster sugar, mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl. Place the salt on one side of the bowl and the dried yeast on the opposite side of the bowl.
  • Melt the butter or margarine in a pan, or place the butter in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for one minute on 360, low if you wish.
  • Place the 150ml of milk in a heatproof measuring jug and then add boiling water to bring the level up to 300ml. This will give you a warm, but not hot, liquid. Allow both to cool slightly.
  • Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the melted butter, egg and half the milk mixture. Use your hand to bring the mixture together, turning the bowl as you bring the mixture in from the edges.
  • Pour in the sultanas and zests. Gradually add more of the milk until you have a fairly soft dough. You may need to add a little more milk.
  • Lightly dust the work surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Oil a large bowl, form the dough into a ball and place in the oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and put it in a warm place to rise for about 1-1/2 hours, or until it has about doubled in size.
  • Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead out some of the larger air bubbles. This is called “knocking back”. Then knead a little more.
  • Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. If you want 12 identical buns, weigh the dough and divide the weight by 12 to get the exact weight of each bun, then weigh each individual piece of dough.
  • To shape each bun into a round with your hand, turn the dough a quarter-turn, pulling the edge of the dough into the middle. Do this several times. Place your fingertips on the work surface and make a dome with your hand, rotating your hand over the bun to form a nicely rounded smooth bun.
  • Place the bun on the baking sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.
  • Repeat the process, arranging the buns well apart. Place each baking sheet in a large clean polythene bag, making sure the bag doesn’t touch the buns. Leave to rise for about 40 minutes, or until the buns have doubled in size.
  • Set the oven for 220°c /200°c fan assisted oven/Gas Mark 7. Whilst the dough is rising you can make the paste for piping the crosses.
  • Place the plain flour in a bowl and gradually add the water until you have a not-too-soft paste that will squeeze easily from the nozzle, but not run out freely.
  • Place the disposable piping bag in the large tumbler and spoon in the flour paste. When the buns have risen, remove the polythene bag, snip the end off of the piping bag and pipe a cross on each bun.
  • Place the buns in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and firm to touch. Make sure you check on the buns half-way through the bake. Turn the baking sheet if the buns are over browning on one side.
  • Whilst the buns are baking, prepare the glaze. Heat the milk and the water with the sugar. Add the sieved apricot jam.
  • When the buns come out of the oven, and whilst they are still warm, brush them twice with the glaze. Finally, leave on a cooling rack to cool.

 Whether you celebrate Easter or not, take the holiday time to enjoy the love and laughter of your family.

Happy Easter!

Val

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