Our lovely baking expert Val Stones, best known as a former Great British Bake Off 2016 contestant and the Cake Whisperer, shares two yummy Easter biscuit recipes — a traditional bake and a Somerset special.
I started making Easter biscuits as a teenager for my family, then in later years for my own two children. Nowadays, I continue to bake these tasty treats with the schoolchildren I teach; they always run out excitedly to their parents, homemade Easter basket in hand, and I can see the pride and love shining from their eyes before they’ve even tucked into the biscuits!
These iced delights will bring smiles to the faces of your family, friends and colleagues as a gorgeous gift or table treat. Alternatively, why not donate them to an Easter bake sale to fund raise for local cause? While these are seasonally themed, flex your creative skills and decorate for other special occasions like Christmas or birthdays. You don’t really need an excuse, though — they’re just as delicious plain!
Traditional Easter biscuits
For the biscuits:
- 200g self-raising flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g unsalted butter
- One egg, beaten
- Rind and juice of half a lemon
For the decoration:
- Easter biscuit cutters — there are lots in the shops at this time of year and they can be bought online too
- Disposable piping bags
- Fine piping nozzle number three
- Six-point star nozzle
For the royal icing:
- 2 egg whites
- 500g icing sugar
- ½ a teaspoon of lemon juice
- ½ a teaspoon of glycerin
- Gel food colouring in lemon, pink and green
- Easter sprinkles
Pre-heat the oven at 180C / 160C fan assisted / gas mark 3-4.
Grease and line 3 baking trays — I choose silicon sheets so they don’t need greasing and can be washed and used again.
- Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl and rub in the butter until it disappears. The mixture will look like fine breadcrumbs.
Top Tip — Place the mixing bowl in the sink to avoid unnecessary mess from sifting and combining ingredients.
2. Add the grated zest, lemon juice and beaten egg then mix until it forms a stiff paste.
3. Lightly flour a surface and knead the dough for a few turns to ensure the dough is smooth. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Remove 10 minutes before rolling out.
4. Roll the dough out thinly — it should be no thinner than a pound coin. Turn the dough once, roll and turn again so you that the dough is evenly rolled.
Top Tip — I keep 2 plastic rulers that are the thickness that I want the dough to be for my biscuits (two clean pound coins will do).
5. Using Easter-themed biscuits cutters, cut at least 24 biscuits — this number will depend on the size of your cutters.
6. Place the biscuits on the baking trays, spacing them 2cm apart, then place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes. This will prevent them spreading while baking.
7. Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes. They will be ready when they are lightly golden, and the middle is slightly soft to touch.
8. Leave your biscuits on the baking sheet for one minute to become less delicate, then lift them carefully using an offset spatula on to cooling racks. Allow to cool.
The royal icing:
- Place the egg whites in a bowl and, using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer, mix the egg whites until frothy.
- Sift in the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time, until the icing is soft but not runny.
- Add the lemon juice and glycerin and stir in.
- Divide and put the icing into several bowls depending on the colours you will be using.
- Leave one bowl white and then add gel colour to the icing – pastel colours are great for Easter!
- Place the icing nozzle in an icing bag before you cut the tip off the bag. This way, you can judge how much to cut off and not waste any bags. When you’re happy, snip off the end of the bag.
- Place a small quantity of coloured icing in the bag. Squeeze down, turning and allowing the bag to fit comfortably in your hand.
- Carefully pipe around the outer edge of the biscuit, just a little in from the edge. Continue piping following the contour of the biscuit as evenly as possible, because you will soon spread this icing out.
- Using a cocktail stick, gently spread the icing until the biscuit is covered. Place the biscuit on a flat surface and shake from side to side to create a super smooth top.
- Leave to set for at least four hours overnight, if possible.
- Continue icing the biscuits until they are all done.
- To finish off the biscuits, add appropriate piping in white (for example; a fluffy tail on bunnies and wool on the lambs).
An alternative to piping:
- Place the Easter sprinkles in a bowl.
- Spread icing on a biscuit, then dip into the sprinkles.
- Place on a cooling rack to set – this can be overnight.
- Once the biscuit icing is completely set, the biscuits can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
This alternative is great for decorating with children. In my experience, the joy on their faces after seeing their biscuits transform after being dipped in sprinkles is so special!
Somerset Easter Biscuits
The traditional Somerset Easter biscuit is round, filled with currants and is flavoured with Cassia oil (which is similar cinnamon, so gives the biscuits a festive flavour and smell). This special oil can usually be found in cook shops around Easter and online too.
Use the previous recipe, but add the following ingredients:
- 60g currants
- A few drops of Cassia oil
- Add the Cassia oil to the lemon juice and combine the two.
- Add eggs, along with the currants.
- Combine all the ingredients as before and knead the dough until smooth.
- Roll out as before and use a round fluted cutter to make about 24 biscuits.
- As before, bake in the oven for around 15 minutes. They will be ready when they are lightly golden, and the middle is slightly soft to touch.
- Leave your biscuits on the baking sheet for one minute to become less delicate, then lift them carefully using an offset spatula on to cooling racks. Allow to cool.
I tend to make several batches of these biscuits and bag them up in cellophane bags. I like to tie them with ether raffia or pretty thin ribbon to create the perfect Easter gift.
Baking and decorating is fabulous festive fun for all ages — and the lucky recipients will love them too.