Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter Treats

Now I am aware that it has taken me a few days to write this post, however I have been out and about these holidays and taking some time out to rest, so here goes - I hope you appreciate it even if it is late.

Each year I try (let's say attempt) to prepare Easter treats for my family, friends, and if the timing works, my colleagues too. However, I don't think I got any done last year so I hope that I made up for it this year.

For Easter 2012, the selection of goodies that my friends and family received were chocolate freckle Easter egg biscuits, milk chocolate and vanilla bean fudge, spiced and salted caramel slice and roasted almond praline. The praline was not on the original list, but this was a special request by someone and I thought I would be obliging (and knew I could use it for my Lazy Easter Monday Lunch when it came time to plate up dessert).

I generally choose to make Easter treats because I know that many people have a good selection of eggs given to them, so having some home-made or home-baked goodies is something different that is still well received.

This year I found some very cute canary yellow paper bags with cute cartoon chick heads as closures and a clear cellophane window to use as packaging in addition to some cellophane bags decorated with Easter egg prints at Spotlight. It is always nice to find some cute and reasonably priced packaging and I decided to go with simple kitchen string to tie up the bags rather than ribbon. It was easier to manage and allowed the colours and features of the bags to be what stood out instead of the ribbon.

I filled the little yellow chick bags with chocolate freckle Easter egg biscuits - a homemade chocolate biscuit, coated with chocolate (this year I used mostly white and some 70% cocoa dark chocolate) and dipped in hundreds and thousands. As I ran short on my favourite hundreds and thousands, I ended up using rainbow sprinkles as well. I must admit I am a traditionalist in this regard, I much prefer hundreds and thousands and think they make a much more freckly statement then sprinkles. I'll let you decide what you think though.


Chocolate Easter Egg Freckle Biscuits
Makes 60 (can be halved)
250g unsalted butter, softened, cubed
330g brown sugar
2 eggs
450g plain flour, sifted (plus some extra)
70g self-raising flour, sifted
70g Dutch cocoa powder, sifted
250g white or dark eating chocolate, broken into pieces
160 – 200g hundreds and thousands
Cream the bugger, sugar and egg in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. If you are using a sturdy bench top mixer (eg. Kitchen Aid), add dry ingredients in two batches, using a slow setting on the mixer to beat until just combined. If you only have access to hand beaters, stir in the dry ingredients gradually with a wooden spoon, stirring until just combined.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth.
Divide dough into four balls. Roll one ball out with a rolling pin between two sheets of baking paper until it is about 4-5mm thick. With baking paper as a base, layer onto a baking sheet or cutting board. Repeat this step with remaining three balls of dough. Refrigerate for 30mins.
Preheat oven to 180C. Remove a sheet of dough from the fridge and use an egg shaped cookie cutter to cut egg shaped rounds of dough from the sheets.  Place 5cm apart on baking paper lined baking sheets. Bake in the oven for 12 – 15 mins or until evenly cooked. Allow to cool on baking sheet for two minutes and then move to a wire cooling rack. Continue with remaining sheets of biscuit dough. At the end, if you wish to, knead your dough scraps together, roll out and cut more biscuits.
When all of the biscuits are completely cool, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Fill a small, flat based plastic container with hundreds and thousands. Using a small spatula, coat each biscuit with a thin layer of chocolate.
 Immediately dip / gently press each biscuit into the hundreds and thousands.

Place on a cooling rack and allow chocolate to set.

Store in an airtight container with baking paper between each layer before packaging to give as a gift (or perhaps you might have some cherubs at your place who will find your biscuit barrel).

The next thing that went into the goodie bags was milk chocolate and vanilla fudge. I used the recipe featured in the April issue of Better Homes and Gardens. I had never made fudge in the microwave before, preferring the stove top method using a sugar thermometer. While the product has a different texture to the fudge I make on the stove top (which doesn't use condensed milk), it is still delicious in my opinion and has a lovely creamy texture, rather then the slightly grainy texture of stove top recipes. I am wondering if I could use white chocolate and achieve the same quality product. That is an experiment for another day. 

I also made a spiced and salted chocolate caramel slice to go into the goodie bags. Once again, this is in the April issue of Better Homes and Gardens and my friends who watch the program told me it was also demonstrated on TV. They were thrilled to receive the slice in their package and I have heard some lovely comments about it :) I thought the recipe was interesting as it uses Earl Grey tea, cinnamon quills, cardamom and nutmeg in the caramel mixture. I like recipes that use tea (especially Earl Grey) so I was keen to give it a go. I also love chocolate caramel slice. I was disappointed with the base recipe - it was oily for some reason unbeknown to me and very sticky but apart from that the rest was spot on. Next time I think I will use my normal chocolate caramel slice base recipe and use the caramel recipe from BHG and go with their topping and the salt too.

The sea salt flakes cut through the sweetness and surprisingly
complement the spices. I will definitely be making this again.

Last of all I did some roasted almond praline. This was not my best batch, however it was edible. Next time, I won't be so lazy and I will get the sugar thermometer out to bring it to the right temperature, not go on what I think will be okay. It did end up making a nice textural variation for my Lazy Easter Monday Lunch dessert though.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my Easter treat bags!

A belated Happy Easter!
DiDee May xoxo