Archive for category: Easter

Onion-skin Easter eggs

Last Easter, Ila was a tiny baby and I was barely able to leave the sofa. This Easter is very different. Ila is walking and talking and interested in everything. I want her to join in the egg hunt in our shared back garden, but I’m not very excited at the prospect of her eating lots of chocolate eggs. Traditional vegetable-dyed eggs seem like a better option and, unlike me, Ila is partial to a boiled egg in the morning.

Onion-skin-dyed boiled eggs

  • 6 eggs (using slightly old eggs will make them easier to peel)
  • red and brown onion skins, with pieces as large as possible
  • an old pair of stockings

Wrap an egg in onion skins, covering any gaps. Holding around the skins, gently insert the egg into the foot of a stocking. (You might need to rearrange the onion skins a little once the egg is inside.) Cut the stocking a couple of inches above the egg and tie a knot in the stocking so that it can’t move about. Repeat with the remaining eggs and knotted pieces of stocking.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and gentle lower the eggs-in-stockings into a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat so the water continues at a slow burble. Leave to simmer for 7 minutes. (The eggs will be slightly over-cooked, but the colours will be great.) Leave the eggs to cool in the stockings.

Once the onion skins have been removed, rub a little olive oil on the egg-shells to enhance the colour and make the shells shine. The onion colour sometimes seeps through to the egg-white making it very slightly tan. I like to imagine that the eggs have an oniony flavour as well. Keep the eggs in the fridge when they aren’t being hidden in the garden.


Easter Cookies

The week before Easter, my mum and dad visited us in Edinburgh. As a present, my mum brought me four Easter cookie-cutters that she had picked up in Germany (where they had spent the previous month). She brought me a fat (woolly) sheep, a thin sheep with long legs, a leaping rabbit and an egg.

Hunting around online, I found a few recipes and this is the
Sugar Cookie that I made to try out my cutters:

500g flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
240g butter
300g white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk (or sieve) together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, one cupful at a time.

Stir until you have a smooth dough.
Divide the dough in half and place each lump onto a piece of plastic-wrap.
Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Remove one half of the dough from the fridge and roll out, on a floured counter top, to a quarter-inch thickness.
Cut out cookies and lay on a baking-sheet covered in baking parchment.
Place each tray of cookies into the fridge for twenty minutes.
Bake the cookies for ten minutes.
Leave to cool on the tray for a minute or so, before removing to a wire rack to cool.
I use the fingers of one hand to get the butter and sugar started, as I am often not organised enough to take the butter out of the fridge. Once roughly combined, I switch to a spoon to avoid melting the butter.
When refrigerating the dough for the first time, I press the lumps out into half-inch thick disks. This way the dough cools faster and more evenly.

Sugar cookies are not really very exciting. The icing is what makes the whole thing fun. This time I made white royal icing for flooding and used cocoa and different food colours for decorating. Quantities are rather inexact as I always seem to need more egg-whites and sugar than I expect I will.

A rough recipe for Royal Icing is:

350g pure icing sugar
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons lemon juice.

Beat together the egg whites and lemon juice.

Slowly beat in the icing sugar (mixed with cocoa, if you want brown icing for brown bunnies) a little at a time, until the icing is the appropriate consistency.

For outlining and decorating the cookies, the icing should form peaks in the bowl.
For flooding the cookies, test the consistency by lifting the spoon and dribbling icing back into the bowl. The trail of icing should sit on the surface for a few seconds, before disappearing back into the mix.

I only have one piping bag, so I use baking-parchment to make icing cones. I find it easiest to fold a square of paper in half, then use the folded edge of the paper to form the point of the cone, by wrapping up and around at each side. I usually secure the cones with some tape. I also snip the smallest possible hole in the bottom and have a go on some paper before starting on the cookies.

I outlined and flooded the bunnies in white icing. Then I used coloured icing for the bows. On the sheep, I swirled the firmer icing in circles to look like wool and gave them bows too. The eggs were a bit of a mess: stripes, dots, squiggles and I even played with marbling (dipping cookies into flood-icing with food-dye only partially stirred through.) It was great fun, and extremely messy!