Tag Archives: Easter

Helping Out the Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny is really slammed this time of year.  His to-do list goes on for pages, his calendar is jam-packed, the battery on his smartphone won’t stay charged, he’s bitten his nails down to nubs, and the poor little fellow has circles under his eyes from lack of sleep.

I figured he could use a hand…or is it paw?  Anyway…I knew I could help, at least when it came to supplying the Easter baskets of some of my friends and family.  I was also pretty sure I could do better than the bagged candy I see in the store.

Now, my husband loves peanut butter and chocolate and really scarfs up the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, so I know the Easter Bunny was planning to give him some again this year.  But, what if I made them instead…And, what if I made them more suitable for adult palates and used dark chocolate? And how could I forgot the bourbon?  Hmmm…what if?

Peanut Butter Cups for Grown-Ups
Makes about 2 dozen miniature cups

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp bourbon
3 – 4 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (premium is best)

I used a miniature muffin tin lined with paper cups as my molds.  Prepare this in advance so it is ready to go when your ingredients are.

In a bowl, combine peanut butter and powdered sugar.  When you have a smooth, uniform mixture, add the vanilla extract and bourbon.  Stir to blend well – it should be a pretty thick mixture that is firm enough to form into balls.  You may need to add just a tiny bit more powdered sugar, if it is too soft.

Take about 2 to 3 teaspoons worth of peanut butter and using your hands roll into a ball.  Then, lightly press into a patty/saucer shape.  Place the formed balls onto a wax paper surface, and repeat until you have about 24 balls.  You may need to adjust the patties so they are all about the same size.

Now to melt the chocolate.  If you don’t have a double boiler, then set a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water.  Turn down the heat to low and add the chocolate to the bowl.

Stir gently as it melts.  It should only take a few minutes to completely melt.  Turn off the heat and now the chocolate is ready to turn into candy.

Take a muffin liner paper, and add a spoonful of chocolate.  Then, using back of your spoon, spread the chocolate around so that it completely coats the inside of the paper cup.  Once it is coated, set it back into the muffin tin.  Repeat until all the cups are completely lined with chocolate.  You need to move very quickly before the chocolate firms up again.

Now, drop in the peanut butter patties, and press down very gently.  You don’t want them to push through the chocolate, but just be flattened a little bit.

Still working briskly, add another spoonful or more of chocolate to each cup in order to cover the peanut butter filling.  Use the spoon again to spread the chocolate around the top and completely cover the peanut butter.

Set the finished cups back into the muffin tin and let firm up at room temperature for about four hours.

Store up to two weeks (as if they will last that long) in an airtight container.  Don’t refrigerate.

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat Stale Marshmallows

I hate Peeps.  However, I have several friends that seem to adore them.  I cannot in good conscience let this behavior continue.  I feel obligated to provide them a quality product.  I mean, Easter only comes once in a year, why waste good sugar on bad candy?

Taking matters into my own hands, I decided to craft a homemade version of those stale, artificial tasting creations…

Homemade Peeps
Modified from The Kitchn

cooking spray
3 packets (each packet is typically about 2 1/4 tsp) unflavored gelatin powder
1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbsp cold water
1 Tbsp lemon extract
6 – 10 drops of yellow food coloring (depends on how vivid you want your candy)
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup light corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Let me start this recipe by telling you that you need a stand mixer with a whisk attachment to do this.  The handheld mixer will not be powerful enough.

Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray, ensuring that there is a thin film of spray on every inner surface and corner.  Set aside.

Now you need to bloom the gelatin, or prepare it for use.  Gelatin needs to be pre-moistened to prevent clumping in your recipe.  I just do this in the bowl of my mixer, removed from the base.  Add the 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp of cold water and lemon extract to the bowl and sprinkle in the 3 packets of powdered gelatin.

Whisk the powder and water together with a fork to break up clumps.

It will start to resemble the consistency of applesauce, this expansion earns it the name of blooming.  I add the drops of yellow food coloring at this point, but you don’t need to stir it in yet.  Then, attach the bowl to base of mixer and move on to next step…

Combine the 3/4 cup of water with the corn syrup, salt, and sugar in a 4-quart saucepan.  Cook on medium heat on stovetop and bring to boil.

As it is coming to a boil, you will notice sugar crystals forming on the sides of the pot.  This can make your mixture gritty, and you have a couple of ways of counteracting this.

You can wet a pastry brush in warmish water and brush it down the sides of the pot to dissolve the sugar crystals.  Or, you can just cover the pan for 2 minutes once it starts to boil and the steam can wash the sides of the pot.   Do not stir the sugar mixture once it starts to boil, however, or it may crystallize further.

Now clip on a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan and continue to boil the sugar mixture until it reaches 245 degrees F.

Turn off the burner and remove the candy thermometer.  Turn on the mixer to medium speed with the whisk attachment, and then using hot pads to protect your hands, slowly and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup into the bowl of gelatin.  The mixture may foam a little so just take your time adding the syrup.

When all the syrup has been added, cover the bowl with a towel and increase the mixer speed to high.  I use the towel to prevent any sticky splatters in my kitchen.

Whip for 10 – 12 minutes, until it looks like glossy meringue.  Check on the mixture a couple of times during this period and you can add any extra food coloring now if you need it, while the whisk is still turning.

Turn down the mixer speed to medium low and slowly lift the arm of the mixer so that some of the marshmallow mixture can spin off into the bowl.

Turn off the mixer completely and using a stiff silicone spatula scrape the marshmallow mixture into your greased pan.  It will be very stiff and sticky.  Try to work quickly before it starts firming up.

Lightly moisten your fingers with water (so the marshmallows won’t stick) to smooth down the top and even out the mixture within the pan.  Let it sit uncovered for 12 – 15 hours to completely set and cure.

Once your marshmallows have cured, turn them onto a cutting board.

You can cut them into squares with a sharp knife, or use holiday cookie cutters, like I did.  I chose a bunny and chick.

NOTE: Cookie cutters will not likely use every single inch of your marshmallows, so you can trim the remainders into square shapes so as not to waste any goodies.

Marshmallows typically need to be coated in a mixture of (1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch) so they will not stick together when stored.  To make Peeps, I modified this recipe slightly.  First, I took about 1/2 cup granulated sugar and blended in about three drops of yellow food coloring.

I always have some marshmallow mixture on  hand stored in a lidded plastic container, so then I added about 2 Tbsp of that to my yellow granulated sugar and mixed well.  I used this yellow sugar mixture to coat my homemade Peeps.

These Peeps will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks.  Leftover marshmallow coating can be stored in an airtight container indefinitely.

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Hot Cross Morning

I asked my husband if he wanted anything special for Easter, and he replied he wanted Hot Cross Buns for Easter breakfast. He knows that question always means what does he want me to cook or bake…

I could not remember ever making Hot Cross Buns before. I’m sure my mother made them for us, and I likely helped, but I never made them as an adult.
Like many times before, I did some research and pieced together a recipe…
Hot Cross Buns
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg for dough, 1 large egg for brushing
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup currants
Milk and confectioner’s sugar for icing/glaze – amount depends on texture you prefer
Combine water and milk in saucepan and warm until about 100 degrees F. Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over surface of liquid. Set aside with out stirring, until foamy and rising up the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.
Whisk the butter, 1 egg, and vanilla into the yeast mixture.
Stir the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Stir to make thick, slightly sticky dough. Stir in currants. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft and elastic. You may have to add more flour. Shape into a ball.
Brush the inside a large bowl with butter. Put dough in bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size. It look a little over an hour.
Turn out dough and divide into 12 equal portions and make into round rolls. Place them in a buttered 9 x 13 inch baking pan, leaving a little space in between each roll. Cover the pan and let rise until the rolls almost reach rim of pan, more than doubled. It took about 45 minutes.
Brush buns with beaten egg. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven until brown and puffy, about 25 minutes.
For the glaze, stir together confectioner’s sugar and milk until smooth. Use a pastry bag or zip-loc bag to ice buns in a thick cross shape over the top of the warm buns.

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Whiskey Punch for Easter

Punch is a big hit in our house. We try to always have a flowing bowl each time we have guests.

For our Easter dinner, I decided to make a whiskey punch. Everyone enjoyed it, even folks who were hesitant because they aren’t fans of whiskey. Crazy, right?
The punch was a lovely golden color and I used orange and lemon slices to garnish. To keep the punch cold, I made ice blocks in washed and reused milk and juice cartons.
Here’s the recipe, but keep in mind I don’t normally advocate use of juice concentrate, but I was making a lot of goodies for our meal, and it was really easy to use frozen lemonade. Plus, I don’t think the taste suffers quite as much for lemonade as other flavors.
Whiskey Punch
1 can of frozen lemonade (I prefer Minute Maid)
3 cups of orange juice
18 ounces of pineapple juice
2 liters of ginger ale
1 pint of whiskey
1/2 cup of simple syrup
I combined the juices, whiskey, and simple syrup ahead of time to meld flavors and kept everything in the refrigerator. Just before serving, I placed the ice blocks and fruit slices in the punch bowl. I gave the mixture one last stir in the refrigerator pitcher, then poured over the ice. Finally, I added the 2 liter bottle of ginger ale.

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