Easter baking

MAG_3268MAG_3257MAG_3241MAG_3251MAG_3094MAG_3133Easter is almost here, although it does not feel like it, cold and snowy brrr.  On those wintery spring days baking feels even more comforting.  My easter baking has a little french influence, fresh and zingy lemon tart with italian meringue, also very traditional simnel cake.

I must say I love a good tart, lemon tart is one of my favourite, perfect pud after rich dinner.  I topped mine on this occasion with Italian meringue for an extra indulgent version, but to be honest you would be more than happy making it without, if you short on time.  Pastry needs blind baking but don’t be put off by this, results are well worth it.

Shortcrust pastry

8oz plain flour

4oz unsalted butter (room temp)

1 1/2oz castor sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp cold water

To make a pastry, measure flour into large bowl, add the diced butter and rub in with your fingertips until resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add egg, sugar and water and bring the mixture to a dough.  Do not over work pastry, knead it lightly.  Wrap it in clingfilm and chill it for about 30 min.

Preheat oven to 160 C, butter 25cm loose bottomed tart baking tin.  Roll out the pastry and line your baking tin, overlapping the edges.  Cover with baking parchment and fill it with baking beans, you don’t have have to buy those “special” ceramic baking beans unless you want to.  You can use rice or even small pebbles from your garden, the point is to weigh pastry down and prevent it from puffing up.  Bake it for about 35 min.  After 25min, remove baking beans and leave it for another 10 min until pastry at the base has dried out.  Good tip is to brush the pastry with a beaten egg which seals any cracks.

Lemon tart filling

4 eggs

4fl oz of double cream

4oz of caster sugar

2 lemons juice and zest

This is you lemon custard, quantity of sugar and lemon are to your taste, if you like it really sharp add more lemon, if you are baking it with children in mind make it sweeter.  The point I am trying to make, keep the eggs and cream ratio the same and customise your lemon part, ok remember if you go really crazy on lemon  add one more egg as well to hold it together. Beat all the ingredients together.  Pour it into your baked pastry case and bake for 25/30 min at 160 C. until set.  I always cut mine overlapping pastry edges after baking whole of the tart just to make sure that lemon custard does not spill into tart edges.

Italian meringue

3 egg whites

180g of caster sugar

Pour 50ml of water into saucepan, set over a medium heat, bring it to the boil and stir the sugar helping to dissolve it.  Place the sugar thermometer in the boiling sugar until it reaches 110 C.  Keeping the eye on the syrup, beat the egg whites until they hold peaks.  Stop cooking the syrup the moment it reaches 120C. Set it aside for a minute and then pour the syrup slowly on to the beaten egg whites whisking slowly until very firm.  Place it into piping bag or just spoon it on the top of the tart.  For an extra effect place it quickly under the grill to brown it slowly or use one of those amazing diy gas blowtorches if you have one.  Do not despair if you don’t have sugar thermometer, as I was making my tart I could not find mine and decided to do it without.  I made sure I boiled my sugar syrup until it became kind of runny honey consistency and it worked!

Simnel cake

Traditional  Easter cake toped with marzipan, the marzipan eggs on the top meant to symbolise apostles (should be 11 not including Judas…oops mine was a small gathering).

4 oz glace cherries

8oz unsalted butter (softened)

8 oz light muscovado sugar (you could use caster)

4 large eggs

8oz self raising flour

8 oz sultanas

4oz currants

2oz chopped candied peel

grated rind of lemon or orange

2 tsp of ground mixed spice

Line the base of 20cm cake tin and preheat oven to 140C.  Blend butter and sugar add eggs, mix well and then add the rest of the ingredients.  spoon mixture into your baking tin and bake for about 1hr 10 min until the top of the cake is firm to touch (check it after 45 min and cover the top with baking parchment if it is browning too quickly).  When the cake is cool brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam and place marzipan circle on the top.  Crimped the edges and decorate it with marzipan eggs.

You can buy your marzipan or make it quickly, it is easy

8oz ground almonds

8oz caster sugar

8oz sifted icing sugar

2 large eggs

almond essence about 1/2 tsp

Mix it all together and knead it to form a paste.






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