Hot Cross Scones {with rum soaked dates and toasted pecans}

Come Easter, I yearn for all the delicious delights from both my childhood, and my travels. Whilst (see how I did that?) living in London, the hot cross bun craze eluded me. I participated, but was never that enthusiastic about the taste. They however, are fun to make, and do signal the last days of the Lenten season…which is joy in and of itself. In the tradition of Good Friday must eats (if you are not fasting today), I give you Hot Cross Scones. Instead of raisins, they have rum soaked dates and toasted pecans. You’re welcome.

These, like hot cross buns, are meant to be shared “Half for you and half for me, between us two goodwill shall be” While the “diddy” intimates sharing a single bun, this recipe makes about a dozen scones. I don’t think anyone would balk at the notion that 6 a piece is fair share.

Hot Cross Scones {with dates and pecans}
for the scones
1/2 cup dried dates: chopped into raisin size pieces
1/2 cup spiced rum
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
4 Tsp baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp kosher salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter–cold and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup toasted pecans–chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream–cold
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

for the icing
1/3 cup powdered sugar
pinch ground ginger
1 tsp +/- heavy cream

to make scones
Heat the spiced rum over low heat, and pour over the chopped dates. Let sit for no less than 10 minutes and up to an hour. Drain well. In a large bowl whisk together the whole wheat and all purpose flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Using a pastry cutter, or your hands cut the butter into the flour mixture. Do not overwork. Toss the drained dates and pecans in. Give them a quick stir to coat with flour. Whisk the cream, egg and vanilla together and add all at once to the flour mixture. Using your hands gently mix together. When the dough has just come together, place onto a lightly floured surface and shape, by hand or with a roller, into a 3/4″ round. sprinkle a bit of flour on top, if sticky, and cut out with 3″ round cutter. Place on lined sheet pan. Using the back of a knife, swept in flour, make a cross indentation in the top. Brush with egg wash or the remains of your egg/cream mixture. Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes. Ice when cooled.

to make the icing
Place powdered sugar in a small bowl, whisk in ground ginger. Add cream 1 tsp at a time until the mixture is thin enough to pipe, but not too thin. You don’t want a runny icing. Pipe with a pastry bag.

Sweet Eggs

Come spring we bring it outside. Entertaining is a bit more relaxed and food becomes a bit less fussy, perhaps a tad more whimsical. Certainly, more seasonally driven. We keep chickens, ducks and geese; which means a generous supply of eggs. When putting together a weekend brunch, I love to serve sweet eggs. Very simple, and darling on display, these eggs are filled with vanilla yogurt and lemon curd.

Sweet Eggs

egg cups
emptied and cleaned goose, duck or extra large chicken eggs
-using an egg topper is by far the easiest way to get those perfect edges.
-while the eggs are uncooked, take the top off. separate the whites and the yolks as you empty the shell. use the yolks for your curd, the whites for another delicious recipe.
-you must be gentle when washing the shells, but you must be very thorough in the washing. there may be a layer of membrane attached to the interior of the shell. make sure you get that completely out. it comes out easier when you run water through it. once the membrane is cleared, use a good soap and hot water to get it completely cleaned out. let them air dry with good air-flow.
-you can either set the eggs in egg cups, or use the top inverted and glued to the bottom of the egg to create a stand. you may also just want to place in a small bowl, or in a large bowl on top of artificial grass (or if you have access, hay or straw)

plain or vanilla yogurt
vanilla extract-optional
brown or granulated sugar -optional
if you are using plain yogurt and wish to sweeten it up a bit (i recommend doing so, particularly if you have a nice tart lemon curd), add just a touch of sweetness with your sweetener of choice. i like brown sugar because it takes very little and adds a bit of a caramel flavor to the yogurt. start with 1 tsp per 2 cups and add more to taste. the same with the vanilla.

lemon curd
your favorite lemon curd recipe
-martha has a nice one HERE
-make the lemon curd as directed and let cool completely

to assemble
Place the yogurt and lemon curd in separate decorating bags (alternatively you can use a small spoon). layer directly into the shell starting with the yogurt. fill the shell approximately 1/3 full with the yogurt. add a thin (max 1/4″) layer of lemon curd. add more yogurt to almost reach the top of the shell, and top with more curd, placed to resemble an egg yolk.
serve with demi-tasse spoons.

you may also add gingersnap crumbles or graham cracker crumbles to the bottom for additional flavor and a bit of crunch. serving with a bit of granola is a nice compliment.

for something really fun, fashion sugar cookies into “toast soldiers” and pop them right in to look like a soft boiled egg and toast.

Carrot Cake

I really like carrots. I like them raw dipped in a bit of sea salt, honey roasted with onion dip, and deep fat fried loaded into a feedbag. All good. But, best of all? Baked in cake

Carrot Cake
this recipe comes from my culinary school notebook, it is not my own–except the decor..that is all me

4 large eggs–room temperature
6 oz vegetable oil
14 oz granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
9 oz flour
1 Tbs cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 lb carrots–peeled and grated
2 1/2 oz walnuts-toasted and roughly chopped
Whisk together sugar, salt, flour, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment whisk together the eggs and oil until the eggs are thick and pale yellow (about 10 minutes). Mix in the dry ingredients, just to fully incorporate. Fold in carrots and walnuts. Split evenly into 2 prepared* 9″ cake pans. Bake at 325 for approximately 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Preparing cake pans includes spraying with pan spray and lining the bottom with parchment paper
allow to cool and split each cake round into 2 layers. Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting** Decorate with marzipan carrots.

Cream Cheese Frosting
i’m not opposed to sharing my cream cheese frosting recipe, but truth be told…i don’t measure
1 part unsalted butter to 2 parts cream cheese, a pinch of salt a bit of vanilla and enough powdered sugar to reach your desired sweetness. Use the paddle attachment of a mixer and beat until creamy.

Chocolate Easter Eggs with a Surprise

I have always loved those giant chocolate eggs from Italy. This time of year they line the shelves of my local Italian market. Large and hollow, a handful of small candies tossed in the cavernous hole, and wrapped in bright mylar paper. Easter basket ready. The real joy is breaking through the chocolate shell to see what goodies lay within. This year, i am giving the Easter Bunny a helping hand. Extra special chocolate filled with toys and jewels; hand chosen for each recipient.
Imagine the joy and surprise when these beautiful eggs are cracked open.
tumbling out
A happy easter indeed.
If you want more details on how to make these leave a comment or drop me a line at sixtyacrebaker(at)gmail(dot)com

you can fill the eggs with anything edible and non.

Sno-Eggs {Hostess Knock Off}

My mom was an, eat a piece of fruit if your hungry kind of mom. Cakes, cookies and pastries were for special occasions. After dinner, a bowl of fruit, platter of nuts and maybe a hunk of cheese would be placed in the middle of the table. We would solve the world’s problems while the coffee brewed. If I wanted a store bought, cream filled delight, I had to eat at a friend’s house. I have still never tasted an actual hostess snowball. But I get the gist. When I found a fabulous vintage cake pan, with rows of hand-size eggs, at a local shop, I couldn’t wait to make cakes. Cakes with creamy filling, robed in sticky marshmallow, and covered with dreamy pastel-painted coconut.

Marshmallow Cakes
makes approximately 18

Devil’s Food Cake
3 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped
1 1/2 cups hot coffee or hot water or mixture of the two (i use espresso with water)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 extra large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream + 1/2 cup milk or 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
Melt bittersweet chocolate in hot water/coffee. Sift dry ingredients together (including sugar). Mix together the chocolate/coffee mixture, milk, sour cream and vanilla. In a mixer beat the eggs with the oil until thickened and doubled in volume (about 3-5 minutes). Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients to the mixer, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated. Butter, or spray cake pan and dust with cocoa powder. Fill to 3/4 full and bake in 350 oven until tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

Cream Filling
1 cup milk
5 Tbs flour
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup shortening–room temperature
3/4 cup unsalted butter–room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
Over low heat, cook milk and flour in a saucepan until it makes a thick paste. Use a whisk to break up lumps. Let cool. In mixer using whisk attachment, beat shortening, butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add in cooled flour paste and whip until light and fluffy. Add more sugar if you want a sweeter taste.

Marshmallow Topping
3/8 oz (1 1/2 pks) unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg whites
Put sugar in a saucepan. Add enough water to make a mixture that looks and feels like wet sand. What is most important is that all sugar has the same amount of moisture. place over low heat. Cook until it becomes a sugar syrup of 235-240 degrees. It should have the consistency of corn syrup. Meanwhile…place room temperature egg white into the bowl of your mixer. Add the salt . Also, prepare gelatin. Place 1/4 cup water in a bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water. Let bloom.
Once the sugar syrup is ready, turn off heat and let sit for a couple of minutes…not too long. Start your mixer on low and get the whites to foamy. Mix the gelatin into the sugar syrup and stir until melted completely. Bring the saucepan over to the mixer and turn it to high. Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the bowl, careful not to hit the whisk attachment. Leave on high and mix until the mixture is warm, but full volume and comes to a peak. While it is still warm, pour over your cake(s)
Do not make your marshmallow until you are ready for it. marshmallow sets up quite fast, if possible get someone to help you, this will help it go both smoothly and quickly.

Colored Coconut
Simply take about a cup of sweetened flake coconut and place it in a ziploc bag. Drop in 2-3 drops of food color and close the bag. Massage with your hands until all coconut has a bit of color in it. Set aside until you are ready to use. Do not make your marshmallow until you are ready for it. marshmallow sets up quite fast, if possible get someone to help you, this will help it go both smoothly and quickly.
when you are ready, arrange your filled cakes on parchment paper in groupings of what color you will be topping them with

To Assemble
Using a pastry bag with a “fill” tip, squeeze about 2 Tbs of cream into the center of the cake through the large end of the egg. When you are ready, arrange your filled cakes on parchment paper in groupings of what color you will be topping them with. Make your marshmallow topping. While the marshmallow topping is still slightly warm, but is perfectly fluffed, stop whipping. Immediately begin topping your marshmallows, simply by pouring a bit of marshmallow on top. If you are doing this alone, stop after every two or three and generously sprinkle the coconut on top and sides. If you have a helper, allow them to immediately follow you with the coconut. Your marshmallow will set up within 5 or so minutes. Don’t panic, just be aware.

I think these would be just darling wrapped and hidden in the garden for a truly joyous easter egg hunt

marshmallow egg10