This is a (fairly) traditional Simnel cake with the addition of pretty crystallized flowers. These cakes were traditionally made by girls working in service and they took them home to their mother’s on Mothers day. It was probably the one day in the year they could go and see their family so it must have been very special. The cakes were topped with 11 marzipan balls to represent the true disciples and I have added the pretty frosted flowers. I’ve managed to ‘convert’ many ‘marzipan haters’ to homemade marzipan so give it a go, it has a much more nutty taste without the chemical aftertaste of the marzipan flavourings used in bought varieties. If you want to use it for an Easter Cake instead of a Simnel Cake just leave off the marzipan balls and decorate with the crystallised flowers, fresh flowers or little eggs and chicks and finish it off with a ribbon.
NB re-reference to washing dried fruit -it used to be what you had to do years ago (and perhaps some ‘proper’ bakers still do). I remember seeing all the dirt & sludge that came off the fruit nowadays the fruit is of better quality….and then there were the trays of the fruit drying before it could be used (so it didn’t all sink to the bottom). The soaking did plump up the fruit, I suppose that the farthest I would go down this line, nowadays is to soak the fruit in brandy or whisky. She would also cut up each sultana with scissors so that the fruit was also of equal size. Apologies for my shortcomings mum x
Here is a extra special creamy fish pie for Easter an ooh and aah moment at your Easter celebrations. Everyone loves a pie and because they take a bit of extra time to make we don’t make them so often hence the oohs and aaahs. This one is extra special with leeks, smoked fish, prawns and eggs.
Making a white sauce:
It is so simple to make a white sauce using the microwave method and much easier to get rid of lumps. Add some extra butter at the end and I can’t really tell the difference. If you don’t agree I have included the instructions to make it with a roux ie melting butter, stirring in the flour and then whisking in the hot milk. It seems a palaver to me but I guess it isn’t if you are used to doing it this way and take a hard line on the ‘right’ way to do things!
If you want to make it ahead of time just cool it quickly and open freeze. When it is frozen you can protect it with a freezer bag. To eat the pie take it out of the freezer in plenty of time for it to defrost and then cook as before.
I’m having a large family gathering this year so I’ll be making this ahead of time to leave lots of time for chocolate Easter egg eating. Got to get your priorities sorted after all.
I am a traditional girl at heart and Hot Cross Buns-made just once every year-are an Easter treat. I love the smell of them baking not to mention eating them straight from the oven smothered with butter or toasted later on. A good Hot Cross Bun should have a good volume and texture somewhere between a bread roll and fruit loaf. It should be nice and fruity, with a hint of spice, a shiny glaze and a cross on top that doesn’t fall off. I piped on the cross with a small icing bag and a thick paste of flour and water. I seem to recall that many years ago, in school domestic science lessons, we cut pastry into strips and put these into a cross shape on the top-they always fell off before home time and this piping worked much better.
I found this a tricky make starting off with a Paul Hollywood recipe and a Delia Smith recipe plus my own ideas and tips and attempted to combine them all……………….a recipe for disaster if ever there was one! Too much fruit/not enough fruit/too much kneading/not enough kneading/2 rises or 3 rises/dried yeast/easy blend yeast/oven too hot or too cool/too much salt/too little salt and countless other variables. I have to admit one batch went in the bin and couldn’t be redeemed even with toasting and liberal amounts of apricot jam. As to kneading the dough by hand or using an electric mixer with a dough hook it’s a personal choice and you get good results with both. Plus it was good to do as I was decidedly ‘cross’ after the episode with the poor ones
Why knead the dough?
· By kneading you develop the gluten in the flour. The mixture is transformed from a ‘shaggy’ looking mix to a smooth and pliable ball. This will give the bread a better, more even texture. By leaving it to ‘prove’ in a warm place the yeast develops and makes the bread rise to give a lighter end result.
· The technique for kneading is important but it is easily learnt. Use both hands-use the heal of one hand to stretch the dough away from you and then fold it back on its self. Use the other hand to keep turning it and continue stretching, folding and turning for about 8 minutes. The mixture will, quite miraculously, become soft, elastic and smooth. You will need to do this for at least 8 minutes. It is difficult to over knead but stop if it starts to feel heavy.
· It is quite tiring to do and you can use a free standing, electric mixer with a dough hook. These work well. Personally I enjoy the hand kneading, it is quite therapeutic and good exercise for your arms!