Although we may change the way we celebrate Easter this year, we can still enjoy some great food. One of the special things about any holiday is the brunch that seems to come with it and Easter is no different. The word itself sounds like coziness.
The practice of creating special breads to celebrate holidays, harvests, religious rites and other occasions worldwide, dates back thousands of years. In some cases, breads aren’t symbolic as much as traditional, baked as a reminder of family, togetherness and celebration. They often contain warm spices like cinnamon or cardamom. Some have a touch of liqueur added to them while others are created in special shapes or have little surprises baked in them.
Cardamom may not get the acclaim of cinnamon, nor does it pop up in recipes as often as ginger, but its flavor pairing capabilities are extensive. This is a flavor that you may love or hate, but for me it is very addictive. Warm, subtly spicy, exotically aromatic, a flavor that transforms both sweet and savory recipes into heavenly dishes.
With some simple snipping and shaping, this cardamom sweet dough turns into adorable bunnies for Easter brunch. Edible table décor!
Cardamom Lime Easter 'Bunnies'
In a small bowl, whisk together yeast , 1 tsp sugar & lukewarm milk. Set aside until yeast mixture begins to form a frothy foam, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, remaining sugar & salt. Add yeast mixture, melted butter & egg. Knead until dough comes together in a ball & no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to a greased bowl & cover with a tea towel. Set aside in a draft free place until dough doubles in size, about an 1 hour.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, lime zest, cardamom & butter. Mix well. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter & lime juice. Add powdered sugar & mix until glaze consistency. Set aside until buns are baked.
Assemble & Bake
Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide in half; roll each half into a rectangle about 12x10-inches. Sprinkle filling evenly over one of the rectangles. Place the second sheet of pastry on top. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the pastry & lightly roll with a rolling pin.
With a pizza cutter cut 14 strips. You will use 12 of the strips for 'bunnies' & 2 strips for their tails. To form bunnies, overlap one end of strip over the other to form a loop; bring the end that's underneath up over the top end, letting one end extend on each side to make ears.
Place the shaped 'bunnies' on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 2-3-inches between them as they will expand a bit. Cut each of the remaining strips into 6 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball & place it in the loop to form the tail. Loosely cover the 'bunnies' & let them rise for about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush bunnies with egg wash & bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack.
While still slightly warm, brush bunnies with glaze. Sprinkle with lime zest & top tails with whites candies.
- If you prefer your bunnies to be a bit more plump, instead of making 12, just make 8 or 10.
Pairing chocolate and cream cheese has long been a favorite of bakeries. Brownies come in a variety of forms and may be either fudgy or cakey, depending on their density.
Arguably, one of North America’s major contributions to the dessert world, the first printed mention of them appeared in the Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalog of 1897, advertising ‘fancy crackers, biscuits, cakes, brownies …. in 1 LB. papers’.
Brownies were widely baked in the 1920’s and by 1931, the first edition of The Joy of Cooking included a recipe for ‘fudge squares’.
There are literally hundreds of types of brownies as well as ways to eat them. Cut them up to make parfaits or add a dollop of whipped cream, berries or a sprinkle of dried fruit and nuts or maybe some ice cream.
My choice today are some blueberry cream cheese brownies that consist of four layers. With the use of the Lor Ann Company’s blueberry emulsion, that wonderful blueberry flavor is intensified. These are brownies at their best!
Blueberry Cream Cheese Brownies
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine all oatmeal layer ingredients until crumbly. Pat into prepared pan & bake for about 8 minutes.
In a bowl, beat cream cheese & sugar until fluffy. Add egg; beat well then add milk & blueberry emulsion & combine well. Set aside in refrigerator until chocolate batter is prepared.
In a microwave safe dish, carefully melt chocolate then add butter. Stir until combined & slightly cool; add beaten egg & sugar. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Add to chocolate mixture alternately with combined milk & vanilla. Fold in walnuts. Carefully spread batter over baked oatmeal crust.
Pour cheesecake filling over chocolate layer & carefully smooth out. Bake 20-25 minutes or until chocolate & cheesecake batters test done. Remove from oven & cool on wire cooling rack.
In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar & salt. Add water & blueberries; cook until clear & bubbling. Remove from heat; add lemon zest (if using) & blueberry emulsion. Stir & allow to cool.
When brownies are cooled cut into serving size pieces. Spoon blueberry topping over brownie cheesecake & serve.
- Don't hesitate to add a bit more Blueberry Emulsion for a stronger flavor if you wish.
- Just for fun, I made some of the brownies as individuals to see what they would look like.
More than ever, our souls need Valentines Day right now. It’s time to embrace the challenge and think outside of the box on how to create something special for the occasion. Since February 14th falls on a Sunday this year and the pandemic keeping many celebrations at home, its the perfect excuse to enjoy a brunch with a grilled cheese …. ‘angel food grilled cheese‘ that is!!
When most people think of grilled cheese they imagine a savory, cheesy sandwich served over lunch, but have you ever tried a sweet grilled cheese? Is it dessert? Is it breakfast? It really doesn’t matter.
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut with that cheddar on white bread thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that there’s so much more cheesy goodness out there to be melted. Grilled cheese ideas only continue to evolve.
Obviously, a good cheese is the key to grilled cheese success, but the truth is, you can never really go wrong. Its your personal preference that really matters.
The tone is set for a great grilled cheese with the first slice of bread or in this case, loaf of angel food cake. Lime flavored cream cheese gets melty and gooey spread between the cake slices. Its the perky part of the sandwich that adds something unexpected.
If strawberries aren’t your thing, try raspberries, blueberries, mango or even kiwi and if you prefer a sturdier outside, use a sweetened brioche or challah bread. Whatever works for you!
Brion absolutely L-O-V-E-S angel food so for me the choice was clear. The fact that the ‘grilled cheese’ is not overly sweet made it a real nice brunch item for us.
Angel Food 'Grilled Cheese'
Angel Food Cake (Yield = (8) 1-inch thick slices)
Angel Food Cake
Preheat oven to 325 F. Have a 9-inch loaf pan available. Do not line or grease the pan in any way.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, flour & cornstarch. Set aside.
In another bowl, add egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar & salt. With a hand mixer on medium speed, beat until foamy, about 30 seconds. Slowly stream in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Continue to beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.
Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, gently FOLDING them into the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Repeat with remaining flour mixture in two increments. FOLD EVERYTHING TOGETHER GENTLY so egg whites do not become deflated in the process.
Pour batter into the loaf pan. Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet & bake for 35-40 minutes. When cake is baked it should not be sticky to the touch.
Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately turn it upside down & invert it over two cans. The cake needs to cool upside down so it doesn't deflate. Allow it to cool for at least an hour.
In a small saucepan over low heat, add sliced strawberries, sugar, lemon juice & cornstarch. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, & cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat.
Lime Cream Cheese Spread
In a small dish, beat together cream cheese, lime juice & powdered sugar until smooth & creamy.
Grilled Cheese Assembly
Slice angel food loaf into 8-inch slices. In a shallow container, whisk together 2 cups milk or half & half, 2 eggs & 1/4 tsp cinnamon.
Soak cake slices in milk/egg mixture for a couple of minutes, then cook on a griddle (or skillet) like you would with French toast. When the slices are golden on both sides, divide cream cheese spread between four of the slices. When cheese is warm & melted, top each with one of the remaining four slices.
Place on four serving plates & top with strawberry sauce. Serve warm.
I never fail to get drawn in by the sight of fresh persimmons at the grocery store. Not only do they have a wonderful flavor but you can use them in so many ways.
Their strangely tropical characteristics pair nicely with many spices, such as cinnamon and cardamom. With a little imagination, cakes, cookies, pies and even some ‘persimmon brioche’ can be made from the persimmon fruit.
In reading about this fruit, I came upon some interesting weather folklore. I’m unsure if its true or not, but it said you can predict winter weather with a persimmon seed.
The first thing was to find a locally grown persimmon, which of course, is not possible for us in our location. You wait to pick and cut into the persimmon after it gets a bit soft … almost mushy. Then you open the fruit and cut open the seed.
Look at the shape of the kernel inside:
- If the kernel is spoon-shaped, expect plenty of snow to shovel.
- If it is fork-shaped, plan on a mild winter with powdery, light snow.
- If the kernel is knife-shaped, expect fridgid winds that will ‘cut’ like a blade.
Persimmon & Almond Brioche Buns
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add milk & heat until lukewarm, but not hot. Stir in yeast. Allow yeast mixture to proof for about 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar & salt; add both eggs & combine. Add the yeast/milk/butter mixture. Continue to mix until the dough forms a ball & there is no dough sticking to the sides of the bowl.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead well until dough is smooth (about 10 minutes). Form dough into a ball. Grease mixing bowl with butter. Place dough in the bowl, cover & allow to rise until its roughly doubled in size (about 1 hour).
Peel, halve & slice persimmons into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place in a shallow dish with sugar & cardamom; toss gently to evenly coat slices. Set aside.
Cream Cheese Filling
In a bowl, whisk together softened cream cheese with milk. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, beating until mixture is smooth. Add lemon juice & set aside.
Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface & punch down. Divide it into 12 equal parts. Roll the dough balls into discs 4-5-inches in diameter & about 1/4-inch thick. Place the discs onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a buttered piece of plastic wrap. & allow the dough to rise again in a draft-free place for about 25 minutes.
When dough has risen, using your fingers, press the center of each disc down, leaving about a 1/2-inch rim. If necessary, you can dip your fingers in egg wash to keep the dough from sticking during this process.
Assembly & Baking
Spread about a teaspoon of the cream cheese filling in a thin layer in the depression of each disc. Press some persimmon slices in the center over the cream cheese. Brush the outer edges of the discs with egg wash mixture. Place buns in the oven & bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & transfer to a wire rack, keeping them on the parchment paper.
Combine the apricot jam & warm water. Microwave to thin the jam to a liquid consistency. Brush buns LIGHTLY with glaze & garnish with almond slices & pearl sugar.
We are now officially into fall, so its time to think in terms of a bit of pumpkin. I had not considered pumpkin as part of a sandwich cookie before, but oatmeal with pumpkin and cream cheese makes good sense to me. There’s more to oatmeal cookies than the recipe on the Quaker Oats box. In fact there’s a lot of amazing combinations out there but first a bit of food history.
Oatmeal cookies evolved from oatcakes, a type of plain flatbread made centuries ago by the British and the Scots. Raisins and nuts were added to the mix somewhere around the Middle Ages to make them tastier. When oatmeal cookies became elevated to the ranks of ‘health food’, a recipe for them appeared on containers of Quaker Oats. These recipes were circulated widely and oatmeal cookies were soon common in households throughout North America.
An important part of these cookies lies in the spices. Rather than using a pre-made ‘pumpkin pie spice’, I like to give them a personal touch by using my own combination. This way, you can control the flavor better. Feel free to adjust the spice mix to suit your taste or just simply go with cinnamon.
Oatmeal Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies
In a small bowl, whisk together spice mix combination from recipe notes & set aside.
In a bowl, beat together cream cheese & butter until smooth. Add in pumpkin & mix until fully incorporated. Add remaining spice mixture & powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, allowing each prior amount to fully mix into the filling before adding more.
Spread or pipe filling on half of the cooled cookies & top with remaining cookies. This recipe makes 5 dozen filled cookies so you may want to freeze some.
- Spice Mixture Recipe (2 1/8 tsp):
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp EACH nutmeg & cloves
- 1/8 tsp EACH ginger, cardamom & white pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground star anise