Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter: I'm in it for the Sweets

Easter celebrations in my home were always fun.  Dressing up, spending a day with family, great meals, and the feeling that Spring was here (even if it was snowing - we do live in Wisconsin after all).  Easter signifies rebirth, or is it chocolate bunnies and jelly beans?  I don't know about you, but I'm in it for the sweets!  My favorite part of any holiday is the food, and Easter is no exception.  Whether it is the delicious glazed ham and cheesy potatoes that graced our dinner table, or Easter baskets filled with candy that spoiled our dinner before we even got to it.

Our baskets were always hidden somewhere in the house.  Much like an Easter egg hunt, we had to search for our baskets to get the goods.  I'm not sure if that was typical for all families, or just ours.  I think my favorite hiding spot was the year I found my basket in the oven.  Thankfully it wasn't on, so all of the chocolate was fully intact.  Our baskets were always overfilled with hard boiled eggs, a couple of toys or games, candy and other sweet treats.  This year, even though I don't have any baskets to fill, I thought it would be fun to make my own treats.  I made macaroon bird nests using an Ina Garten macaroon recipe and Cadbury mini eggs, homemade marshmallows, and chocolate covered peanut butter eggs. 

Macaroon Bird Nests (printable recipe)
adapted from an Ina Garten recipe

1 14 oz. package shredded coconut
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 lg. egg whites
1/4 tsp. salt
Chocolate egg-shaped candies, jelly beans or similar

In a large bowl, combine coconut, condensed milk and vanilla.  Combine egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Beat at high speed until nearly stiff peaks form.  Gently fold egg whites into coconut mixture.  Scoop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove macaroons from baking sheet and top with candies, pressing to adhere them to the macaroon.

Homemade Marshmallows (printable recipe)

3 packets unflavored gelatin
1/2 c. cold water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla

Grease a 9x13 pan and dust generously with powdered sugar.

Combine gelatin and cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Let the gelatin and water sit while you prepare the syrup mixture.

In a medium sauce pan, heat sugar, corn syrup, salt and water over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.  When sugar has dissolved, turn the heat to high and cook until the mixture has reached soft-ball stage on a candy thermometer.

Add the syrup mixture to the to gelatin and turn mixer on at low speed.  Add vanilla, then turn speed to high.  Mix on high speed for 15 minutes, then transfer to the prepared 9x13 pan, spreading marshmallow so it is in an even layer.  Dust top of marshmallow with additional powdered sugar.  Let the pan sit on the counter overnight to allow the marshmallow to set.  Remove marshmallow from pan and cut into cubes.  Roll in additional powdered sugar or colored sanding sugar.

Peanut Butter Eggs (printable recipe)

I wish I had graham crackers in the pantry when I made these.  The addition of graham cracker crumbs would have made the peanut butter mixture easier to work with.  Without the crumbs, the filling of these chocolate covered peanut butter eggs is much lighter and fluffier than what you would find in a store-bought peanut butter cup.  I could have just added powdered sugar until the proper consistency was achieved, but I didn't want the end product to be overly sweet.  Graham crackers would have given me the proper consistency, without adding a lot of extra sweetness.

1 c. smooth peanut butter
1 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs, optional (see note above)
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

Combine peanut butter, powdered sugar, butter and graham cracker crumbs in a large bowl.  Beat with electric mixer until ingredients are well-mixed.  Add a few more graham cracker crumbs or powdered sugar to get the consistency and flavor you desire.

Refrigerate or freeze the mixture until it is firm enough to work with.  Using a cookie scoop to make sure the end products are similarly sized, form the mixture into egg shapes and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet that will fit in your freezer.  The number of eggs you get will depend on how big you make them.  I used a slightly over sized scoop and got 2 1/2 dozen.  Freeze the peanut butter eggs for about 10 minutes before dipping in chocolate.  This will make the chocolate set up faster and will keep the filling firm enough to handle once it hits the warm chocolate.

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmm.....those macaroons were delicious!! I once found an Easter egg in the microwave. Although, the Easter eggs my mom hid were the plastic ones filled with candies.