Hop into Easter Baking

31 Mar

Good news! Spring has sprung, the birds are chirping, the grass is growing, and one of the first holidays of the Spring season is upon us. Rooted in tradition and beliefs, Easter can be celebrated for many reasons, but one thing that remains universal is that it is a time to bake. What’s more satisfying than offering your guests treats that you’ve lovingly prepared yourself?

Have you ever wondered why bunny rabbits and eggs are among the symbols associated with Easter? Eggs are decorated and given as a symbol of life.  The rabbit is the symbol for rebirth and the moon, and holds a double meaning for Easter as the dates of Easter move each year according to the lunar and solar cycles.  The Easter Holiday may move around, but it is always on a Sunday giving you plenty of time over the weekend to decorate and hide Easter eggs and do some baking.

“Easter baking is traditionally associated with different types of breads, desserts or pastries,” says Marcus Mariathas, master baker, at ACE Bakery in Toronto, Canada. “Families like to bake sweeter and denser treats for this occasion like muffins, cakes, or biscuits.”

Whether you’re baking for brunch, lunch, or dinner, these recipes will tie in nicely as part of your Easter feast. Serve Angel Muffins at your Easter brunch. The Cornmeal Drop Biscuits are an excellent accompaniment to lunch. And let’s not forget about dessert! The Apple and Orange Walnut Cake is sure to delight your guests.

ACE Bakery - Angel Muffins

Apple and Orange Walnut Cake with Orange Calvados Glaze or Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup fine sugar
1⅓ cups very fine dried breadcrumbs
1 cup ground walnuts, approximately 2 cups walnut halves
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ cup cubed, cold unsalted butter
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1 peeled and coarsely grated Granny Smith apple, about 1 scant cup
6 egg whites

Breadcrumbs and ground walnuts take the place of flour in this moist, dense confection. The grated apple helps the cake to stay fresh for 4 to 5 days. You’ve got two ideas for topping – an Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, sure to please the kids in the group, and an Orange Calvados Glaze. The cake is also very good served plain with just a dusting of icing sugar.

Makes one (8½-inch) cake

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
6 Tbsp. softened unsalted butter
½ lb. cream cheese, cut into ½- to 1-inch chunks
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. grated orange zest
pinch kosher salt
1 cup icing sugar 

Orange Calvados Glaze
½ cup icing sugar
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2½ tsp. Calvados liqueur

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease an 8- to 9-inch springform pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Put parchment paper in the pan and grease it as well.

Place the sugar, breadcrumbs, ground walnuts and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to combine.

Add the cubed butter to the breadcrumb mixture and continue pulsing until the mixture is well-combined and has the consistency of moist brown sugar.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the orange zest and the apple.

In a separate large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until very stiff peaks form.

Fold 1 cup of the beaten egg whites into the breadcrumb mixture to lighten it up. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites in two additions.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a skewer, inserted into the middle of the cake, comes out glistening but clean.

Remove from the oven onto a cooling rack and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and remove the sides. Let the cake finish cooling before removing the bottom of the pan and parchment paper. Transfer to a serving plate. Frost with the icing or drizzle with 3 to 4 Tbsp. of the warm glaze.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream the butter with an electric mixer or standing mixer in a mixing bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the cream cheese, vanilla, orange zest and salt; continue mixing until just combined. Gently mix in half the icing sugar and, when just combined, mix in the remaining half. Spread over the sides and top of the cooled cake and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Orange Calvados Glaze
Spoon the sugar into a small mixing bowl and whisk in the two juices and Calvados liqueur. Transfer to a saucepan and quickly bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and spoon over the cake while still hot; discard any remaining glaze.

ACE Bakery Tip:
1. Grind the walnuts with ¼ cup of the 1 cup of sugar called for in the recipe. The ground nuts will stay fluffy and not disintegrate into a paste.

2. Once you have opened a package of shelled walnuts, wrap what you haven’t used and store in the refrigerator or freezer. Walnuts will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months and in the freezer for almost a year.

©This recipe is from the More from ACE Bakery cookbook by Linda Haynes.

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