Weekend bake: Lavolio Easter egg nest cakes with pineapple, toasted coconut and rum buttercream

When you’re a grown up, Easter just isn’t as much FUN. And a little bit of me hates admitting that. There’s something about being a child and knowing that there’s a time of year when you are legitimately allowed to gorge yourself silly on chocolate with no repercussions (unless you grew up with a dentist for a father like me and had to suffer through the disapproving glances and constant, terrifying threat of egg confiscation). Somewhere along the way though, when you get old enough to have your own money and have thrown off the shackles of the pocket money dictatorship, the anticipation of events like Easter loose their potency.

Which is why you have to find some other way of getting excited about it. And what’s more exciting than a poorly concealed triple pack of Cadbury’s and or Nestle £1.99 egg specials waiting to be discovered in the garden? Actual grown up, decadent Easter treats made for adults whose discerning tummies no longer crave the sugar high that comes from wolfing down four creme eggs and most of a KitKat Chunky egg (you know, the ones that come with those god-awful mugs that invariably end up lurking at the back of an office kitchen cupboard coated in inedible tea stains).

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Grown up little morsels of deliciousness like Lavolio’s mini Easter eggs. Created by former banker Lavinia Davolio, who quit her job to set up a bespoke chocolate company, these sugary bites are made by hand coating roasted almonds in layers of white, dark and hazelnut chocolate before spinning them in a pristine shell of sugar. It’s safe to say that when Bake with Maria, the baking school who taught me all about gluten and sent me on a culinary odyssey to Tuscany, posted me a tin of these eggs and asked me to come up with a cupcake recipe using them for Easter, I was pretty pleased.

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The below recipe is my tropical take on Easter nest cupcakes and is made with adults in mind…which basically means it has a tasty glug of booze in it and a sweet surprise hidden inside each cake. Enjoy!
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Lavolio Easter egg nest cakes with pineapple, toasted coconut and rum buttercream

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Makes 12

Ingredients

125g self raising flour
125g caster sugar
1⁄4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 tbsp coconut milk
Lavolio Easter eggs

For the syrup
2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 ripe pineapple, cored and sliced into chunks
pinch chilli flakes
200ml water

For the buttercream
250g salted butter (you need salt here to offset the sweetness. If you only have unsalted, beat in a good pinch of Maldon sea salt along with the sugar)
250g icing sugar
2 tbsp good rum – I used Bajan Estate Barbadian rum

For the decoration
1/2 ripe pineapple
50g shredded toasted coconut (if you can’t find any, buy some fresh coconut, slice thinly and roast in the oven along with the pineapple)
Lavolio Easter eggs

Method
  • Slice the stalk and leaves from your pineapple and cut off all the hard rind and the ‘eyes’. Halve it horizontally and turn one half into slim slivers using a mandolin slicer – be extra careful here, I nearly lost a thumb to my mandolin when I wasn’t paying attention!
  • Lay the rounds of sliced pineapple onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave to dry out into an oven set to 100 degrees C for around 1-2 hours. Peel the dried pineapple from the parchment and set aside to cool and harden.
  • Put the syrup ingredients into a saucepan along with any leftover pineapple juice from the mandolin and simmer on a low heat until the pineapple chunks have broken down and you’ve got a sticky, sweet reduced syrup – about 20 minutes.
  • Make the cupcakes by creaming together the soft butter and eggs in an electric mixer. Add the coconut milk and beat for a further 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of your mixer and beat for another 30 seconds.
  • Fill cupcake cases 2⁄3 full of the cake mixture and drop one or two mini Lavolio Easter eggs in to each cupcake. Pop into the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake skewer comes out clean. When they are hot out of the oven, spoon a teaspoon of the pineapple syrup over each cake and let it soak in.
  • While the cakes are cooling, make a start on the rum buttercream. Beat together the butter, icing sugar and rum and set aside until your cakes are completely cool.
  • Decorate by smearing over a generous amount of buttercream using a small palette knife (don’t worry about making it smooth – you want your cakes to look a little rustic) and top with two mini Lavolio Easter eggs. Arrange shards of dried pineapple and toasted coconut around the eggs to make a nest.

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Explore the upcoming classes at Bake with Maria’s school here, their private events here, and find out about their annual culinary holiday to Tuscany, here.
Find out where you can locate Lavolio’s chocolate shop, here.
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Weekend bake: Hot cross bun bread & butter pudding

This ridiculously quick and easy bread and butter pudding makes the perfect afternoon tea treat for Easter Sunday.

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It’s ideal for that no man’s land stretch of time on a Sunday when you’ve already reached peak chocolate intake and that roast lunch seems like a distant memory.

I used to hate bread and butter pudding. They served it on fridays at my secondary school in a soggy, glutenous mass and the only thing I used to eat was the burnt piece of crunchy, sugar-covered toast on the top … the gloopy, suspiciously yellow stuff underneath would only ever get a cursory poke with my spoon.

I changed my mind about bread and butter pudding a year or so ago when I ordered it on a whim at Ginger & White. When it arrived, glimpses of golden brown croissant just poking their edges above the wobbly, creamy eggy custard beneath, it was a revelation and I was determined to discover a super-easy way of recreating it at home.

This is the easiest pudding I’ve made in a long, LONG time and it uses one of my favourite Easter treats — delicious hot cross buns. I’m afraid I didn’t make my own buns for this recipe, I shamefully cheated with hot cross buns from Marks & Spencer … although, to be fair, these chubby beauties are so delicious with their chunks of juicy berries and cherries that I’m really not that sorry at all.

This recipe makes just enough for two hungry people, just double or triple the recipe (and the size of your dish) if you have more mouths to feed.

Hot cross bun bread & butter pudding

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Ingredients

2 Berries & Cherries hot cross buns from Marks & Spencer sliced into three slim rounds
175ml double cream and milk mixed together
1 egg, beaten
1 tbs caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
20g salted butter
dusting ground nutmeg
pinch of brown sugar

Method
  • Gently toast your rounds of bun and butter them before layering into an oven proof dish or bowl.
  • Mix the egg, cream and milk mixture, vanilla and caster sugar in a jug and pour over the buns.
  • Dust with nutmeg and sprinkle with the brown sugar before popping into a preheated oven at 175 degrees centigrade for about 25-30 minutes until the pudding has a seductive little wobble and has puffed up to a golden, toasted brown.

Serve with lashings of cream if you’re feeling extra indulgent and try not to count the calories too much — the diet can start after Easter!

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Black & white bark with salted pistachio brittle & edible flowers

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I’ve found, rather tragically, that as you get older the amount of Easter chocolate you are given dwindles.

When I was little there were Easter egg hunts in my grandfather’s vegetable patch and endless aunties and uncles and godparents who seemed determined for me and my brothers to eat our weight in chocolate.

There was even one fateful Easter when my father — convinced that we’d been given too much chocolate for our tiny tummies to handle — hid our eggs to “keep them safe”… he ate them ALL and we’ve never quite forgiven him for it!

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As it’s Good Friday and I’ve got a blissful day off from my new job, I thought it would be nice to create a more grown up chocolaty treat that’s perfect for Easter indulging.

This recipe for bark uses easy-to-make cheats tempered chocolate to give it that satisfyingly brittle snap when you crack into it and is decorated with a mixture of salted pistachio brittle (one of my favourite things to make for a sweet treat) and a scattering of vibrant edible petals that are busting with Spring colour.

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“Tempering chocolate is an essential step for making smooth, glossy, evenly coloured coating for your dipped chocolates. Tempering prevents the dull grayish color and waxy texture that happens when the cocoa fat separates out. Tempered chocolate produces a crisp, satisfying snap when you bite into it.”

If you’re unsure about which flowers you can and can’t eat, have a look at this pretty picture guide I unearthed on Pintrest: Edible-Flowers-Product-Guide-2013 copy Image: http://www.mayesh.com/Blog/tabid/67/EntryId/287/Product-Guide-Edible-Flowers.aspx

Black & white bark with salted pistachio brittle & edible flowers

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Ingredients

25g pistachios
75g caster sugar
A good pinch of sea salt flakes – I love the texture and intensity of Maldon sea salt
200g good quality dark chocolate – I used a bar with 85% cocoa solids for mine
200g white chocolate
Petals from a few brightly coloured edible flowers – I used chrysanthemums for this as they are such a festive riot of colour in rich burgundy, burnt orange and sunshine yellow and they have a distinctive, peppery flavour that cuts through the dense white chocolate

Method
  • Rinse your petals in cold water and blot them dry on kitchen roll.

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  • Weigh out 50g each of the dark and white chocolate and chop very finely with a sharp knife, keeping the chopped shades of chocolate separate so you don’t mix up the colours. These will be the bits of chocolate you use to temper your melted hot chocolate. When added gradually, they’ll bring down the temperature of the chocolate until it turns into a rich, thick, spreadable goo that hardens with a glossy shine.

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  • Make the brittle by heating the caster sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until it turns into a light caramel. Don’t stir it and be careful not to burn it. You can tip the pan from side to side gently to move the sugar around if you think it is caramelising unevenly. When it’s liquid and golden, quickly stir in the pistachios and drop the mix onto a piece of greaseproof paper. When your caramelised nuts have hardened you can bash the mix into chunky shards with a rolling pin.
  • Bring a large saucepan of water up to a simmer and put a mixing bowl over it, taking care that the bottom of the mixing bowl rests above the water and not in it. Drop in your remaining 150g of dark chocolate and leave until it’s completely melted.
  • Take the bowl off the water and wrap the base in a tea towel to keep warm while you begin to add in the dark chocolate shavings, mixing with a spatula at all times to keep the mixture moving – otherwise it will start to set.
  • When the chocolate has all melted, pour it into one half of a lined baking tray. You can use a strip of tin foil to separate the two halves of the tray if you are worried about the two chocolates meeting in the middle.
  • Scatter over the crushed pistachio brittle and the pinch of sea salt and leave in a cool place to set.
  • Repeat the above steps with the white chocolate before covering it in a dusting of the edible flower petals and leaving to set.

DSC_5609 The bark should take a good few hours to harden depending on how thickly you’ve layered on the chocolate. When it’s completely set, just break it into shards and dig in. This is a recipe that I might have to hide from my dad this Easter! DSC_5650