Chocolate Easter Nests

I’ve been so in love with this idea since I first saw it two years ago. It has probably already circled the internet a few times, but if you haven’t, by chance, seen it, I would say this might be the one Easter idea that is worth doing, especially if you are short on time. In fact, I am thinking of having these be my kids’ Easter baskets this year–small, simple, beautiful, and ready to fill with a few candies and eggs.

This recipe comes from Alice Medrich, who I think is incredible, and I originally saw it on Food52. I used to do a lot of candy making at Easter–caramel and peanut butter eggs, molded chocolates, homemade Peep-type things, but now I really just do this and some breads. It’s the right amount. And again, so pretty.

Chocolate Easter Nests

  • 4 ounces (115 grams) dark chocolate or 6 ounces (170 grams) milk chocolate, chopped [I ended up adjusting a little according to the look, too]
  • 4 to 6 cups thin salted pretzel sticks (such as Snyder’s of Hanover)
  • Equipment: Two-quart stainless steel bowl to use as a mold
  1. To prepare the mold, press a sheet of plastic wrap across the bottom and up the sides of the bowl, as smoothly as possible and with as few air bubbles as possible, letting the ends hang over the bowl. If necessary, press another sheet into the bowl crosswise to cover any bare sides of the bowl. Tip: If you wipe the bowl with a damp sponge or cloth, it will help to adhere the plastic a little better, but be sure that chocolate never comes in contact with a moist surface. And no, foil is not better for lining the mold!
  2. Put the chocolate in another (clean, dry) medium stainless steel bowl. Bring about an inch of water to a simmer in a wide skillet. For dark chocolate, set the bowl directly in the water and adjust the heat so that the water is not quite simmering. For milk chocolate, turn the heat off under the skillet and wait 60 seconds before setting the bowl of chocolate in the water. [If you’re familiar with melting chocolate in the microwave, it’s also very doable and easy. Just microwave only in 30 second segments, stirring between each turn. It doesn’t take long and requires attention not to scorch, but it can be easier.]
  3. Stir the chocolate frequently with a clean, dry spatula until the it’s melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the water and let the chocolate cool to lukewarm, (about 90° F–this will temper the chocolate relatively well, too, so you don’t have white streaks). Pour about 4 cups of the pretzels into the chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to turn the pretzels gently in the chocolate until they are completely coated; add more pretzels if you can, as long as you can get them coated. It’s okay if some of the pretzel shows through the chocolate, but they should be coated and the chocolate should still be sticky. Continue to turn the chocolate-coated pretzels in the bowl until the chocolate seems a little thicker and cooler, but not yet starting to set.
  4. Use your fingers to arrange the pretzels in the bottom and up the sides of the lined mold.
  5. Refrigerate to set the chocolate. To unmold, lift the plastic liner out of the bowl. Set the basket down on a serving platter and peel the plastic gently away from the pretzels. Serve filled with chocolate truffles, stemmed strawberries, or other treats.

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Bun

I know it’s past Easter, but I’m sure I’ll forget which recipe I liked so much if I wait until next year to think about these great rolls we made this year. Plus, I need to share this with a few friends! This bake was inspired by an early morning lament of my good friend that Easter just wasn’t right without Hot Cross Buns. I wholeheartedly agreed, having never had one before, but seeing them many times in some of my favorite Italian bakeries in Rhode Island.  Besides, I love the idea of metaphor and meaning in our food, especially around holy times of the year. Well, at least metaphors that my husband and I can enjoy. This is a great recipe from King Arthur Flour, although I did change things just a little. Can’t wait to bring them out of the oven again next year!

Hot Cross Buns

  • 1/4 c. apple juice
  • 1/2 c. golden raisins
  • 1/4 c. dried currants
  • 1/4 c. candied orange peel (or another 1/4 c. currants or other dried fruit)
  • 1 1/4 c. milk, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, 1 separated
  • 6 T. butter, room temperature
  • 2 t. instant yeast
  • 1/4 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/4 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 t. salt
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 4 1/2 c.  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

topping

  • 1 large egg white, reserved from above
  • 1 T. milk

icing [Instead, I used Cream Cheese frosting. Perfect!]

  • 1 c. + 2 T. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 t. milk, or enough to make a thick, pipeable icing

Lightly grease a 10″ square pan or 9″ x 13″ pan.

Mix the apple juice with the dried fruit and raisins, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave briefly, just till the fruit and liquid are very warm, and the plastic starts to “shrink wrap” itself over the top of the bowl. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Note: If you worry about using plastic wrap in your microwave, simply cover the bowl with a glass lid.

When the fruit is cool, mix together all of the dough ingredients except the fruit, and knead, using an electric mixer or bread machine, till the dough is soft and elastic. Mix in the fruit and any liquid not absorbed.

Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy, though may not double in bulk.

Divide the dough into billiard ball-sized pieces, about 3 3/4 ounces each. A heaped muffin scoop (about 1/3 cup) makes about the right portion. You’ll make 12 to 14 buns. Use your greased hands to round them into balls. Arrange them in the prepared pan.

Cover the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they’ve puffed up and are touching one another. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Whisk together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns.

Bake the buns for 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.

Mix together the icing ingredients, and when the buns are completely cool, pipe it in a cross shape atop each bun.