Something for every bunny:
What do you get when you (hot) cross tradition with new trends? From innovative treats to the flexible Sunday menu, we’ve discovered that the proof is in the hot cross bun pudding, says MEG MASON
From innovative treats to flexible Sunday menus, we’ve got your Easter sorted
Easter has a way of sneaking up on us – we’re barely sure when it falls until we think to google – and perhaps it’s for that reason that this particular holiday offers the opportunity to be more flexible than, say, Christmas.
“There’s a slower pace to Easter,” says chef Hayden Quinn. “It’s such a beautiful time of year to gather people together, without worrying about a million other things. It’s the end of summer, that chill in the air. No matter what Easter means to you, there’s something to celebrate.”
We set about uncovering the latest Easter trends that raise the question: is this our new favourite holiday?
HOT CROSS BUN FUN
“More and more we’re seeing riffs on classic Easter flavours,” says delicious. editor-in-chief Kerrie McCallum. “Especially the hot cross bun, which lends itself to reinterpretation, with its fruity, spicy, almost caramel elements.”
Think a croissant/hot cross bun hybrid from Sydney’s Victoire Boulangerie; buns from Melbourne’s Baker Bleu of sour cherry and chocolate. For the peel-averse, Chez Dre in Melbourne creates a citrus tang with whole pureed oranges. High-street stalwart Max Brenner has tiny one-bite buns ,and Sydney’s Bourke Street Bakery is again making its hot cross loaf.
“We’re purists,” explains Bourke Street’s David McGuinness. “No chocolate, no fancy stuff. We did the loaf purely because we can’t produce enough hot cross buns to meet demand, but it’s still based on that great traditional recipe – peel, fruit, spices – in a yeast risen buttery brioche.”
We’ve even seen hot cross bun gin from London-based Gin Tales, while Koko Black merges their flavours into mini chocolate eggs.
CULT OF THE CREME EGG
The Cadbury Creme Egg has acquired cult status, inspiring chefs to create kitschy tributes, such as the Scotch Creme Egg by British chef Ben Churchill (the egg wrapped in rolled Oreo filling and crumbed in smashed biscuit). Home bakers are attempting hot cross buns containing an entire Creme Egg, and we’re all about the Creme Egg martini.
At the other end of the spectrum, artisanal eggs are becoming more beautiful and innovative every year, like our cover stars from the talented Aymee Slaviero of Cocoa Nib in the Hunter Valley.And there’s also a notable move towards healthier alternatives to the milk bunny, with chocolatiers experimenting with raw cocoa and cocoa nibs, organic and fair-trade ingredients, and sweeteners such as maple syrup to meet demand.
“The quality of the ingredients is key, as well as the creativity of the product,” says Arno Backes, of Melbourne’s Ganache. “The trend is towards chocolate that is lower in sugar, as people veer away from industrial products.” The ‘Melbourne graffiti bunny’ at Gânache typifies the emergence of the elaborate egg, with spun, woven, dotted, painted or marbled finishes almost too pretty to eat.
Zumbo’s Bunzillas are pastel perfect; Xocolatl’s Art Series – eggs that pay tribute to Jackson Pollock, Banksy and Picasso – is rightfully famous. Sisko’s Lace easter egg is, clichés aside, a work of art. But it’s not just artisanal chocolatiers – retailers Haigh’s and Koko Black are bringing high-quality, mid-priced eggs to the widest market, with online shipping nationwide.
BRUNCH NOT LUNCH?
After chocolate and festive carbs, entertaining is up: “It’s more relaxed,” says chef and author Silvia Colloca. “You’re not under that pressure to create dishes the way they are supposed to be.”
As well as the traditional Sunday roast – for which Colloca recommends a slow-cooked lamb shoulder for its makeahead, can’t-fail factor – consider Sunday brunch. Since pastries are not reliably available over the Easter weekend, Colloca suggests serving a hot cross bun butter pudding, studded with chocolate eggs ,with a thick Italian hot chocolate. “One thing I always do at Easter is a spinach and ricotta pie with olive oil pastry – my family, I think, would be up in arms if it wasn’t on offer,” she says.
Compared to the long-range menu planning Christmas requires, the variation in Easter weather makes last-minute prep a more sensible play, according to Darren O’Rourke, head butcher at Sydney’s Victor Churchill. “You’re making that bridge from cold to hot food, so you can decide whether to do a potato gratin with rich, hearty meats for colder weather, or keep it fresh and vinegary if it’s still warm.” He name-checks green tomato with dill, and spicy labneh as sides to roasted pork – with a crisp side of bacon (crackling on steroids!) – a whole poached salmon, or a skirt steak with chimichurri.
“You can do your own thing and really define it yourself,” adds Quinn. “Try things you wouldn’t really have time for normally. Whether that’s going for amazing fresh Vietnamese flavours, or doing Greek-Lebanese dips, sides, breads, sauces, salads – lots of little pieces that come together because you have time to celebrate over a long meal.”
That is, before seeing to Easter’s favourite tradition – dealing with the chocolate surplus.