If some genie offered me a choice between having a maid or a cook, I would most definitely choose the maid. I always prefer cooking to cleaning and if you were to visit my house on most days you would notice that it smells good with the aroma of cooking and baking but looks, well, kind of messy. As the beautiful season of Easter approaches my practical thoughts turn to special holiday foods once more. What will I place on the decorated dinner table this year?
We plan to have Easter Sunday dinner with our friends with whom we celebrate virtually every major holiday. Both we and our friends live far from our own families, theirs in England and the U.S. and ours across several mountain passes, and so we share the cooking and take turns hosting. (We are most often the hosts at our larger home, which forces us to clean up, so it's not a bad thing). We'll most likely have a baked and glazed ham, a delicious potato dish, salads and some plain cooked vegetables for the picky eaters among us, wine for the grown-ups and ginger ale for the kids, and of course, dessert.
When my children were small we baked and decorated sugar cookies in a variety of Easter shapes like bunnies, baskets, etc. but as the years went on and I became more confident in the kitchen I began studying new recipes, some from other cultures. The first year we moved to the Fraser Valley I reread several back issues of Martha Stewart Living magazine, which I had subscribed to for one year before giving up in despair of ever keeping up to her extreme standards (I was younger then and thought I had to 'keep up' without the aid of a staff of five. God knows why). I still have those twelve issues and all the December ones since, because I get particularly crafty at Christmas time, and there are enough recipes, gardening and craft ideas to keep me going for ever. It is a beautiful magazine, even just to look through.
I had heard of a legendary, delicious Australian petit-four called Lamingtons (named after Lady Lamington, the wife of a Victorian governor in Queensland, Australia) but had never made them or tasted them, and lo and behold, Martha Stewart Living had a recipe in their April 2002 issue. I was determined to make them for Easter. They were a two day operation. One day I made the sponge cakes, then cut and sandwiched them with strawberry jam into twenty-four two-inch squares - they had to chill overnight - and the next day I dipped them in chocolate icing which had to remain heated over a bowl of simmering water, before I dipped them in coconut. I remember cursing like the Tasmanian Devil while I dipped and dunked those tricky, elusive little squares of cake and telling my kids, in no uncertain terms, to STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN!!! I've never made them since. Is this the year I will attempt them again? They were delicious and I am more experienced at tricky baking techniques, but I'm just not sure...
This past weekend we were invited to some friends' for an Earth Hour candlelight dessert party. The weekend before I had tried a new recipe for lemon buttermilk pudding cake found in an old issue of Canadian Living Magazine (I subscribed to CLM for many years and credit it, and my sister Clare for teaching me the basics of cooking) and liked both the process and the result: quick, simple and delicious. I doubled the recipe and all ten guests and two hosts of the party gobbled it up.
The older I get the more I realize that complicated is not necessarily better. If one has the time and energy for complicated, fine, but it's not worth losing one's temper for. As we descend into Easter weekend and I have our traditional braided sweet bread to bake, the front garden to weed, a husband who must work all the holiday at the hotel, and the house to ready for our Easter dinner guests, I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be making the lemon pudding, which I have renamed Lemon Meringue Pie Pudding due to its wonderfully fluffy and light meringue-like top, for Easter dessert this year. Maybe next year it will be a year for Lamingtons.
Both recipes are delicious and perfect for the Easter table. The recipe for lamingtons is too long to type here, but it is available on www.Marthastewart.com - I checked. I will provide the recipe for Lemon Pudding and encourage you, if you like lemon desserts at all, to try it. Wishing you a joyous Easter and a very happy spring!
Lemon Buttermilk Pudding Cake
As it bakes, this homey classic separates into a layer of light cake on top of a delicious lemon curd.
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar 175 ml
1/3 cup all-purpose flour 75 ml
1 1/4 cups buttermilk 300 ml
2 Tbsp salted butter, melted 25 ml
1 Tbsp grated lemon rind 15 ml
1/3 cup lemon juice 75 ml
In large bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale; beat in flour and salt.
Whisk in buttermilk, butter, lemon rind and lemon juice.
In separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; fold one-third into milk mixture. Fold in remaining whites.
Pour into greased 8-inch (2L) square glass baking dish. Place dish in roasting pan (or any pan larger than the dish you are baking the pudding in); pour in enough hot water to come halfway up sides of dish.
Bake in 350 degrees Farenheit (180 degrees Celcius) oven until top is golden, about 35 minutes. Remove from water; let cool on rack for 30 minutes. It is very good chilled as well.
Makes 6 servings.