What easy desserts can I make for Easter that don’t contain chocolate?
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking Easter desserts are all about chocolate. So you’re right, Laura, to look for something lighter and brighter (citrus! Rhubarb! Meringue!) – after all, it is spring. For baker Flora Shedden, owner of Aran in Highland Perthshire, the simplest solution is affogato. “Really good vanilla, ginger or even coffee ice-cream, espresso [to pour over] and crushed amaretti on top.” She often chills out with semifreddo, too, combining two parts whipped cream with one part condensed milk, meringue and a few shots of espresso. She freezes it in a loaf tin, then serves it in slices. “The condensed milk and meringue stop it from crystallising, so you’ll have a nice ice-cream texture.” And it welcomes adaptations: “It’s tasty with stem ginger syrup and chopped stem ginger, or fold in some fruit – raspberries with vanilla [instead of the coffee] would be nice.”
Also scoring highly in the easy stakes is lemon posset, the chilled British classic for which double cream and sugar are heated before adding lemon zest and juice. “It’s super-quick to make and feels quite springy,” says Shedden, who crowns hers with a couple of crumbled ginger nut biscuits: “Happy days.”
You can’t go far wrong with a showstopper pavlova, either. “It feels Eastery because it’s eggs,” says pastry chef Anna Higham, whose debut cookbook, The Last Bite, is out next month. “It’s nice that it collapses a bit, so it doesn’t have to look too perfect.” You could, she adds, mix chopped preserved lemon into the thick, glossy meringue before baking until crisp on the outside and mallowy within: “It gives sharpness to balance that crazy sweetness.” Higham tops her pav with lemon curd, whipped cream and “whatever beautiful citrus you can find”. Rhubarb would also work a treat here, Shedden adds. “I like it a little sweeter: a quarter sugar to one part rhubarb, plus a quarter water.” Add stem ginger, if you fancy, then bake until soft and syrupy. Eat with broken-up meringue and cream whipped with yogurt, so “it’s not too heavy or sweet”.
Galettes are easier than, well, pie. Shedden rolls sweet shortcrust pastry into a disc, spoons over some frangipane, then tops with rhubarb, early berries or blood orange. Fold over the pastry edges and bake; a scoop of ice-cream on the side is optional, but encouraged. Trifle is always a good idea, too, and, Higham notes, “easy to take to a big family celebration”. To make things even more festive, swap the sponge base for hot cross buns: “Toast, soak in loads of booze, then make an earl gray jelly and a custard with sultanas mixed through, and top the lot with whipped cream.”
Or skip pudding entirely and go straight for the hot cross buns. Few are more proficient in the subject than Helen Evans of Flor in London, which knocked out 7,000 last year. Her secret? Copious fruit and spices (“toast them whole, then grind”), including a little black pepper and cumin. And don’t forget to give those buns a liberal syruping for a taste of the sweet life.