Face it, I’m living the life of a rock star Vatican assassin. But don’t be dismayed – if you cook like me, you can be like me.
Not entirely, but somewhat; that’s what counts.
But why, you ask, should I prepare such an elegant set of appetizers and desserts for a holiday that comes but once a year?
Because I’m not some mouth-breather stuffing his pie hole with mass-produced monkey grub; my body is a lockbox of diamonds, uranium, and assassin nobility. That’s why.
I cooked some gourmet stuff for the wonderful friars of my studium, and I think it turned out well. I present you with my epic quest:
The first course for the Dominican’s Easter appetizers was my Hot Crossed Buns.
You will need, for 24 buns,:
- 1 cup milk
- two 1/4-ounce packages (5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
If you have a stand mixer, combine the flours, water, milk, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl and fit the dough hook. Add the egg and butter and mix to a sticky dough.
Add the dried fruit, orange zest, and spices and knead on low speed until silky and smooth. (You can do this by hand, but it will be sticky to handle.) Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Deflate the risen dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape into rounds and dust with flour. Place on a floured board, cover with plastic wrap or linen, and let proof for about 30 minutes, until roughly
doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Now comes the fun part: the crosses. The recipe originally intended piping flour and water on top of the buns, but I found this rather nasty (even though I did them on my hot cross buns). In the past, I’ve iced them with a glaze and put a cross made of icing on top of the buns – I think this is, by far, the best option.
To make such an icing, melt 1/4 tablespoon butter and 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar together. Add food colouring, if desired. Then add enough warm water to get a thick “icing” consistency that creates a small line without the icing flowing down the side of the bun – but don’t bother too much about running down the sides. Put the icing in a ziplock bag and cut the corner to ice the buns. Serve that way!
Here's a pretty example, albeit with the not-very-nice flour and water crosses recommended by the recipe I used.
As for the second recipe, I didn’t merely cook it – I willed it.
I made a specialty recipe of my own creation: Croques Jacobin.
But, because I thought that winners stalk and kill their own artichokes without earthly weapons, when I did the recipe, I dressed and trimmed 40 artichokes by hand to get the amount of artichoke hearts necessary. Do not thus imitate unless you are an epic winner, like me.
- For 24 servings, you’ll need enough artichoke hearts for 24 people;
- about 3 loaves of French bread
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
- 1 cup shredded pecorino (6 to 8 months old) or mild Cheddar
- 1 package of porcini mushrooms – about 4 oz (they come in store quantities – you won’t need more than whatever they have)
- 1 stick of butter
Pour the olive oil into a skillet, and set it over medium heat. Scatter the garlic and onion in the pan. Cook for 4 minutes or so, stirring and tossing occasionally; season with the salt and peperoncino.
When the vegetables are sizzling and wilting, put the artichokes into the skillet. Stir well, cover the pan tightly, and let everything cook slowly, giving the pan a shake now and then.
If the artichokes are already soft, don’t braise for too long. If they are hard out of the jar, braise for 15 to 20 minutes total, until the artichokes are tender and lightly colored. Cook uncovered for more caramelization if you like.
Separately, take a cup of hot water – boiling – and soak the porcini mushrooms for 20 minutes. Drain the liquid into a separate sauce pot. Then chop the mushrooms, wash them, and add to the pot. Reduce the mixture, boiling, until there is about a tablespoon of liquid.
Soften, but don’t melt the butter. Then, mix the two together. When it hardens in the refrigerator, you will have a porcini butter mix.
Slice the French bread and butter both sides of each slice of bread with the porcini butter (I melted the butter and then we buttered each side with a brush – but you don’t have to do so). Preheat the oven to a high broil.
Then, place one artichoke heart on a slice of bread and lay out evenly on a baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese on top. Prepare matching sandwich “lids” on a separate baking sheet. Toast both in the oven, together, for about 3-4 minutes – until golden brown but not burnt, and so that the cheese melts over the artichoke.
These are pre-assembly and toasting.
Then, assemble the sandwiches and serve.
This last step is easier for some of us, as my Adonis hands are rated by Zagats.
Lastly, I created Noir et Blanc Oeufs a la Niege, or Black and White Eggs on the Snow.
I stole this one substantially from: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/printerfriendly/Ginger-Cardamom-Oeufs-a-la-Niege-243532#ixzz1KmRhC41k
To make “4” servings:
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- about 8 oz of shaved white chocolate
- a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup
- 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
Separate 2 eggs; put yolks in a large bowl and whites in another. Add whole egg to yolks.
Beat whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer until they hold soft peaks. Add cocoa powder and beat well. Then, add 1/2 cup sugar in a slow stream, beating at medium-high speed until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.
Bring 2 cups of milk with ginger and cardamom in a wide 4-quart heavy pot over medium heat. Whisk remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and salt into yolk mixture. Add hot milk in a slow stream, whisking until incorporated, then return to pot. Cook, stirring often, until thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in vanilla.
Get custard ready by pouring into serving bowls. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup milk to a bare simmer. Drop 4 large dollops of beaten whites into milk and poach at a bare simmer, turning once, 4 minutes. When each is fully done, it will expand greatly – so be mindful of the size of your serving bowls. When done, take the cooked “islands” and set them on top of the custard (you can prepare these separately and add them later, but amidst the poaching I found it hard to keep them structurally intact).
Then, refrigerate for at least 40 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with white chocolate and make a cross of chocolate syrup on top of custard and floating island.
This is shaky because I decided to take the picture while someone was serving these on a tray!
Mmmm. Tastes like winning.
Yours in Christ,
Br. James Dominic Rooney, OP