The Easter break is fast approaching: so it’s time to crack open some chocolate eggs and butter up some buns. However, raisins – those things that sometimes look like chocolate chips, but then aren’t – are in short supply this year. This year’s crop of hot-crossed treats hasn’t been adversely affected, but we don’t like to take our chances when it comes to desserts.
To ensure Easter is still pretty sweet, we’ve asked top-of-their-game hotel chefs for alternative recipes for raisin-free desserts as satisfying as a pillowy, oven-warm bun. And, just like the seasonal bunny, they delivered…
FRENCH FANCY: DOMAINE DE FONTENILLE, FRANCE
Michelin-recognised chef Jérôme Faure, who brings the bounty of France’s Luberon valley to Domaine de Fontenille hotel’s rustic table, has composed a fresh and elegant, fruity dessert for spring. This recipe requires some overnight prep and takes two hours to ready and three to cook, so plan ahead for this Provençal head-turner.
Deconstructed grapefruit tart
For the grapefruit-infused jelly with Campari:
200ml grapefruit juice
Three sheets of gelatin
Orange zest (enough for eight tarts)
For the nasturtium ice-cream:
Half a litre of whole milk
Half a litre of pouring cream
150g egg yolks
A dash of vanilla
25 large nasturtium leaves
For the raw meringue:
50g egg whites
For the confit grapefruit:
For the pastry:
A pinch of salt
50g icing sugar
30g ground almonds
One large egg
The grapefruit confit needs to be left overnight, so prepare this first. Mix the glucose, sugar and water in a pan, then heat; cut the grapefruits into segments or strips and add to the pot; bring to the boil, then once the sugar dissolves, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30–40 minutes. Pour into a bowl, cover tightly and chill overnight.
For the jelly, gently heat the juice and sugar, soak the gelatine leaves until soft, then mix in before beating in the eggs, butter, Campari and zest. Pour into a bowl, then put into the fridge for around two hours until set. Then make the meringues by beating the egg whites in a bowl until they form soft peaks; add the sugar slowly. Pipe neat dollops of the mixture onto a baking sheet and cook at around 140°C for about 90 mins, then remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.
To make the ice-cream, pour the milk, cream, vanilla and nasturtium leaves into a bowl, gently heat and mix. Then remove from the heat and leave for 10 minutes to allow the flavour to infuse through. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, then blend well into the other mixture. Bring back to the heat, then decant into an ice-cream maker and churn till it has a firm, scoopable consistency. Then remove to the freezer to chill before serving.
Then, the pastry… Sift the flour into a bowl, add the butter and mix with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Add the almonds, sugar and salt slowly, then the egg to firm up the consistency. Knead the dough on a floured surface, then wrap in clingfilm and chill. Line eight small, buttered tart tins with the dough (keeping the edges trimmed and neat), and bake until golden.
Now, the fun part: get a little creative with your plating. The idea is to look like this avant garde tart has decorously tipped over, so place the pastry case on its side then scatter blobs, chunks and smudges of jelly, confit and meringue over the plate – top with a scoop of nasturtium ice-cream, et voila. Eat with a seductive insouciance – and a pastry fork.
EASTERN EGG: ZABORIN, JAPAN
The winner of Best Gourmet Getaway at the Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards this year, Japanese hotel Zaborin has exquisite food, elevated to the level of art by talented chef Yoshihiro Seno. We asked chef Seno for an Easter treat and he sent a recipe for an utterly unique dessert, intriguingly served with potato sauce…
Zaborin’s signature Easter egg
For the fromage blanc:
Egg whites (one for each dessert)
60g of granulated sugar
150ml of fresh cream
200g cream cheese
The juice of one lemon
For the roasted-rice cream:
70ml of fresh cream
20g granulated sugar
A teaspoon of white miso
A few drops of Frangelico liqueur
Two egg yolks
For the Hokkaido potato sauce:
150g Kita-akari potatoes
One leek (around 50g)
50ml fresh cream
50g granulated sugar
To make the fromage blanc, whisk the egg whites and 20g of the sugar until it forms stiff peaks, then whisk the cream and 40g of sugar until the mixture forms soft peaks. The cream cheese needs to be at room temperature; add it little by little to the cream and sugar mixture, then fold into the egg whites and add lemon juice. Wrap with a muslin cloth to drain the water, and leave in the fridge for half a day.
Then, to make the creamy rice, roast the rice in a pan until brown, then add milk and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat. Combine the cream and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat and stir slowly. Put both mixtures into a blender and blitz until smooth. Soak the gelatin in cold water until it’s soft, then add to the egg yolks, Frangelico and white miso in a bowl, then blend with the rice mixture until smooth. Decant into a container and refrigerate for half a day. For the Hokkaido potato sauce, you need to put all the ingredients into a saucepan, cover and simmer until it starts to soften. Pour into a blender and blitz till smooth.
To finish, place the fromage blanc on clingfilm, scoop the creamy rice filling into a ball and wrap the fromage blanc mix around it to make an egg shape, then serve on a plate drizzled with the potato sauce and dusted with powdered sugar.
NAPLES VIA THE NEW FOREST: LIME WOOD, UK
Top chefs Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder – the head honchos behind Lime Wood’s excellent dining offering and cookery school – bring us this alluring Neapolitan-style tart, traditionally served during Italy’s Easter Holy Week.
350g Arborio rice
30g unsalted butter
The zest from one lemon
Two egg yolks
40g candied citron
40g candied orange peel
20g orange-blossom water
A dash of vanilla paste
Place the Arborio rice in a saucepan and add the milk, butter and lemon zest. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and stir continuously (as though you were cooking a risotto) for 20 to 25 minutes. Then, remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Place the eggs in a bowl with the sugar and whisk until light and fluffy. Place the ricotta in a blender and blitz until it has the consistency of whipped cream; fold this into the egg and sugar mixture.
Add the chilled rice blend to the ricotta mixture, along with the candied peel, orange-flower water and vanilla paste. Stir together until combined and put to one side. Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark three, then butter a 24cm by 4cm cake tin. Line the tin with the sweet pastry and prick the bottom with a fork before pouring in the filling. Trim the pastry from the edges of the tin. Cut eight strips of pastry long enough to be placed across the cake tin and set aside. Place four of these strips across the top of the pastiera in one direction, then place the others diagonally, to create a lattice effect.
Bake the pastiera for one hour, then cover the top with tin foil and cook for another 30 minutes. Then eat, vigorously.
SOUTHERN COMFORT: HOTEL EMMA, TEXAS, US
This hip Texan hotel – a newcomer to this year’s Best Gourmet Getaway shortlist – shows us some true Southern hospitality with a brilliant comfort-food recipe for lemon beignets (hot-cross buns who, now?) from executive pastry chef Stephanie Norcio.
One cup of water, heated to 110 degrees
One tablespoon plus a quarter cup of granulated sugar
Three lemons, zested
One tablespoon of instant or rapid-rise yeast
Three cups of all-purpose flour
One teaspoon of salt
Two large eggs
2 tablespoons plus 2 quarts vegetable oil
(Please note: to fry the beignets, you’ll need a Dutch oven or a large casserole dish with a capacity to hold six quarts or more.)
First, put on an apron, you’ll be getting handsy with wet, sticky dough and you’ll need to heavily flour the counter and baking sheet, so don’t be afraid to get messy.
Mix the warm water, tablespoon of granulated sugar, and yeast in large bowl. Let the mixture sit until foamy and alive, this should take around five to seven minutes. Tell those around you that the mixture is ‘aliiiive’ in a spooky voice – ignore the haters. Add the lemon zest to the remaining quarter cup of granulated sugar. Rub the zest and sugar together to release the oils in the sugar. Combine the sugar and zest with the flour and salt in a second bowl. Then whisk the eggs and vegetable oil into the yeast mixture. Then add the flour mixture from the second bowl, and beat vigorously with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together (it will be very sticky at this point). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough has nearly doubled in size – this should take about an hour.
Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet, then line a second sheet with parchment paper and dust heavily with flour (this will be the landing pad for shaped beignets). With floured hands, place half of the chilled dough on a well-floured countertop and pat into rough rectangles, flipping to coat both sides with flour. Roll the dough and shape into quarter-inch-thick rectangles (roughly 12 by nine inches). Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough into 12, three-inch squares and transfer to a floured sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Add some of the remaining two quarts of oil to the large Dutch oven, so that it’s around one-and-a-half inches deep; heat to 350° F/around 200°C.
Place six beignets in oil and fry for about three minutes until golden brown; flip halfway through frying. Adjust burner, if necessary, to keep the oil’s temperature between 325 and 350° F/180 to 200° C. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beignets to the wire rack. Heat the oil to around 350° F/200°C again and repeat with the remaining beignets. Dust each beignet with confectioners’ sugar, then serve immediately. Eat, repeat, eat, repeat…
I SHOULD COCOA: AWASI ATACAMA, CHILE
This jaw-plummeting stay may be set in the world’s most arid spot, Chile’s Atacama Desert, but the food at Awasi Atacama is anything but dry. In fact, chef Juan Pablo Mardones’ Easter dish is a moist chocolate-y treat. He’s skilled at rifling through the surrounds to find local produce, and meals are as haute as the plateau is high (more than 2,408 metres). So this cake should hit the (hot)spot.
Moist cocoa cake with raspberry and basil
For the cocoa cake:
200g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate (72 per cent cocoa)
A teaspoon of powdered dark chocolate
For the chocolate mousse:
Three tablespoons water
One egg yolk
325g dark chocolate (72 per cent cocoa)
Seven grams flavourless gelatin
For the raspberry and basil sorbet:
A heaped teaspoon of glucose
A scattering of basil leaves
Half a teaspoon of guar gum (to stabilize the mixture)
For the raspberry sauce:
15g granulated sugar
Scorched chocolate for decoration
100g white chocolate
A teaspoon of popped crunchy quinoa
To make the cocoa cake, separate the egg whites and yolks. Mix the yolks with 150g of sugar, beat until you reach the ‘ribbon stage’ (when the mixture falls in a ribbon from a spoon) and put to one side. Beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar until the mixture forms firm peaks. Melt the butter with the chocolate, mix well and add to the yolks and sugar. Then, slowly fold in the egg whites and, lastly, slowly sprinkle in the powdered cocoa. Pour the mixture into a buttered tin and bake for 35 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C.
Then, to make the mousse, melt the chocolate and set aside, whip the cream into stiff peaks. Soak the gelatin in cold water and put to one side, then make syrup by boiling the water and adding the sugar. Whip the egg whites and yolks separately to a stiff point, mix together, then add the syrup slowly while still stirring. Keep mixing while adding the melted chocolate and the gelatin; finally fold in the whipped cream.
To make the raspberry and basil sorbet (you’ll need an ice-cream maker for this bit). Mix the ingredients and heat together in a pan to infuse the basil with the raspberries. Take off the heat, add the guar gum, blend and filter. Leave to cool and put through the ice-cream maker. The last step is to make the raspberry sauce. For this, you’ll need to boil the raspberries, sugar and water together. Once the fruit is soft, blend and filter. Refrigerate and put to one side. Cover the cake with the mousse using a palette knife or spatula. To decorate, melt the white chocolate and mix with the popped crunchy quinoa. Heat an oven to 180°C, spread the mixture over a silicone baking sheet and cook for seven minutes. Carefully peel off, tidy and place on top of the cake. Drizzle on the sauce, serve with a generous scoop of ice-cream. Commence food coma.
Featured image is lemon beignets by Stephanie Norcio, executive pastry chef at Hotel Emma