Featuring the Steele’s Bakery Angel Food Cake
Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. Although it is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, it is also a time for renewal and hope. One of our first spring holidays, we begin shaking off the cold of winter and look forward to warmer weather. There is so much chaos in the world today, our spirits need not only the joy that comes in celebrating the resurrection of Christ but hopefulness for a more peaceful world.
The Easter season is rich with symbolism and tradition. As part of the festivities, most families decorate eggs and enjoy egg hunts. Eggs represent new life and rebirth—eggs must be cracked open for new life to emerge. And Easter just doesn’t seem complete without a chocolate bunny, which represents fertility. These symbols adopted by the Christian culture illustrate our hope for new life at this time of year.
This year my family’s spirits need a lift, so we are going all out this Easter. If you are hosting dinner for your family and searching for recipes to serve, following are some of our favorites. In the United States, ham is the traditional entrée served for Easter dinner. Before refrigeration, pork was not consumed during the winter months but rather cured for use in the spring, so this became the natural choice for Easter celebratory meals. My favorite recipe for ham follows.
My mother always made potatoes au gratin every Easter. Traditions are an important part of my holiday meal planning, so I always include this dish in my Easter menu. Dauphinois is the French term for this creamy dish. Since asparagus and strawberries are in season this time of year, I like preparing roasted asparagus as our veggie and including strawberries in our green salad.
I’ve had several former Steele’s customers request recipes from the bakery. I have been working hard on duplicating these. We love having angel food cake on Easter, and I have included a re-creation of the Steele’s Bakery recipe for this cake. It took many tries to perfect. I’ve been told it’s the best. Serving it with crème anglaise adds a new twist to strawberry shortcake, one of my family’s favorites.
Smoked Holiday Ham with a Bourbon-Mustard Glaze Serves 10 to 14
For holidays, I prefer to purchase a spiral-cut, smoked ham. When cut in this fashion, the slices hold together, making an impressive presentation. It is also very easy to serve.
1 (5 to 7-pound) smoked, spiral-cut ham, bone in Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place ham, fat side up, on a rack in a shallow pan. Do not cover or add water. Roast for 1 ¾ hours. For the glaze: ¼ cup honey ½ cup Dijon mustard 2 cups brown sugar ½ cup bourbon ½ teaspoon large grind black pepper
In a small saucepan, combine honey, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, bourbon, and pepper and cook over a medium heat until sugar melts. During the last 30 minutes of roasting, remove fat from the bottom of the pan and spoon the glaze over ham. Continue baking, basting occasionally with the glaze. Baste ham with all the glaze before finally removing from the oven for serving.
Shopping tip: Ham is labeled either “Partially Cooked” or “Fully Cooked”. A smoked ham is fully cooked. To be fully cooked, the U.S.D.A. requires the ham’s internal temperature reach 148 degrees F for 30 minutes. Smoking is the preferred method for accomplishing this, and it yields a very flavorful, tender ham. Whichever kind you decide to buy, it is important to strictly follow the packer’s heating instructions. Quantity tip: When purchasing a bone-in ham, allow one-half (1/2) pound per person.
Cooking tip: If you purchase an 8 to 10-pound smoked ham, cook it 2 to 2 ¼ hours at 325 degrees F. For a 10 to 14-pound smoked ham, cook 3 ½ to 4 hours at 325 degrees F.
Special Occasion Spinach Salad with a Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing Serves 6
Although strawberries are available year-round, their peak season is spring through summer. Spring is the perfect time to serve this salad. It’s one of my family’s favorites for Easter dinner.
For the dressing: ½ cup raspberry balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon minced garlic ¼ teaspoon salt Large grind black pepper to taste ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, combine raspberry vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in oil, whisking until blended. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the salad: 4 cups spinach leaves, washed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
In a large salad bowl, combine spinach, romaine lettuce, strawberry slices, blue cheese, and toasted almonds. Drizzle with dressing. Toss and serve immediately. Cooking tip: To toast nuts, place on a baking sheet in a 350-degree F preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch closely as nuts turn from golden brown to black very quickly. I personally prefer to toast nuts by sautéing them in a small skillet that has been lightly coated with butter. For this method, stir frequently over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes.
Cooking tip: Always wash strawberries first and then hull them. If they are hulled before they are washed, they absorb too much water and become mushy. Shopping for strawberries: Select berries that are plump and have a bright red color. Pass up ones that have white shoulders, bruises, green splotches, or mold. Moisture accelerates decay, so don’t buy this fruit if it has excess moisture. Always check the quality from the bottom of the container as well.
Roasted Asparagus Serves 4
This is best when made with Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If you don’t have this on hand, you can make your own lemon olive oil by combining 1 part fresh lemon juice to 2 parts olive oil. This dish is also nice when made with extra virgin olive oil.
1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil Salt to taste Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange spears in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast until the ends are tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 10 to 15 minutes. Shopping for asparagus: The skin of asparagus should be a medium green color with purple highlights. The cut ends are white or light colored. Spears with large, white-woody stalks and only a few inches of green at the tips were harvested late and will be tough. The white bottoms of asparagus should be less than 15 percent of the total length of the spear. Look for firm, plump, round spears. The tips should be tight and compact. Do not buy asparagus that has wet, slimy, or smelly tips. Shop with your ears when buying asparagus. If you give the bunch a squeeze and it squeaks, it is fresh. Also, the spears of fresh asparagus should snap easily when bent.
Dauphinois Serves 8
Similar to scalloped potatoes, Dauphinois are made with Gruyere cheese. Aged for 10 to 12 months, Swiss Gruyere has a rich, sweet nutty flavor. It has a golden-brown rind and a firm, pale yellow consistency with well-spaced, medium-sized holes. It can be a bit pricey, so if you are pinching pennies, substitute a less expensive Swiss cheese for the Gruyere.
1 tablespoon butter 2 pounds potatoes, peeled 2 cups milk 1 ½ cups heavy cream 2 teaspoons minced garlic ¾ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon ground white pepper 4 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese 3 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 3-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter. Using a food processor, slice potatoes 1/8-inch thick and place in a large saucepan. Add milk, heavy cream, garlic, salt, and white pepper and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Remove the pan from heat. Pour the potato mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle cheese on top and dot with the remaining 3 tablespoons butter.
Set the baking dish on a rimmed cookie sheet, place in the oven, and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 30 more minutes. Potatoes are done when golden brown, or when the tip of a knife inserted in the center pierces the potatoes easily and comes out clean. Allow the dish to sit 15 minutes before serving.
Angel Food Cake with Mixed Berries and Crème Anglaise Makes 1 cake, Serves 8
For the Crème Anglaise: 2½ cups half-and-half 1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise with insides scraped out 6 egg yolks ¾ cup sugar 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1 tablespoon Cognac
In a heavy medium saucepan, place half-and-half and the insides of vanilla bean. (Husk is discarded.) Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the hot half-and-half mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat until custard thickens, about 6 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Strain through a sieve into a bowl. Add Cognac and blend gently to mix. Refrigerate until well chilled, then cover.
For the angel food cake: This has been made for high-altitude elevations, around 5,000 feet. 1 cup + 1 tablespoon cake flour, sifted ¾ cup sugar Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar and sift the two together 3 times. 12 extra large egg whites ¼ teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
In a large mixing bowl, combine egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar. Using an electric mixer, beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Peaks should not be stiff but should fall over slightly when the beater is lifted out of the mixture. ¾ cup sugar Add the remaining sugar to the egg white mixture near the center of the beaters with mixer running at a low speed. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Add vanilla to the egg white mixture and continue beating until egg whites form stiff peaks. Add ½ cup of the flour mixture to the egg white mixture and beat for 10 seconds. Continue adding ½ cup of the flour mixture at a time and beating for 10 seconds until all the flour mixture has been added to the egg white mixture. Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cake from the oven, invert, and cool.
Cooking tip: It is important to scrape the bowl constantly during the mixing process. Don’t over beat the eggs; this can cause the cake to collapse. To serve: 1 angel food cake 8 cups mixed assorted berries in season, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries Fresh mint springs
Cut angel food cake into slices. Ladle crème anglaise over slices. Mound berries in the center of each slice. Garnish with mint springs. Storing tip: To store vanilla beans, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, place in an airtight jar, and refrigerate. When stored this way, they will keep nicely for 6 months.
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Insider Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
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