Monday, March 25, 2013

Planning an Easter Dessert Table

After my miserable defeat at the hands (fins?) of gefilte fish, I turn to something with which I've had a lot more experience: lining up menus for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. The "feast of feasts" is a time and place when the Diners and I do enjoy dessert, cherishing our freedom at the table, as the hobbitlike creatures we are. Since we are a household of three, since it's nice to have different choices on hand, since I genuinely enjoy baking for big occasions such as this, and since we don't want to be complete hobbits about the leftovers (even if Eastertide does last awhile), it makes sense to share our Easter dessert table with a crowd of guests, to give treat boxes to friends, or both.

Holy Week can be exhausting, what with all the church services, errands, baking, and cleaning, yet I cannot help noticing that no matter how stressed I get about the "many things," year after year, Easter comes just the same. Moreover, the season does last almost two months---a fact that many church cultures overlook---so there is plenty of time to celebrate beyond the one day. Thus I make plans, but also make a pact with myself to forgive myself if it doesn't all get done. Here are the plans so far.

Rolled and decorated sugar cookies in Easter shapes. I make these early in Holy Week and frost them on Saturday.

Butter cookies scented with Fiori di Sicilia ("flowers of Sicily"). This flavoring, a luxuriant, intoxicating blend of citrus and vanilla, needs to be added in minute quantities. (I once used it in a recipe as I would vanilla extract and the results were appalling.) The King Arthur Flour Company carries it. These, too, I usually make early in Holy Week.

Kulich, the tall, domed-shaped bread traditional at Russian Easter, is a lot like panettone or other festive breads; it includes candied citrus peels and slivered almonds as well as raisins plumped in rum. You'll need a 2-pound coffee can. Paskha is the sweetened cheese spread that goes with it.

It wouldn't be Easter without chocolate, which so many people avoid eating during Lent. I make triple-chocolate biscotti early in the week and, on Holy Saturday, a white-chocolate cheesecake, with strawberries to accompany the latter prepared at the last minute before Sunday dinner.

The centerpiece of the dessert table is the pound cake in the shape of a lamb. I make a cake in Diner #2's favorite flavor, lemon, and frost it with lemon buttercream. The cake itself, since it is brushed with syrup, can be made early and stored in the fridge; the buttercream can be made then too, but if I'm going to do that, I freeze it, then take it out of the freezer on Saturday night so the cake can be decorated on Sunday. Decorating this cake is a lot of fun. You could press coconut into the frosting for "wool," but the Diners are not fans, so I don't. The cake, which represents Jesus, bears a little banner with the word "PAX"---peace. If a priest is a guest at your table, she or he gets the head of the lamb!

Copyright (c) 2016 Anna Bendiksen

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