Saturday, 23 April 2011
This morning as I was preparing the easter eggs for our Easter brunch my thoughts kept circling back to my childhood in Switzerland. What an exciting time Easter was in my family. It had nothing to do with religion but everything with the beginning of Spring and the end of the grey and dreary winter days.
Early on Easter Saturday morning my mom and I would go for a walk through the forest with a basket gathering leaves from the tender young spring growth. Some of my friends would gather moss for the lining of their easter nests but we mostly had the green shredded paper for our baskets.
At home the work would start in earnest: Grandma's old stockings would be cut up into sections big enough to hold an egg and one end would be gathered and wound tightly with thread. We placed a few leaves on each egg and carefully slid them into a piece of stocking and tied off the other end with thread. All the while the onion skins would be bubbling away in a pot on the stove. We carefully lowered the eggs onto the bed of onion skins and let them cook for about 8 minutes.
After "shocking" the eggs in cold water for a few minutes, unwrapping the eggs was always exciting and fun. The outcome is random and while some eggs show almost photographic pictures of the plants others will be a patterned mess.
On Easter Sunday for breakfast there would be a huge platter on the table with all the coloured eggs. Not being too keen on eggs by breakfast time I had already eaten a generous amount of chocolates and sweets from my Easter nest ( it was the only day in the year that was allowed) and I usually managed only one egg. When I was little this would be followed by a drive to the countryside and a walk through a forest where the easter bunny (my grandpa) would drop chocolate eggs behind the spruce trees for me to find and sometimes we would gather armfuls of wild daffodils on our way home.
Unlike in Switzerland where you can just buy bags of onion skins for dyeing, in Australia I have been saving onion skins for months... probably close to a year. Now that the eggs are done I am saving my precious brew for dyeing some fabric in it and after that I want to try and see if I can make my own ink or watercolour from the remainder.
If you are familiar with swiss customs then you know that a "Zuepfe" or "Zopf" is a must for any special occasion and Easter is no exception. I have made my "Zuepfe" this morning. Instead of the traditional white flour I used about 2/3 wholemeal flour and 1/3 white flour. I made it after my mother's recipe who's an artist in the kitchen.
Here's her recipe:
Mimi's Zopf recipe
1 kilo of flour (white or a mixture of white and wholemeal)
3 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon Malt extract
3 teaspoons powdered yeast
1 egg yolk
- combine the flour and salt in a bowl or in a mixer and stir
- combine cream, milk, sugar and if using malt extract in a saucepan and gently heat until the mixture reaches blood temperature (when you stick your finger in it will feel barely warm)
- add the yeast and stir until dissolved
- now add the liquid to the flour mixture and start to stir and knead until you have a springy dough them put the dough into a bowl and cover it with a clean moist teatowel and let it rest in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size (this will take about 1 hour)
- preheat the oven to 220C
- now remove the dough and place on a clean work surface and punch the dough once to deflate and then knead again briefly.
- cut the dough in half and form each portion into a long roll
- place one strand on top of the other so that they intersect in the middle and form a cross, now take the two ends of the bottom strand and cross them over the top strand then take the other two ends and cross them over the previous ones. Keep doing that until you come to the end of the strands. Gather the ends and fold them under the Zopf so it has a neat finish.
- Place the Zopf on a baking tray and baste with egg yolk.
- Bake at 220C for 20 minutes and then reduce the heat to 180C and bake for another 20 mins.
- Take the Zopf out and let it cool before you cut it.