When I was teaching Norwegian today, one of the exercises in the textbook had the students pick presents for a hypothetical family of four, based on their profile. This led to a discussion about what constitutes a good present and how difficult it is to come up with something that the receiver will actually be happy to get. Well, in my book, the best presents are usually edible. A bottle of Tuscan olive oil for example I will be happy to receive anytime. I’ll use it and then it will be gone as opposed to pretty decorative things that you are guilted into displaying in your living room and my husband bitterly calls “dust collectors”. (The bitterness comes from the fact that he’s usually the one doing the dusting in our house, since he’s more bothered by dust than I am).
In a similar way, I think the best decorations are edible. Instead of having to keep a box of Easter decorations in the attic (which we do not have) I can bake a batch of bunny shaped rolls to adorn the table for our Easter brunch. Cute and edible. And gone when the brunch is over, no need to pack anything away.
If you have kids, they’ll probably love shaping the rolls. It is something I’ve done with my kids many times when they were younger, once even at my son’s birthday party.
The dough is the same as for these rolls, enriched with a bit of butter and milk. They can be baked a day in advance, or you can make the dough the evening before and let it rise slowly in the fridge, then bake it the next day.
Easter bunny rolls
Adapted from Vreni de Jong: Wat eten we vandaag
Makes 12 rolls
500 g (4 cups) all-purpose or unbleached flour
½ tbsp dry yeast
300 ml (1 1/3 cup) milk, tepid
50 g (3 1/2 tbsp) cold butter
½ tbsp salt
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
cloves to decorate
Dissolve the yeast in the milk (the milk must not be too warm or the temperature will kill the yeast). Keep about 100 g flour apart and put the rest in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the warm milk. Mix in some of the flour to make a sponge in the middle of the bowl. Slice the butter and put the slices around the sponge (the warmth of the sponge will soften the butter slightly and make it easier to incorporate) and sprinkle the salt on top of the butter. Cover the bowl with plastic and leave for about 20 minutes, until bubbles have formed.
Mix everything together and knead until the dough feels silky and smooth. Add as much of the remaining flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking, but no more (you may not use all the flour). Cover the bowl and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, an hour or more depending on the room temperature. Because of the butter content, a longer rise in a cooler room is better for the structure, but might take a lot longer.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a fat sausage and divide in half. Divide one of the halves in half. Roll each of the three pieces into a tight ball, by rolling it on a wooden surface under the palm of your hand while pressing your thumb from the side. I find that it’s easier to roll the dough on a surface that has not been dusted with flour.
Stick the three balls on top of each other and using a sharp knife dipped in flour, make an incision in the top piece to create ears. It is easier to assemble the bunny directly on your baking sheet because the finished bunnies are difficult to move. Use cloves to make eyes. Let rise loosely covered with plastic, about 30 minutes or until they almost double in volume.
Meanwhile preheat your oven to 225 degrees Celsius (435 Fahrenheit).
Glaze the bunnies with the egg yolk and push the cloves deeper into the dough as they will probably come out a little due to the dough rising.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Let cool on a wire rack. The ribbon is totally optional.