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Party like you're a kid on Easter: Three books and recipes for you and your kids

Every bunny loves treats. Try making your own kulich (Easter bread) and decorative sugar cookies.

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Every bunny loves treats. Try making your own kulich (Easter bread) and decorative sugar cookies.

When I was a kid, I always celebrated Easter the same way: by reading Max's Chocolate Chicken by Rosemary Wells and baking cross-shaped sugar cookies with my mom. Fun Easter traditions will form lasting memories for your kids, but sometimes it can be hard to come up with new ideas. Try reading these classic Easter picture books with your little ones, then enlist their help as you make foods inspired by the holiday stories. (Older children can assist you with the more complicated aspects of the recipes.) You'll enjoy this lineup of books, too: They're funny, sweet and beautifully illustrated, so if you end up reading them every year, you won't mind a bit.

Rechenka's Eggs

By Patricia Polacco

What it's about: "Babushka lived alone in a dacha, a little house in the country, but she was known far and wide for the fine eggs that she lovingly painted." So begins this gorgeous children's book, which includes beautiful illustrations of Babushka's eggs. Author Patricia Polacco actually creates these hand-painted Ukrainian eggs herself, so it's no wonder that she perfectly reproduces them in the illustrations. Old Babushka views everything in her life as a miracle, even a visit from a herd of caribou in the snow. But she is secretly lonely. When she rescues an injured goose, she carefully nurses her back to health, giving her the best of everything — even her own warmest quilt. But one morning, it's time for the goose to leave. Will Babushka be left alone again, or will another miracle appear? You'll be enchanted by this story, which teaches us to appreciate the many small miracles in our world.

What to make: When the injured goose recovers enough to fly away, Babushka enjoys a special Easter breakfast with her: "kulich, a sweet Easter bread," which she covers with "pashka, a spread of cheese, butter and raisins." You can talk to your children about international Easter traditions, then try making your own batch of kulich. Younger kids may not be able to help you with the entire recipe, but they can definitely be part of icing the sweet bread. Once you finish the icing — made with sugar, heavy cream and almond extract — you pour it over the bread, then decorate with sugar-coated fruits.

The Golden Egg Book

By Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

What it's about: A lonely bunny stumbles across an egg, but he has no idea what's inside. Is it a boy? An elephant? Kids will know exactly what the egg contains, and they'll chuckle with delight as the bunny makes a series of absurd guesses. The illustrations of the bunny make him inherently lovable — his big eyes and curious expression remind me of my 4-month-old puppy — and you can't help but rally behind his quest to "hatch" the egg. He exhausts himself trying to crack it open, then finally falls asleep. The chick that hatches from the egg is shocked to find a sleeping bunny beside him.

"Inside the egg ... I thought I was all alone in a small dark world. Now I find myself alone with a bunny in a big bright world," the chick tells us. Kids will enjoy the humorous repetition, as now it's the chick's turn to try to wake up the bunny. It's a more lighthearted romp than Rechenka's Eggs, but the stories have similar themes: The characters begin their journeys alone, but end up with new (and unlikely) friendships. Margaret Wise Brown, who also authored the classic Goodnight Moon, knows how to weave a story that will appeal to kids and parents.

What to make: Create your own edible bunnies and chicks with a Martha Stewart recipe for Marshmallow Easter Critters. Older kids can help you whip together the marshmallow concoction, while the younger ones can wield bunny-and-chick cookie cutters to form the critter shapes. The recipe advises you to "make separate sheets in different colors" so that you'll end up with an array of pastel Easter creatures. Basically, these are homemade Peeps, so if you enjoy those marshmallow treats, you'll love these.

Max's Chocolate Chicken

By Rosemary Wells

What it's about: Max is a young rabbit with a penchant for mischief. On Easter, a mysterious chocolate chicken appears. (The illustrations show an adult bunny, decked in magically bright clothes, sneaking the chocolate treat into Max's backyard. Readers can debate whether it's Max's dad or the Easter Bunny himself.) To win the chocolate chicken, Max and his older sister Ruby compete in an Easter egg hunt: Whoever gets the most eggs earns the prize. Big sister Ruby easily finds almost every egg. But Max, in typical baby-brother fashion, gets distracted by everything from mud puddles to ant hills. "You'd have trouble finding your own ears if they weren't attached to your head," Ruby gloats. But Max has a plan all his own — and it doesn't involve playing by the rules. This is my favorite Easter book. The mouth-watering depictions of that chocolate chicken will get you in the mood to devour every piece of Easter candy. Your kids won't notice if their chocolate bunny misses an ear, right?

What to make: In honor of Max, bake sugar cookie bunnies, which can be stored for up to a week. If your little ones don't want to help you make the dough, you can prepare it up to 3 days in advance. They'll be thrilled to help you cut out the shapes with 5-inch-tall bunny cookie cutters. The golden sugar cookies are an elegant treat for family Easter gatherings, too. When your kids see the result of their work, they'll probably say exactly what Max exclaimed when he saw that prized chocolate chicken: I love you!

>>MODERATE

Kulich (Easter Bread)

2 packages dry yeast

½ cup lukewarm milk

4 cups white flour, divided

¾ cup sugar, divided

½ cup melted butter, at room temperature

7 egg yolks

¼ cup honey

3 tablespoons light rum

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 egg whites

1 teaspoon salt

Parchment paper

1 empty 2-pound metal coffee can

For the icing:

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon almond extract

¾ cup confectioners' sugar

Glaceed fruits for decoration

Mix the yeast, lukewarm milk, ½ cup of the flour and a tablespoon of the sugar. Let stand in a warm place, until it begins to foam. Meanwhile, stir the butter and the remaining sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Beat the egg yolks, two at a time, into the butter and sugar mixture.

By now, the yeast mixture should be foaming and almost double in bulk. Add it to the butter and yolks and beat together. Mix the honey, rum and vanilla together and add to the butter and yolks. Keep beating.

Gradually add the rest of the flour, the egg whites and salt, and keep beating.

You should have a thick batter, not a stiff dough. If you have an electric mixer with a dough hook, knead with it. If you have only your hands, put one hand in the batter and knead it in the bowl. Concentrate on folding lots of air into the batter.

When the dough is perfectly smooth, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then with a thick towel. Put in a very warm, draft-free place. Surround the bowl with pillows or towels to protect it against shock. Let rise 3 or 4 hours until double in bulk.

Beat down the risen dough. Butter the coffee can. Put a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom and add the dough, filling the can halfway to the top. Let the kulich rise for 45 minutes or until it rises three-fourths of the way to the top of the can.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the kulich 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is golden brown and a skewer comes out dry and clean. If the top browns too quickly, moisten a paper towel and cover the browned cap while the kulich continues to bake.

When the kulich is done, remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes. When the kulich is cool, wiggle it out of the can onto a towel. If it doesn't budge, slide a long spatula along the inside edge of the can. If the kulich still refuses to come out, wait a few more minutes for it to cool more. Lay the kulich prone on the towel — it will be too moist to stand on its end without breaking. The towel will absorb the excess moisture as the kulich cools. After about 15 minutes, roll the kulich over so that the other side can be dried.

Make the icing: Mix the cream and extract. Then, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, gradually add the sugar until the mixture is smooth and creamy. This is a pourable icing.

Pour the icing over the cooled and upright kulich so that it coats the cap of the bread and dribbles down the sides.

Decorate the cap with pieces of fruit while the frosting is still wet.

Serves 8 to 10.

Source: New York Times

>>EASY

Marshmallow Easter Critters

Vegetable oil cooking spray

1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

2 (¼-ounce) envelopes gelatin (equal to 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons)

cup cold water, plus ½ cup room-temperature water

2 cups granulated sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Fine colored sanding sugar, for sprinkling and rolling

Coat a 9 ½- by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, and dust with confectioners' sugar, tapping out excess. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in the bowl of a mixer. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat granulated sugar and room-temperature water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush. Cook until syrup reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir syrup into gelatin and keep stirring for a few minutes to cool. Whisk on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. Whisk in vanilla. Spread mixture into baking sheet using a spatula; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Let set for 1 hour.

Cut out marshmallows using your favorite Easter cookie cutters (wipe cutters between each cut) and roll cut sides in sanding sugar to coat.

Source: Martha Stewart Living

>>EASY

Sugar Cookie Bunnies

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. With machine running, gradually add flour mixture; mix until combined. Shape into a disc, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 45 minutes and up to 3 days.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Roll to ⅛ inch thick. Using a 5-inch-tall bunny-shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Space 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Reroll scraps and cut out. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.

Makes about one dozen.

Source: Martha Stewart Living

Party like you're a kid on Easter: Three books and recipes for you and your kids 04/12/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 3:29pm]
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