Wanted: light Easter desserts – but no chocolate allowed | meal

What easy desserts can I make for Easter that don’t contain chocolate?
Laura, Oxford

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Easter desserts are all about chocolate. So you’re right, Laura, to be looking for something lighter and brighter (citrus! rhubarb! meringue!)—it, after all is Spring. For baker Flora Shedden, owner of Aran in Highland Perthshire, the simplest solution is Affogato. “Really good vanilla, ginger or even coffee ice cream, espresso [to pour over] and mashed amaretti on top.” She also often chills with semifreddo, combining two parts whipped cream with one part condensed milk, meringue, and a few shots of espresso. She freezes it in a loaf pan and then serves it in slices. “The condensed milk and meringue keep it from crystallizing, so you have a nice ice cream texture.” And it welcomes adjustments: “It’s delicious with stick ginger syrup and chopped stick ginger, or with some fruit – raspberries with vanilla.” [instead of the coffee] would be nice.”

Lemon Posset, the chilled British classic that heats double cream and sugar before adding lemon zest and juice, also scores on the simple stakes. “It’s super quick to make and feels pretty springy,” says Shedden, who tops hers with some crumbled ginger nut biscuits, “Happy days.”

You can’t go wrong with a showstopper pavlova either. “It feels Eastery because it’s eggs,” says pastry chef Anna Higham, whose first cookbook, The Last Bite, is out next month. “It’s nice that it collapses a bit so it doesn’t have to look too perfect.” One could, she adds, mix chopped preserved lemon into the thick, glossy meringue before baking until it’s crispy on the outside and mauve on the inside is, “There’s spiciness to balance that crazy sweetness.” Higham tops her pav with lemon curd, whipped cream, and “whatever nice citrus you can find.” Rhubarb would work well here, too, Shedden adds. “I like it a little sweeter: 1/4 sugar to 1/4 rhubarb, plus 1/4 water.” Add ginger if you like, then bake until soft and syrupy. Eat with shredded meringue and cream whipped with yogurt so “it’s not too heavy or sweet.”

Galettes are easier than cakes. Shedden rolls sweet shortcrust pastry into a disc, spoons some frangipane over it and then tops it with rhubarb, early berries or blood orange. Fold the pastry edges over and bake; a scoop of ice cream on the side is optional but recommended. Trifle is always a good idea, too, and according to Higham, “easy to take along to a big family gathering.” To make it even more festive, swap out the sponge cake for Hot Cross Buns: “Toast, soak in lots of alcohol, then make an Earl Gray jelly and a custard with tossed sultanas and top with whipped cream.”

Or skip the pudding altogether and go straight to the Hot Cross Buns. Few know the subject better than Helen Evans of Flor in London, who knocked out 7,000 last year. Your secret? Plenty of fruit and spices (“roast whole, then grind”), including a little black pepper and cumin. And don’t forget to give those buns a generous helping of syrup for a taste of the sweet life.

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