Like every holiday, Easter tends to revolve around food. 

Besides the plethora of chocolate bunnies and candy Peeps, Calgarians will gather around tables for roast turkeys and baked ham, or perhaps an elaborate brunch of cinnamon buns or waffles. 

If you’re looking for new Easter inspiration, here are several ways to make your weekend more delicious  no Peeps required.

Cinnamon-Raisin Hot Cross Pull-apart Buns

Hot cross buns always make their appearance in the spring. If you like to make your own, here’s a fun way to upgrade them. Cut soft raisin and citron-studded dough into  small pieces, roll them in cinnamon-sugar, and bake in muffin tins for pull-apart rolls that are halfway between a hot cross bun and a cinnamon bun.

Dough:

  • ½ cup lukewarm milk
  • ½ cup lukewarm water
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar (white or brown)
  • 2 ¼ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup instant potato flakes (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup raisins (dark, golden or both)
  • 1/3 cup candied citron (optional)

Cinnamon-sugar:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

Glaze:

  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. water

Drizzle:

  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. milk or cream
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla (optional)

Put the warm milk and water in a large bowl, and sprinkle a pinch of the sugar and all of the yeast overtop. Let sit for five minutes, until it gets foamy. Add the flour, potato flakes, egg, butter and salt and blend until you have a sticky dough.

Add the raisins and candied citron and knead (in your stand mixer with a dough hook or on a lightly-floured countertop) until smooth and elastic. It should be slightly tacky. Place in a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and let sit for an hour, until doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough and divide it into 12 pieces. I find this easiest to do by cutting it in half, then each half in half, then each piece in three. Then take each piece and cut it into about six pieces. This is easy to do with a dough scraper/bench knife, and they don't all have to be equal.

Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners and spray the papers with non-stick spray. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and roll each piece of dough in it to coat, then place in the tins  so you'll have about six pieces in each tin. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar overtop

Cover loosely with a tea towel and let sit for another hour. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden. In a small dish, stir together the sugar and water and brush/dab over the tops of the buns while they're still warm. Stir together the icing sugar and milk or cream and drizzle over the cooled buns.

Makes 12 pull-apart hot cross buns.

Hot cross buns

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Crème Brulégg

Looking for something different to serve for Easter dessert? Submerge Easter creme eggs into crème brûlée before baking for Crème Brulégg! The chocolate egg will soften as it bakes, but hold its shape  until you dig into it with a spoon.

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 6 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream or 18% coffee cream
  • ½ tsp. good-quality vanilla (I used Madagascar vanilla bean paste, in which you can see the teeny seeds from the vanilla pod)
  • sugar, for sprinkling on top
  • 4-6 Cadbury’s Easter creme eggs

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in the cream and vanilla. Divide among four to six small ramekins, and nestle an Easter creme egg in each. Place in a roasting pan or 9x13-inch pan, fill with water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins, and bake at 325˚F for 30-45 minutes, or until set but still slightly jiggly.

Take them out, let them cool and then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, until nice and cold.

Sprinkle an even layer of sugar over each dish and caramelize with a torch or transfer to a cookie sheet and place under the broiler in the oven for about two minutes, just until the sugar is caramelized and golden. Turn the sheet around if you need to to help them caramelize evenly.

Refrigerate again, or just let them sit on the countertop while you eat dinner or make coffee, just until the sugar is set and crackly.

Serves six.

creme brulegg

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Tartiflette with Oka

If you struggle with making scalloped potatoes — or just want a less fussy alternative that just happens to be spectacularly delicious  try this simple, rustic French dish made with cubed potatoes, bacon, cream and a whole round of Oka cheese.

The Oka melts overtop as it bakes, making a sublimely gooey, cheesy dish that’s the epitome of comfort food  and perfect with ham.

  • 1 ½-2 lbs thin skinned, yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 5-6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • a grating of fresh nutmeg
  • ¾ cup heavy (whipping) cream or 18% coffee cream
  • 1 small wheel Oka cheese

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Cook the potatoes in salted water until tender, but still somewhat firm in the middle. Drain well.

In a heavy oven-proof skillet (cast iron is ideal), cook the bacon until almost crisp; add the onion and continue cooking for a couple minutes. Add the potatoes, salt and pepper and nutmeg and mix well. Drizzle the cream over the top. Remove the rind from the bottom of the cheese and lightly scratch the top rind of the cheese with a knife.

Place the cheese, rind side up, on top of the potato mixture. Bake for 40 -45 minutes until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are cooked through.

Serve immediately. Serves four to six.

Tartiflette

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Sticky Baked Ham

This is my go-to baked ham recipe. It’s practically foolproof, requiring the cook only to unwrap the ham and put it in the oven, then paint it with brown sugar-mustard-balsamic toward the end of its cooking time. It’s perfect for serving a large crowd, especially of varying ages and appetites.

  • 1 5-6 lb. bone-in ham
  • ¼-½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup grainy mustard
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Unwrap your ham, check for a small plastic plug on the bone and remove it if there is one, put into a baking dish it will fit in and bake for about an hour. (Alternatively, put in a large slow cooker, cover and cook on low for four to six hours, then remove from the slow cooker and put in a baking dish.)

Meanwhile, in a small dish, stir together the brown sugar, mustard and vinegar. Brush all over the surface of the ham and return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, brushing once or twice with the glaze.

Serve warm. Serves lots.

Baked ham

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

The Ultimate Gooey Cinnamon Bun

Cinnamon buns are classic special occasion breakfast snacks when whatever you’re celebrating (Christmas, Easter) requires gathering in the morning. These are the ultimate sticky, gooey cinnamon buns. 

To make them ahead, stash the rolled, cut dough in the fridge overnight to slow the rise, then bake in the morning for warm buns with your coffee and egg hunt.

Dough:

  • ½ cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. salt

Goo:

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Rogers’ golden syrup, corn syrup or honey
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup pecan halves (optional)

Filling:

  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (approximately)

To make the dough, put the warm water in a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) and sprinkle with the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Let stand five minutes, or until foamy. (If it doesn’t foam, toss it and buy fresh yeast.)

In a small bowl, mix the warm milk and eggs together with a fork. Add to the yeast mixture along with three cups of the flour and the remaining sugar; mix until well blended and sticky. Add the butter and remaining flour and stir or beat with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer until you have a soft, sticky dough. 

Knead for about eight minutes, until smooth and elastic. It will still be slightly tacky. Place back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile, make the goo: combine the butter, brown sugar, syrup and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the butter is melted. Divide between two buttered pie plates, nine-inch cake pans or 8×8-inch pans (or one of each), pouring it over the bottom. If you like, scatter with pecan halves.

To make the buns, divide the dough in half, shape each into a rough rectangle (this will make it roll out more evenly) and on a lightly-floured surface, roll into a rectangle that’s about 10×15-inches (or slightly bigger, even) and about ¼-inch thick. Brush each piece with half the melted butter and scatter with brown sugar; smooth the sugar to evenly distribute it with your hand. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Starting on a long side, roll the dough up into a log, and using a serrated knife, cut it crosswise into thirds. Cut each piece into thirds  this is easier than eyeballing it to get nine even pieces. Place cut-side-up into the pans, placing one in the middle and the rest around it, or in the case of a square pan, in three rows of three.

Cover with a tea towel and let rise for another hour, until doubled in bulk. (If you’re making them the night before, cover and place in the fridge for a slow rise; take them out and leave them on the countertop for ½ hour or so before baking.)

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Put a baking sheet on the rack underneath (to catch any drips) and bake for 30-40 minutes, until deep golden. Let cool for five to ten minutes, but invert onto a plate while still warm. (If you wait too long and they get stuck in the pan, slide back into a hot oven to rewarm the goo, then try again.)

Eat warm. Makes 1½ dozen cinnamon buns.

Cinnamon buns

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Maple Bacon Cornmeal Waffles

Weekend brunches are the ideal excuse to make waffles — if your usual recipe is getting tired, try these cornmeal waffles with a strip of bacon cooked inside. They’re like bacon-y corn dogs for breakfast, and both cornbread and bacon are perfect doused with maple syrup.

  • 6-8 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

In large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil and syrup; pour over the dry ingredients. Stir just until blended.

Preheat your waffle iron and brush it with some oil or spray it with non-stick spray. Pour in ½ cup batter and lay a strip of bacon overtop; cook according to the manufacturer’s directions, or until the waffle is golden and crisp.

Serve warm. Serves six.

Waffles

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Wine Smoothies

A smoothie made of wine and frozen fruit — essentially a bellini — is perfect for a celebratory brunch. It’s easy to omit the wine, or swap bubbly ginger ale for the kids.

You don’t really need a recipe, just shake a bag of frozen fruit — peaches, mango, berries — into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth with a big splash of apple or orange juice.

Spoon the slushy puree into glasses and top with bubbly anything: Prosecco, sparkling wine or ginger ale to serve.

Wine smoothies

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)