Thank you so much to ALDI for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own - thank you for supporting the businesses that keep Cloudy Kitchen going!
I’m not sure how, but it’s suddenly almost Easter. Which makes me so excited for a few reasons - the weather should finally warm up, I love Easter Eggs (I always get Mum to send me some from home), but most of all - Easter baking is so, so much fun! I love how many different treats can be made to incorporate Easter and Spring flavours, and pastel coloured anything is always going to be a winner in my books.
I figured the best way to kick off the Easter Baking season was with a treat box! These are super fun to make, and make incredible gifts. I have partnered with ALDI for this treat box - showing off some of their baking staples. Their products are incredibly well priced (something that is super hard to come by in NYC!!), and are great quality. They are definitely my go-to for stocking up on basics such as their Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter, Baker’s Corner Powdered Sugar, and Baker’s Corner All-Purpose Flour. Also - I’m not sure if it’s just me (it most likely is just me), but I get a huge kick out of going to new supermarkets and looking at all the new and different things that they have! If you have an ALDI I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already!
I wanted to make a variety of treats for this box to show how easy and fun they are to put together - I like making a couple of time intensive recipes that can easily be doubled (such as the macarons and hand pies), and then pairing them with some easy to make treats (Cardamom Linzers, Marshmallows, and Brown Butter Crispy Rice Bars), and then rounding it out with some store bought items - this time I chose to use a bunch of Moser Roth and Choceur Easter Eggs from ALDI (which are available Starting the 27th of March). I also like using recipes that can be used in a few applications - for example I made one batch of the Cardamom Linzer dough, and filled some with Jam, and iced others with some Royal icing to provide a variation in designs. Adding in the Easter eggs was the perfect finishing touch - not only are they super delicious, but they are crazy cute and really help with driving the Easter theme home! This treat box would make a great Easter gift, or as something to take along to an event or Easter brunch - either one or two batches of the recipes that I have included here would be great for making 7-8 boxes for family and friends.
A few wee tips:
I find that prep is key for these! The day before I put these together, I made the cookies for the Linzers and iced Cookies, made the Crispy Rice Treat bars, made the shells for the macarons, made the dough for the and pies, covered some of the cardamom cookies in royal icing, and made the marshmallows. That meant that on the day of assembly, I just had to bake off the hand pies, fill the macarons, fill the linzers, and cut shapes from the marshmallows. Breaking up the jobs like this really helped to keep on top of things.
You can use whatever box you like! I used a wooden box and made some dividers from craft wood, but I have seen them done in cardboard boxes using dividers or even cupcake liners to pop the treats in.
Don’t feel like you have to make everything in a treat box! Even just one homemade cookie with a bunch of Easter eggs is perfect - you do you here. ALDI has an amazing range of Easter goodies that would go great in your box. I used the Choceur Milk Chocolate Hollow Eggs, the Choceur Hollow Mini Bunnies, the Moser Roth Mini Truffle Easter Eggs in Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut, and the Choceur Solid Milk Chocolate Eggs.
Cardamom Linzer Cookies
- Makes about 32 Cookies -
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus chill time
Bake time: 30-40 minutes total (8-10 minutes per tray)
Note - I cut a couple of the cookies using a larger egg cutter, and iced them with royal icing, just as a fun little visual variation for the box! I have included my royal icing recipe and directions below.
Cardamom Linzer Dough
170g Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
50g brown sugar
1 Simply Nature Grade A Organic Cage Free Brown Egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
310g Baker’s Corner All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground cardamom
Jam or Preserves of choice (I used the Award Winning Specially Selected Blackberry Fruit Spread)
Baker’s Corner Powdered Sugar, for dusting
Royal Icing Detailing (optional)
¼ cup (60g) water
15g (1 Tbsp) meringue powder
340g (2 ¾ cups) Baker’s Corner Powdered Sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
- PROCESS -
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium high speed until pale, 3-4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine, scraping down the edges as needed.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and cardamom. Add to the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface, and gently bring together with your hands. Form into a rectangle, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for approximately an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°f /180°c. Line 3-4 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into two. Working with one piece of dough at a time, place between two large pieces of parchment paper, and roll to approximately ¼” (7mm) thickness. Transfer, still covered in the parchment, to a baking sheet, and place in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the dough to firm. Repeat with the second portion of dough.
Remove one sheet from the freezer, and peel off the Top sheet of the parchment paper. Using a cutter of your desired size (I used an egg cutter that was 2” in height), cut out shapes from your dough. Place on the lined baking sheets, leaving a little room in between. If the dough starts to soften, return to the freezer to firm up. Repeat until all the dough has been used up.
Place the cut out cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes, then, using a small shaped cutter (I used a small egg cutter), cut out a hole in the middle of half of the cookies. Repeat the rolling and cutting process while the first sheet is baking. You may end up with 3-4 baking sheets worth of cookies - store any cookies that aren’t being baked in the freezer while they are waiting to be baked off.
Bake each sheet one at a time for 8-9 minutes, until the edges are set. You may need to increase the baking time if your cookies are slightly larger.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Repeat the baking process with the remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble.
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
Pair up the cookies so each has a solid half, and half with a cut-out. Place the cut-out pieces on a wire rack, and, if desired, dust generously with powdered sugar. Place all the solid halves smooth side down (so the side that was against the baking sheet is facing up), then, using either a spoon or a piping bag, place about 1 tsp of jam on each cookie. Top with a cut-out half. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container - these are best served on the day they are assembled, but you can store the components separately for several days.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the water and meringue powder. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and then mix on low for 8-10 minutes. The mixture will become very thick.
Transfer about half of the icing to a small bowl, and place the rest in a small container with plastic wrap pressed against the surface. Thin down the icing with more water, adding a teaspoon at a time until it is a pipe-able consistency. Transfer to a small piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Pipe a border around the edge of each cookie, then fill in by piping icing within the border. Smooth down with a skewer. Repeat on as many cookies as desired. Allow to dry for at least a few hours before you pipe on detail.
To pipe on the detail, thin down the remaining icing, and colour as desired. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a round tip, and pipe designs onto the cookies. Allow to dry before eating.
Store cookies in an airtight container.
Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
- Makes one 9” x 13” pan of marshmallow -
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus 3-4 hours for marshmallows to cure
Note - I repeated the recipe twice to give me pink and yellow marshmallows. The thing I love about homemade marshmallows is that they last a super long time - just keep them in an airtight container. I cut mine out using Easter shaped cutters, but cutting into squares with a sharp knife works just as well too - just be sure to dust either the knife or your cutter in the marshmallow dust to make sure that it doesn’t stick.
35g (¼ cup) Baker’s Corner Powdered Sugar
35g (¼ cup) corn starch
Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter for greasing pan.
75g cold water
14g (2 sachets) powdered gelatin
75g cold water
105 g light corn syrup
1 tablespoon (18g) vanilla bean paste, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
Gel food colouring as desired (optional)
- PROCESS -
Sift together the powdered sugar and corn starch. Set aside - this will be used to dust the pan.
VANILLA BEAN MARSHMALLOWS
Grease a 9” x 13” quarter sheet pan with butter, and dust with marshmallow dust. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine 75 grams water with the powdered gelatin. Combine well and leave to bloom while you prepare the sugar syrup.
In a medium sized heavy bottom saucepan, heat the second measure of water, granulated sugar, light corn syrup, and vanilla bean paste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer registers 240˚f (116˚c). Remove from the heat, and allow to cool to 210˚f (99˚c).
Turn the mixer to medium speed, and allow it to break up the gelatin slightly. Carefully stream in the sugar syrup mixture. Increase the speed to high, and beat until the marshmallow has doubled in volume, holds a small peak, and is fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Add food colouring if desired. Working quickly, scrape into the prepared pan, and smooth down with a lightly oiled offset spatula. Dust with additional marshmallow dust, and allow to cure for at least 3 hours.
Dust a work surface with marshmallow dust, and turn the marshmallow onto it. Using an Easter cutter of your desired size, cut out marshmallows, dusting the cutter with marshmallow dust as needed. I used egg cutters and a chick cutter.
Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Macarons with Dark Chocolate Mint Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Makes about 24 macarons -
Prep time: 45 minutes, plus time for macarons to dry
Bake time: 30 minutes
Note - After mixing in the powdered sugar and almond flour mixture into the meringue, I divided the mixture into three, and coloured each individually, then continued to mix until they were the correct consistency. This is an easy way to make several colours from one batch of batter. I also added some ‘speckles’ by flicking on some black gel food colouring diluted with water using a paintbrush after they had baked.
170g Baker’s Corner Almond Flour
300g Baker’s Corner Powdered Sugar
180g Simply Nature Grade A Organic Cage Free Brown Egg whites, at room temperature
Gel food colour as desired
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Mint Chocolate Chip Swiss Meringue Buttercream
65g egg whites, or 2 large egg whites - I used Simply Nature Grade A Organic Cage Free Brown Eggs
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
⅛ tsp kosher salt
225g (8oz, or two sticks) Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla
125g dark chocolate
⅛ tsp peppermint extract
- PROCESS -
Preheat oven to 300˚f / 150˚c, and position the oven rack in the centre of the oven. Using a round cookie cutter or the base of a large piping tip (something about 1.5 inches in diameter), draw a "template" for your macarons on a piece of parchment paper, leaving about ¾" between each circle.
Combine the almond flour and powdered sugar together in a large bowl. Sift the mixture twice, to ensure there are no large lumps and that the mixture is properly aerated. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, increase the mixer speed, and whip on high until the meringue starts to firm up. Add gel food colour if desired. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Continue to whip until the meringue forms stiff peaks.
Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add half of the almond flour and powdered sugar mixture, and fold into the meringue. You want to deflate the meringue just a little at this stage, to combine the meringue and almond flour mixture.
Add the remaining almond flour mixture, and stir lightly to combine. Now comes the important part - mixing the batter to the correct consistency. Fold the mixture in a series of 'turns', deflating the batter by spreading it against the side of the bowl. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat the movement - scooping the batter from the bottom of the bowl, and spreading it against the side. Continuously check the consistency of the batter - you want it to flow like lava when you lift the spatula from the bowl, and you should be able to 'draw' a figure 8 with it, without the batter breaking (again, watch lots of videos to get an idea! They help so much). This step can take some practice until you know what it should feel and look like. If in doubt you are better to under mix them than over mix them - the process of putting the batter into the bag and piping out will help mix a little too.
Fit a large pastry bag with a medium sized round tip, such as an Ateco #805. Place the macaron template on a sheet pan, and place a second piece of parchment over it. Holding the piping bag at a 90˚ angle to the surface, pipe out the batter into blobs the size of the circles drawn on the template. Finish off each piped circle with a little "flick" of your wrist to minimise the batter forming a point (it will still form a small one, but we can get rid of this with banging). Remove the template from under the macarons.
Hold the baking sheet in two hands, and carefully but firmly, evenly bang it against the bench. Repeat this a few more times - this will get rid of any air bubbles, remove points on the top, and help them to spread out slightly.
Repeat the piping and banging process until you have used up all of the batter - I usually make three sheet pans worth.
Allow the macarons to dry at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes, or until they form a skin that you can touch without your finger sticking to them. This time will drastically vary depending on the humidity.
About fifteen minutes before you are going to bake the macarons, place a spare sheet pan in the oven to preheat - this is going to be used to place under the pan with the macarons on it, to double up, which should help with even baking. Bake the macarons one sheet at a time - place the sheet with the macarons on the preheated sheet, and place in the oven.
Bake for approximately 18 minutes, rotating the pan once during the cooking process, and checking for doneness after 15 minutes. The macarons should develop a foot (the ruffled part on the bottom of the macaron), and bake without browning. To see if they are done - press down lightly on a shell. If the foot gives way, it needs a little longer, if it is stable, then it is close to being done. Test a macaron shell - if you can peel it away cleanly from the paper, they are done. If they are stable but cannot yet peel away cleanly, give them another minute or so. Again, this part takes a little trial and error depending on your oven. If they seem done but do not peel away cleanly, do not worry - there is a little trick for that!
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on the sheet pan for 10 minutes before peeling off the parchment paper and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat the baking with the remaining trays, using the same spare sheet pan to double up.
If your macs do not peel away cleanly, place them, on the parchment paper, into the freezer for 5-10 minutes, then peel away from the paper.
Store shells in an airtight container until ready to fill. These can be made 2-3 days in advance, provided they are stored in an airtight container.
DARK CHOCOLATE MINT SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
Place the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or a heat proof bowl. Place over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the water does not touch the bowl. Heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture registers 160˚f / 70˚c on a thermometer and the sugar has dissolved. Carefully transfer the bowl to the mixer, and fit with the whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites on high until the mixture has begun to cool slightly and the egg whites are white and fluffy and hold a stiff peak, 8-10 minutes. Add the butter one chunk at a time. The mixture may look curdled - but just keep mixing! Once all the butter is incorporated, mix on high for a further 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.
While the buttercream is mixing, melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl in 30 second increments in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly.
Once the buttercream has finished mixing, and is smooth and silky, add in the cooled chocolate, and peppermint extract. Mix for a further 2-3 minutes, then switch to the paddle attachment and mix on low for one minute to remove any air. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
Pair up each macaron shell with another of equal size. Pipe a blob of buttercream on one side of the pair, and gently press the second half on to adhere. Macarons can be eaten immediately, but are best after a night in the fridge in an airtight container to let the flavours meld.
Brown Butter Crispy Rice Treat Bars
- Makes one 9”x9” pan of bars -
Prep time: 15 Minutes, Plus time for the bars to set
115g (one stick) Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter
285g (one 10oz bag) marshmallows
175g Millville Crispy Rice cereal
Flaky sea salt, to finish
Sprinkles of your choice, to finish
- PROCESS -
Grease a 9”x9” pan with butter (I used the Crofton Speckled Bakeware Pan from ALDI, available starting March 27th).
Place the Crispy Rice cereal in a large bowl. In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, place the butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the butter melts, and then continue to cook, stirring well, until the butter begins to go brown and smell toasty. Remove the butter from the heat, and add the marshmallows and vanilla, stirring well. Leave to sit for 1-2 minutes to help the butter melt the marshmallows, then stir until the marshmallows are melted and the mixture is well combined.
Pour the marshmallow mixture over the Crispy Rice cereal, and mix well until well combined. It may seem sticky, but make sure that you keep mixing to make sure all of the cereal is evenly coated.
Transfer to the greased pan, and press down with a spoon or wet fingers. Sprinkle with sprinkles and flaky sea salt, then leave to cool and set before slicing into bars. Store in an airtight container
Mini Jam Hand Pies
- Makes about 20 Hand Pies -
Prep time: 45 minutes, plus overnight rest for the dough and chilling time for the hand pies
Bake time: 25 minutes
Note - You can fill these with whatever you like! I used the Specially Selected Fruit Spread from ALDI in Blackberry, Strawberry and Raspberry. You can mix and match the fillings - using a premade jam makes these super quick and easy, and they are so good! They are also great to make ahead and store in the freezer - make them up to the point where you freeze them solid, then transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer until you are ready to bake!
2 ½ cups (310g) Baker’s Corner All-Purpose Flour
Pinch of salt
2 tsp (8g) sugar
2 sticks (226g) Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter, cold, cut into cubes
1 cup (240ml) cold water
1 cup ice
¼ cup (60ml) apple cider vinegar
Fruit Spread or Jam of your choice
Egg wash - one Simply Nature Grade A Organic Cage Free Brown Egg, whisked with 1 Tbsp water
Turbinado or raw sugar to finish, optional
- PROCESS -
Place flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Cut butter into chunks, and add to the flour. Toss lightly to coat. Working quickly, using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until there are only pea-sized chunks left. You want a few lumps of butter remaining to keep the pastry nice and tender.
Combine ice, water and cider vinegar in a bowl. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the ice water into the flour and butter mixture, and using a stiff spatula or your hands, mix in well. Continue adding water a tablespoon at a time ( I normally need about 8-10 tbsp.) until you have a dough that holds together well, but is not too wet. Squeeze together with your fingertips to make a homogenous dough. Shape into two rectangles, and wrap in plastic wrap. Rest in the fridge for at least two hours, or preferably overnight.
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
On a lightly floured surface, working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into a rough rectangle, with a dough thickness of approximately ⅛”. Using a circle cutter (I used a 2 ¾” cutter), cut circles of dough, and place onto a lined baking sheet. Repeat with the second piece of pie dough, until you have used it all. Scraps can be gently pressed back together and wrapped in plastic, then re-rolled and used for extra circles. Store cut circles in the fridge while you finish rolling out the dough.
Once you have cut out your circles, combine the egg wash in a small bowl. Working with two circles at a time (otherwise the egg wash tends to dry out and not stick), paint two of the circles with egg wash. Place a small teaspoon of jam filling in the centre of one circle, then place the second circle, egg wash side down, on top, making sure to press out any air.
Lightly seal the hand pie with your fingers, then transfer to a lined baking sheet and crimp the edges with a fork (do not crimp the edges on your work surface or it makes the hand pie very hard to move).
Repeat with the remaining circles, until you have made all of your hand pies. If you would like to add cut-outs, you can roll together some scraps, briefly freeze the rolled out dough, and then use pie stamps to stamp out the dough. Adhere to the hand pies with egg wash.
Place the baking sheet with the hand pies in the freezer, and freeze for 20-30 minutes, or until completely solid. While the pies are in the freezer, preheat the oven to 425°f / 220°c.
Create air holes in the top of the pies using a fork, to allow steam to escape while baking. Brush the hand pies all over with egg wash, and then sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake the hand pies for 20-25 minutes, until deeply golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature - store leftovers in foil, and reheat in the oven to re-crisp the pastry.
Thank you so much to ALDI for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.