This rich sweet bread laced with dark chocolate came about as a bit of an experiment. Leading up to Easter 2021, I started researching breads baked by various cultures around the world. Many Eastern European countries have some version of an enriched bread baked to celebrate Christian or Jewish holidays. Paska, Bapka, Kulich, Challah -- some had fruit, others were spiced and they all varied slightly in shape and design.
Switching up added ingredients can turn this basic scone recipe into something sweet or savoury depending on what you want. Right now, I'm limiting my trips to the grocery store so try to work with ingredients that I have on hand. The basic recipe can be easily doubled, or prepared as a "biscuit mix" (don't add the wet ingredients) and stored in the fridge (if using butter) or cupboard (if using vegetable shortening). I use a (cold) baking stone to cook these on, which helps create an nicely browned bottom and fluffy texture, but a cookie sheet works fine, too. Any scones/biscuits not eaten the first day should be frozen - scones stale very quickly.
Theoretically, the inspiration for our COVID-19 Easter dessert was my grandmother's grasshopper cake that pairs chocolate and mint and was a perennial special occasion favourite. But in reality, there were two main reasons I thought of it. The first was that SOMEBODY ate all the Mini eggs and the only chocolate in the house was a couple of packages of wafer cookie. The second was that we had lamb planned for our Easter dinner, and I usually serve it with mint jelly and didn't have any. While I was trying to figure out how to make mint sauce with the Crème de menthe, it jumped into my whipped cream, and... voilà!
These are super easy to make and look gorgeous. If you don't have Crème de menthe, use peppermint extract and a hint of food colouring. I figure if the Easter bunny didn't hop into our house with chocolate eggs, the grasshopper might as well hop into our dessert.
The aroma alone is worth the work to make these, but the taste is ah-mazing! When I met my husband, his Finnish grandmother, Aune, taught me how to make pulla, a braided loaf of sweet bread flavoured with ground cardamom. It became a staple holiday favourite at Christmas and Easter, and while the smell and taste of homemade bread evokes a sense of comfort, this bread brings with it the sense of family and celebration.
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Jean E. Pendziwol
I live on the north shore of Lake Superior where I write books for kids and adults. I express love and care through food and have a particular fascination with bread! Join me as I explore the cultural significance of bread around the world and experiment with recipes for everything from quick breads to flatbreads, soudoughs and brioche. It promises to be a delicious journey!