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photo 1This time of year, my thoughts return to my childhood and fond memories of Easter. Sentimentalist that I am, I still have my first Easter basket left by the Easter Bunny. Well-made, it has stood the test of time, the pink weaving now faded. I retrieve it from the upper cupboards of my closet every year and fill it with chocolate eggs and marshmallow peeps.

My vintage basket comes alive each spring.

My vintage basket comes alive each spring.

This basket brings back fond memories of a simpler time of innocence. A time when my mother wore white gloves and a hat that matched her Easter finery and my father donned a lighter grey suit always accompanied by a red bow tie. They were a smart couple.

My grandmother’s sewing machine seemed to run non-stop and her first granddaughter, me, was the lucky recipient of artfully designed outfits to mark any occasion. The Easter dresses she made were always the prettiest and frilliest, sometimes even worn with a fancy hat and gloves like mom’s.

Although I don’t hide or hunt for Easter eggs anymore, I do like to make something special to celebrate the holiday and satisfy my sweet tooth. Lemon and chocolate always make my heart pitter patter. Here are two favorite recipes that sing spring.

Lemon crème is so versatile. In this simple recipe, I stir in crème fraîche to lighten the crème and give it an almost cheesecake taste, then swirl in more on top to jazz it up. Because I love the tartness of lemon and can never get enough, I topped the tart with my homemade Meyer lemon marmalade. The flavors complemented each other beautifully.

Lemon Crème Tart

2 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon peel

1/2 to 1 cup of crème fraîche

Mix the eggs, sugar and lemon juice together. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until your whisk holds most of the crème, revealing the bottom of the pan.

Spoon into a clean bowl and stir in the butter and zest. I use a lot of zest because I like a very tart crème. Adjust for your taste. Chill a few hours.

When cold, stir in the crème fraîche and pour into a pre-baked tart shell. Today I made a pine nut crust. Refrigerate and let rest until set.

To serve, spoon some lemon marmalade over the top. Light and delicious!

An elegant and tasty dessert fit for any occasion. Substitute raspberries or strawberries for the marmalade if you prefer a sweeter taste.

An elegant and tasty dessert fit for any occasion. Substitute raspberries or strawberries for the marmalade if you prefer a sweeter taste.

My Italian friend Nico first introduced me to Pelligrino Artusi. I was intrigued with the gastronome who lived in the 1800’s and revered for his authentic Italian recipes. In his book, The Art of Eating Well, the recipes are rough on the edges, but the recipe for amaretti caught my eye. They are super simple to make and are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I think they would pair well with coffee or tea and could be used as a dipping biscuit, like a biscotti. I adjusted the recipe and shaped them into little droplets with an indentation to hold chocolate or ganache. I tried filling them with colored white chocolate for Easter but was not as excited about the final result as I was the chocolate.

Artusi’s Amaretti

8 oz. almond meal (I use Trader Joe’s)

2 egg whites

2 Cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract or lemon/orange zest optional

Mix the almond meal and confectioner’s sugar together. Stir in the egg whites and almond extract. I did this with my fingers. Add flavoring if desired. The almond extract delivers the extra Humph.

The amaretti dough is easy to roll out and shape. Be creative!

The amaretti dough is easy to roll out and shape. Be creative!

Sprinkle a bit of almond meal onto your work surface. Take a large piece of dough and roll it into a log about an inch in diameter. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Stand the piece upright and using your thumb, make an indentation into the center. This will be the well that holds the chocolate.

Place them on a greased and almond meal floured baking sheet or use parchment paper and bake them for 11 minutes at 325 degrees.

Let cool. Have fun decorating or enjoy them as is.

Chocolate filled amaretti. A perfect little bite when your sweet tooth aches.

Chocolate filled amaretti. A perfect little bite when your sweet tooth aches.

May spring bring sweet memories your way!

Ciao for now, with love,

Mary