April 5, 1996 in Features

Make Easter Special With Handmade Items

Martha Stewart New York Times Sy
 
Tags:column

Each year as spring approaches I begin to plan my annual Easter egg hunt.

Last year I had more than 40 children scurrying through my garden and home in Westport, Conn., looking for brightly colored eggs to fill their baskets.

This year I’ve invited only my nieces and nephews and the children of a few close friends. Still, there will be 20 children in all, which means I’ll be making 20 Easter baskets.

The baskets will be beautifully decorated with ribbon and filled with good things to eat. I’ve been collecting ribbons all year from gifts I’ve received, and the baskets make recycling them easy.

I know these baskets will delight my young guests, but they would be wonderful as decorations at a grownup party as well.

Here’s how to make them:

The baskets

Simple straw baskets come in all shapes and sizes. You can find baskets at discount stores and thrift shops.

1. Spray-paint the basket white or a pale pastel. (This should be done in a well-ventilated area or outside.) 2. Make ribbon bows in various sizes using different decorative ribbons. Stripes, dots and gingham patterns are all good choices.

Attach the bows to the outside of the basket with short pieces of floral wire, or use a hot-glue gun.

3. Wrap the basket’s handle with more ribbon. Glue each end to the basket.

Glue or wire one large bow to the top of the handle.

4. Make a soft cushion for delicate eggs and chocolates by lining the basket with tulle, natural straw, paper Easter grass or colored fine wood shavings (called excelsior). These are sold at crafts stores and good gift-wrapping suppliers.

The eggs

Decorated eggs can be incredibly ornate, but simple solid colors in varying hues can be just as beautiful.

1. Begin by hard-boiling eggs: Place them in a large saucepan of cold water with a bit of salt. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring the eggs gently.

Let the eggs cool in the water.

2. Discard any cracked eggs, then dry the good eggs thoroughly. I rest eggs in upside-down egg cartons (which enable more air to circulate) to dry.

3. Cover your work surface with newspaper. Using a different bowl for each color, make the dyes by mixing dabs of paste color with hot water; add two tablespoons white vinegar to every three cups of water to help the color adhere to the eggs.

Start with a paler shade and add more dye as necessary; experiment by mixing colors. Dye the eggs, then let them dry thoroughly in the upside-down cartons.

The bunnies

You can create a chocolate bunny that fits the basket’s color scheme by melting and dyeing white chocolate, then shaping it in a candy mold.

Look for antique molds at flea markets and antiques shops. New molds are available at cake-decorating supply stores.

1. First figure out how much chocolate you need. Pour sugar into the mold, then weigh the sugar.

2. White chocolate has to be melted very gently; it cannot be melted in a double-boiler. Chop the chocolate into pieces and place in a warm, dry stainless-steel bowl. Set the bowl in a warm spot, such as a gas oven with the pilot light on or an electric oven set at 99 degrees.

Stir the chocolate occasionally with a wooden spoon as it melts. Depending on the amount of chocolate you need, this can take as long as three hours.

3. As soon as the chocolate has melted, divide it into several warm, dry glass bowls. Use a toothpick to dab paste color into the chocolate and mix with a rubber spatula.

4. Pour the colored chocolate into the molds, which should be clean, dry and free of rust. Tap the molds on the work surface to settle the chocolate and burst any air bubbles.

Stand the molds in a large pot and surround them with crumpled aluminum foil to support. If you are using half molds, place on a baking sheet and support with crumpled foil.

Transfer to the freezer until chocolate hardens, about one hour.

5. To unmold, remove the clamps (if your molds have clamps) and carefully remove the metal molds from the chocolate. If the molds don’t have clamps, invert and drop chocolate out onto your hand.

Cover molded chocolates with plastic wrap. They will keep, refrigerated, for about a week.

On Easter morning, tie ribbon bows around the bunnies and nestle them in among the eggs and other treats in the baskets.

Questions from readers

Q. Do you have any suggestions for getting yeast to work in a house - like our country home - that does not get that warm?

I would love to use more recipes that call for yeast. So far, everything has flopped. - Nancy Bukoski, Studley, Va.

A. I love to make yeast breads, and I sympathize with your problem because my home is always cooler than desirable for yeast rising. There are several simple solutions.

The first step is to wrap your bowl of dough in plastic and then in a large terry towel. Then try one of these options:

Place the wrapped bowl in a gas oven with the pilot light on.

Put the bowl on top of a heating pad that has been covered with a terry towel.

Set the bowl on a board on top of a radiator.

Be sure that you don’t allow the dough bowl to sit in a drafty place.

MEMO: Questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, c/o The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10168. Questions may also be sent to Stewart by electronic mail. Her address is: mstewart@msl.timeinc.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Martha Stewart New York Times Syndicate

Questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, c/o The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10168. Questions may also be sent to Stewart by electronic mail. Her address is: mstewart@msl.timeinc.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Martha Stewart New York Times Syndicate


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email