I absolutely love Easter. It really is my favourite time of year. Daffodils pushing up through the ground, clocks being put forward, spring in the air, sunshine (although not this year, brrr) and chocolate! What’s not to love?
Whilst putting the ‘Easter Tree’ up, the first year of living with my boyfriend I got some very strange looks and lots of questions were asked. I replied with, ‘I thought everyone did it.’ Apparently not. I think my love of Easter has been embedded in me from a very early age. In Frankfurt, where I grew up, Easter trees and decorations were dotted across the whole city. Going shopping as a child at this time of year was so exciting, there were real life bunnies and chicks hopping around in purpose made sets containing brightly coloured giant Easter eggs and hutches full of hay. I have to admit I found myself just as excited on a recent trip back to Frankfurt during Easter time; it’s just all so lovely!
The smell of Easter biscuits, in my opinion, is one of the best ever. My brother and I would have to really hold back eating the entire batch of biscuits that my mum used to bake for us, as well as the hundreds she made for her café during the Easter period. By the time Easter Sunday came though, we didn’t want to smell or see another biscuit for a very long time.
This year I discovered a very interesting fact about Easter Biscuits. Having recently moved from my hometown of Bristol to Brighton, I was talking about Easter biscuits to my new friends and colleagues. I got some puzzled faces when mentioning putting cassia oil into the biscuits. No one seemed to know what cassia oil was and in fact no one had ever heard of it. I thought to myself maybe I got the name wrong or was I making it up? I hadn’t made them for a while, but my memory’s not that bad and cassia oil was definitely the addictive smell and taste I remember so fondly.
Back in Bristol I went to a health food shop to ask for some cassia oil and with no hesitation they knew what it was straight away. Not having any in stock they sent me off to ‘Boots Pharmacy’ down the road where they knew they’d definitely have some. Sure enough there on the counter were some tiny bottles of cassia oil along with a recipe for Easter biscuits. I wasn’t imagining it after all! Very pleased with my purchase I thought I’d have a quick look on the Internet about this mysterious oil. I was very surprised to discover that Easter biscuits originate from the West Country and cassia oil seemed to be quite hard to get hold of. More so it seemed that people were travelling quite a distance to pick up the oil from Bristol. My love of Easter biscuits was getting stronger, if that’s possible.
A tiny bit of history for you… Bristol is a port city and since as early as the 13th century has adapted its rivers for use as docks. It was home to the second largest seaport in England during the 14th century where John Cabot set out on several expeditions to find Asia (but he discovered the Caribbean and North America instead).
Throughout the centuries Bristol would have been a landing point for many imports including sugar, spices, dried fruits and of course the ingredient in question cassia oil, a product of Asia. Cassia oil comes from the ‘Chinese Cinnamon’ plant and back then used to be the poor mans substitute for the more expensive cinnamon. I’m pretty sure this is why Easter biscuits are still so popular in Bristol and the West Country.
People who know me can identify with the fact that I’m passionate about all things Bristol. I really love feeling connected to the food I eat and enjoy a good back-story, therefore I think the Bristol Easter biscuit is the perfect combination!
285g Plain flour
200g Butter (soft)
2 Egg yolks
10 Drops cassia oil
- Preheat oven to 160c.
- Beat the softened butter and sugar together until lightly creamed.
- Beat in the egg yolks then add the currants along with the cassia oil and mix.
- Sieve the flour into the mixture and combine then bring together with your hands to form a soft ball of dough.
- Knead lightly then roll out on a lightly floured surface to about a 5mm thickness. Cut into rounds with a circular biscuit cutter.
- Place on a grease proofed baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until pale golden brown. Be careful not to over cook the biscuits. Leave to cool on baking tray for a minute or so until they firm up a bit then transfer to a cooling rack.