In New York, Easter is for some a time to celebrate - while for many other folks it's a weekend worth celebrating just like any other. In a place where the term "diversity" is not simply a mix of differences, but rather an expression of identities, everyone is welcome to build their own traditions. As my extended family is far away in Brazil, my husband and I got to do Easter our own way. This year, we enjoyed some creative bunnies, interesting history, adventurous baking and an NYC quirky parade.
On Friday evening we folded origami bunnies to hold some treats and decorate the place. The video (see link) is very clear and it was a fun activity to start the weekend with good spirits and creativity!
On Saturday, we tagged along for a wonderful - and free! - walking tour of Union Square. In a group of 15 - 20 random people, we stepped into history to learn the chain of events staged in that same square that contributed to what New York is today. Where Union Square was to me just a place of odd people and a decent farmers market, it has now captivated me for its resilience, diversity and revolutionary social, commercial and political history. It really is all about how we perceive things, isn't it? I absolutely recommend this tour, which I believe takes place every Saturday at 2 p.m., leaving from the Abraham Lincoln statue on 16th Street (yes, you probably never noticed that statue before - and you'll learn why!).
This tour was the perfect thing to do on Easter weekend in NYC, to remind us that this city is built by the diversity of its people, and that respect for each person's beliefs and traditions didn't come easily. I come from a place of religious syncretism, which basically means the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions and cultures, forming a strong and unique local identity, but also crushing diversity; resulting in tolerance of people's different levels of commitment to traditions, but lacking respect for anything that is strange to that mix. It's been a very valuable experience to live in a place of many forever changing identities. NYC is a kaleidoscope and I am amused to be contributing to it.
On Sunday we joined local families and tourists alike to watch the "Hat Parade" on Fifth Avenue. This tradition dates back to the 1800s, when high society women used to put on their best big hair-dos and elaborate hats to attend church on Easter Sunday. Today, it constitutes a quirky mix of hats, Easter themed or not, and just a lot of fun! I particularly enjoyed the old-time pieces, which carry on the true tradition of the parade.
Lastly, as we all love excuses to eat chocolate, we finished our weekend by baking the famous French desert called Petits Gâteaux, but inside egg shells! I got this adventurous idea from a beautiful blog called La Receta de la Felicidad, though she did it with brownies. Basically, you make a small hole on the bottom of the egg and drain its contents out (it wasn't easy, but I discovered that shaking it up and down helps). Once empty, clean it under running water and submerse it in saltwater for 30 minutes (make sure the saltwater fills the egg inside). Then drain the water and leave the egg to dry with the hole facing down. Once you are ready with the cake dough, put it in the egg by using a zip-lock bag with a tiny hole cut on the corner, forming a piping bag. Fill the egg about halfway. Place the egg on a muffin tin and use tinfoil to support it with the hole facing up.
For the cake, I used the following recipe:
4oz of 60% cocoa chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
7 tbsp of butter
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup of sugar
2 tbsp of flour
Preheat the oven to 350F. While the oven heats up melt the chocolate with a hot water bath and mix in the butter. In the meantime, in a bowl, mix the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until blended (you may use a mixer here, but I didn't). Then, little by little, add the melted chocolate mixture into the egg and sugar mix until blended. Lastly, add the flour and mix gently until the dough becomes uniform. Put the mix in muffin baking tins, filling each tin about halfway. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Serve hot with vanilla bean ice cream!
The baking-in-the-egg-shell idea didn't turn out perfectly. In fact, it looked more like an ice cream ball - which is not all bad and it was a lot of fun! I believe I overfilled the shells, which caused one egg shell to crack and the contents to overflow. I would have tried again with a half-full egg shell, but it took a while to prepare the first two shells and I didn't feel like doing it again. So, I used the rest of the cake dough to bake regular Petits Gâteaux straight in the muffin tin. It worked beautifully and deliciously!
So, as you can see, Easter weekend was special, but as I've learned from my fellow New Yorkers, it's what you make of it that makes it special!