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How to perfectly curate your Easter basket



Photo: bhofack2 (iStock)
Features Stories from The Takeout about food, drink, and how we live.

Easter is on April 21 (April 28 for the Greeks), which means you only got a handful of days left to make some important decisions for you and your family. Want to dress up with seasonal flair? Will you have the brunch crowded out of the streets of your city? And most importantly: What will be waiting inside your family's Easter baskets to surprise and delight all who receive one?

Easter baskets are like floral arrangements or charcuterie boards: wonderful no matter what, but extra special when they've been thoughtfully arranged. Making sure all the elements are present and harmonizing with one another will heighten the experience. Also like charcuterie, it's a matter of quality over quantity. You don't expect to get massive slabs of Iberico ham on your serving board, and don't want an entire bag of pastel-wrapped Hershey's miniatures upside down carelessly atop a tuft of plastic grass, either.

So, while you

Of course, the bunny

The crown jewel of any basket is going to be the bunny, and it should indeed be included, but it doesn't have to overwhelm the other treats with its size or density. Dove makes a show-stopping, gold-foil-wrapped solid chocolate bunny that sits beautifully in a basket but is ultimately more trouble than it's worth. Even at room temperature, it takes a lot to get a chef's knife (much less a juvenile set of teeth) through its jugular, and any slice that comes off cleanly is too big a commitment for the human jaw. Freezing the bulk of the bunny for later is even worse, and it requires some thawing to get a Santoku through it again.

Instead, I prefer the Palmer suite of Easter bunnies. There is a nice variety of different bunny characters to choose from, so each basket recipient gets something unique. They're hollow, so you can polish off the whole thing in one sitting without feeling hospitalizable. And they're cheap, so you can buy extras for your post-Easter sweet tooth. Palmer's creative edge has always been its multicolored moldings, which add nice vibrancy to an otherwise monochromatic product. (19659011) More is a chocolate, obviously

A controversial opinion: I do not think Easter is the time for dark chocolate. That's more of a sultry, Valentinesy thing. It's too sophisticated for this springy, and its complex, raisiny aromas – while delightful – would overwhelm the other basket contents. Dark chocolate purists can shut the door on their way out.

But that still leaves plenty of variety, and it's that variety that you find crucial in curating your Easter bounty. To include a couple of each:

  • Marshmallow-filled rabbits: Brach's and Russell Stover each make a nice individually wrapped option; the marshmallow provides a springy textural element that is fun to eat, and just small enough that you don't have to share.
  • Bunny Munny Double Crisp Chocolate Coins: Also produced by Palmer (hey, it's not my fault it's the king of spring), combining a satisfying crunch with the satisfaction of cold hard cash. I wish our legal tender was half as beautiful as these duckling-adorned delicacies.
  • White chocolate: This is less essential, but certainly adds variety. And yes, I know it's not technically chocolate, thank you, I don't care. If M & Ms are your ride-or-die, buying some white chocolate Easter ones are a great way to incorporate them into the basket with minimal redundancy. White Chocolate Marshmallow sounds interesting too, if a little bit into sickly-sweet territory.

Eggs

Easter is not just about bunnies; it is about the multitude of colorful eggs that they evidently lay for children, biological inaccuracies. Confectioners have long realized that an egg is the ideal shape to add to the amount of filling in, and you would have to include one of each variety in your Easter basket:

  • Robin Eggs: A clever seasonal disguise for malted milk balls, Robin Eggs are a much more colorful rendition of the classic Whopper product, and a lighter offering to break up the rich density of the other basket treats. They don´t go stale outside their bag, so they can playfully scattered among the fake grasses or other filler, replicating a tiny Easter egg hunt right there in the basket.
  • Reese's Egg: Although they've been branched out in recent years to include a three-dimensional Peanut Butter Cream Egg, the flatter original egg is, in my view, the superior product. The comparably thinner, more pliable layer of chocolate (than the peanut butter, rather than having the peanut butter injected into it ) think the center more, creating a soft pairing for your teeth to sink into. As savvy readers are quick to point out, the chocolate-to-peanut-butter ratio within a reese varies considerably by product – Original, Big Cup, Miniatures, Eggs, Hearts, Christmas Trees, the dreaded thins, etc. —and I consider this the apex.
  • Cadbury Cream Egg: Include one, but no more than one . This is a treat for a level of indulgence at least once a year. Otherwise, like antibiotics, you build up a resistance to its powers. The Cadbury egg is a specialty item in every sense of the word, with a liquidy fondant center that has its Wikipedia page not shy about describing it as "mimic [ing] the albumen and yolk of a chicken egg." as its chocolate outside, too much of a good thing is less than wonderful. If you've spent the last 40 days chocolateless for Lent, these are enough to induce a sugar-shock headache.
Photo: Zulauf Designs (iStock) [19659026] A bright, fruity element

Chocolate, by now, has been covered. In and amongst it ought to be something that breaks up the delicious monotony. Jelly beans have my vote in this regard, since Easter is the non-elderly one excuse to eat them each year. The starburst ones have a much better flavor than the syrupy generics on the market, as well as including grape as the suspicious dark-colored beans, rather than black licorice flavor, and green apple instead of lime. [19659010] A non-candy element

This is a piece of the puzzle I've come to appreciate more than an adult, because it combines generosity with creativity. Credit for this idea goes to my husband, who surprised me last year with an Easter basket or mini Frank's Red Hot and Nando's Peri-Peri sauces. These, combined with some fun packets of egg seasoning, are a great complement to any hard-boiled eggs you might have left over from dying. Other ideas include small foodstuffs that can be enjoyed year-round, like dip mixes, a baby jar or bacon jam, or an interesting olive oil. Just make sure that fake grass is enough for any glass bottles

A non-food trinket

This is the element that really drives the next level, and makes Easter morning feel like Christmas morning. It certainly doesn't have to be big, just something that might momentarily distract from that range of sugar beckoning children and adults alike. For kids, it might be an accessory to a toy they already have — an American Girl Doll outfit; an expansion pack to whatever card games they are playing now — and for adults, it might be an EP or a mini Moleskine journal. Just something delightful to discover behind all that chocolate.

This list is for high-achievers, but not necessarily big spenders. Carefully selecting each element of this recommended spread is known as the pre-packaged baskets at CVS and Kroger. It aims for variety over volume, and its tactics have been adopted by me, and at the same time, leading to some very memorable Easter mornings indeed. If you read this far, you're probably not the type who's asking why a full-grown adult is still indulging in Easter baskets, which is great. Watch this space next year when I finally attempt the airiest Easter basketball goal of all: replacing the fake grass entirely with Sour Sghetti.


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