Bonus column: Martha Stewart
This Easter, make simple speckled eggs in a cheerful color palette and other spattered food and decorations.
Take a cue from delicately dappled quail eggs and sponge-marked spatterware pottery. There’s no need to hand-paint spot by spot — just a few shakes and swirls in a mixture of food dye and dry pantry items will turn ordinary eggs into mottled masterpieces. Add a few coordinating accents for a bright and beautiful table display.
EASTER EGG DRYING PIN-BOARD
The best way to dry a dyed egg is to set it on a pin-board. This will prevent the color from pooling and drying in an uneven fashion. The board is simple to make and can be saved and reused year after year.
Using a pencil and rule, draw a 1-inch grid on a sheet of 1/2-inch thick foam board. Push flathead pins into the foam, one at each intersecting corner in the grid. Use tongs to remove eggs from the dye, and set them on the pin-board to dry.
A shop-your-pantry supply list and a technique so easy it’s child’s play make these eggs an ideal Easter craft.
Dried grains or beans or nuts
Liquid food dye
White vinegar (optional)
Hard-cooked eggs, plain or dyed
Egg-drying pin board (see below)
1. Fill each cup about one-quarter full of grains, beans or nuts. Add 10 to 15 drops of food dye. Swirl each until dye coats contents; the mixture should be damp but not soaked. (Note: If mixture dries, add a drop of vinegar or a little more dye.)
2. Place an egg in a cup. Gently shake and swirl cup to speckle egg. Repeat with more eggs and colors.
3. Let eggs dry on a pin-board.
PAINT-SPATTERED BOWLS AND WRAPPERS
When you’re done dyeing eggs, take the spattering one step further with paint-splotched bowls and candy wrappers. Fill the bowls with speckled eggs, and use the tissue paper to package prewrapped candy, such as foil-wrapped chocolate eggs.
White disposable bowls
Thin cord or ribbon
1. Thin paint slightly with water. Working over a tissue paper–covered surface (layer multiple sheets), dip brush in paint mixture, then use a flick of the wrist to aim paint at a bowl or tissue paper.
2. Continue spattering until desired look is achieved. Let dry completely.
3. To make candy wrappers, cut tissue paper into 5-by-5-inch squares. Roll small wrapped candies inside squares, making sure painted sides face out. Tie ends with small pieces of cord or ribbon.
SPONGE-SPECKLED EGG COOKIES
For a sweet take on speckled eggs, use a natural sea sponge to dab royal icing colored in springtime hues onto cookies with white icing. The results are far too pretty to save for dessert — set these beauties out on a platter to double as décor.
Pastry bag with small plain round tip
Royal icing (see below)
Egg-shaped sugar cookies (see below)
Liquid food dye
Natural sea sponge
1. Fill pastry bag with icing. Pipe icing outline around cookie, then flood with icing to cover. Let dry completely, about 2 hours.
2. In a small dish, tint 2 tablespoons icing with dye (for example, 35 drops of blue food dye and 2 drops of yellow).
3. Dip sponge into dyed icing. Blot lightly on a paper towel, then dab onto iced cookie. (If icing is too thick, it can be thinned with water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.) Let dry completely, about 1 hour. Store cookies in an airtight container up to 1 week.
Active Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Yield: Makes about 1 dozen, depending on the size of cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture until combined. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm but still pliable, at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days.
2. Heat oven to 325 F. Transfer half of dough to a lightly floured piece of parchment; roll to just under 1/4-inch thick. Transfer dough on parchment to a baking sheet and freeze until firm, 30 minutes. Repeat with other half of dough.
3. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Using a cookie-cutter, cut out cookies and space 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
4. Bake until golden on edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
Royal icing is best for decorating cookies since it dries to a plaster-hard finish.
Active Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes
Yield: Makes about 2 cups
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more if needed
5 tablespoons meringue powder
Scant 1/2 cup water, plus more if needed
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and beat with a mixer on low speed until smooth and opaque white, about 7 minutes. If icing is too thick, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until icing has the consistency of glue; if too thin, beat icing 2 to 3 minutes more, or add more sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Food color and egg dye, in Assorted and Neon Colors, mccormick.com. Multisurface acrylic craft paint, by Martha Stewart Crafts, from $2.50 each, michaels.com. Compote bowls, by Wasara, $10 for 6, hedgerowgeneral.com.
(Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10001. Questions may also be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.)
(Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually. For more information on the topics covered in the Ask Martha column, visit www.marthastewart.com.)