Discover and learn
Fancy rustling up some tasty bird-themed treats?
Great British Bake Off champion and RSPB supporter Frances Quinn has kindly provided recipes for two sumptuous snacks - one of which is exclusive - which are bound to keep the kids happy this spring.
Salty and Tweet NestBiscuit Birds
This is like a giant, gorgeous version of the little chocolate nests I used to make as a child.
But the addition of salty pretzel sticks along with the sweet chocolate makes it much more delicious: a real tweet treat for Easter - or any other time of year.
You could make the nest a feature of an Easter Egg hunt - every discovered egg must be brought back to the nest, and then everyone can dive in!
As well as using plain foil-wrapped eggs, I sometimes unwrap larger, branded chocolate eggs and re-cover them with coloured foil.
(Makes a 20 cm tiffin nest, serves 10-12.)
Take a piece of baking parchment and scrunch it up in your hands, then smooth it out (this makes it easier to manipulate). Use the parchment to line the frying pan.
Put the butter and golden syrup in a large heavy-based saucepan. Set over a gentle heat and warm, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted.
Add all the chopped chocolate for the tiffin and stir the mixture until smooth and combined. Remove the pan from the heat.
Set aside one of the shredded wheat biscuits. Break up the remaining shredded wheat and the pretzel sticks and add these to the saucepan, along with the desiccated coconut. Combine everything gently but thoroughly.
Transfer the mixture to the lined frying pan, pressing it up the sides with your fingers to produce a hollow nest shape. Refrigerate until set, preferably overnight.
Remove the nest from the fridge and allow it to return to room temperature.
Melt the extra chocolate for decorating in a microwave or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (bain-marie). Break up the reserved shredded wheat biscuit in a bowl. Remove the nest from the frying pan, keeping it on the parchment.
Using the paintbrush or a pastry brush, paint the melted chocolate over the nest. Scatter over the shreds of shredded wheat and press them on to the surface of the nest so they adhere to the melted chocolate – apply more chocolate if any shredded wheat fails to stick.
Leave to set before filling the nest with an assortment of chocolate eggs.
If you don’t like coconut, you can use a mixture of salted peanuts and raisins instead. To create an even more realistic-looking nest and provide even more sweet tweets to nibble on, sit the nest in a bed of ‘twigs’ made from extra broken-up pretzel sticks and chocolate sticks or flutes.
Extract taken from Quinntessential Baking by Frances Quinn (Bloomsbury, £25). Photography by Georgia Glynn-Smith.
These Biscuit Birds are delicious eaten on their own or placed and enjoyed with the Salty and Tweet Nest, complete with chocolate eggs and pretzel sticks.
The pretzel sticks and birds can be used to record your Big Garden Birdwatch findings and the various decorative ingredients to add not just texture and taste to the biscuits but signify the different species.
From sesame seed sparrows to dessicated coconut chaffinches, feel free to use whatever edible feathers and finish you desire to create your sweet tweeting treats.
Using a hand-held electric whisk, or in a free-standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar together for 3–5 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Break the egg into a mug or jug, add the vanilla extract and beat with a fork.
Gradually add the egg to the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour into the mixture in two or three batches, mixing in each batch gently, to make a soft dough.
Halve the dough and pat each piece into a rough disc (this makes it easier to roll out later). Put into two food bags, or wrap in clingfilm. Refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight, to firm up.
Remove the dough from the fridge 15–30 minutes before rolling it, so it can soften slightly. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.
Roll out the dough between sheets of baking parchment to the thickness of a £1 coin. If the dough seems very sticky, dust it and the parchment lightly with a little flour. Peel off the top parchment sheet, then cut out your bird shapes and use a cocktail stick to create the indent of an eye.
Bake the biscuits for 10–12 minutes until they are lightly golden brown around the edges. Leave them to firm up for a few minutes on the baking tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Apply the melted chocolate to the birds using a paintbrush and sprinkle over your desired edible feathers and leave to set.