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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, it just wouldn't be Easter without the chocolate bunny and this Sunday will be chock full of goodies. But it's not all sweet in the world of Easter candy. For most of the 21st century a bitter intellectual property battle has raged in Germany.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

That's where the Swiss chocolatier Lindt has been fighting to protect its chocolate rabbit design. Their iconic rabbit is wrapped in gold foil with a red ribbon around its neck. A rival German confectioner has been making a similar looking bunny - also wrapped in gold foil - for decades. And Lindt wants them to stop.

GREENE: After digesting this case for 12 years, the courts finally came to a decision: Lindt cannot trademark their gold wrapped bunnies.

MONTAGNE: So there. But along with candy there are many other treats unique to Easter. We decided to see what's baking in the kitchen of Thomas Keller. One of the world's top chefs, he's out with his newest cookbook - recipes from his Bouchon Bakery.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAKERY)

MONTAGNE: When we joined him at the Bouchon Bakery in Beverly Hills a tray full of hot cross buns had just been pulled out of the oven. Chef Keller's recipe calls for brioche dough with dried currants and cranberries mixed in. And as they cool, he piped lines of frosting - frosting made of sugar, cinnamon and cardamom - until each glossy bun is topped with a perfect white cross.

As is done at bakeries all over England for Easter.

CHEF THOMAS KELLER: Hot cross buns.

MONTAGNE: Not an American tradition.

KELLER: Not an American tradition. They're very religious. You know, they were typically, a dough, a roll, or a bun made on Good Friday. They had the sign of the cross on it, which really meant friendship. The idea of eating the hot cross bun with your friend meant that you'd be friends for life.

And then there's another myth if you kept your hot cross bun for entire year, it would not go moldy and if you became sick and you ate it, it would cure whatever sickness you have. So you have all this mythology around the hot crossed buns. You have the sense of friendship and of course you have the religious overtones.

MONTAGNE: Can I touch that?

KELLER: Of course you can.

MONTAGNE: I just want a taste of the frosting.

KELLER: In France it would be an icing royale. That's our hot cross bun, and something that you only see, really, at Easter time. Very traditional.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: On the kitchen counter opposite the hot cross buns is a carton of plastic eggs. The plastic eggs you'd usually find in an Easter basket, filled with candy. These are being used as molds for Keller's own version of marshmallow eggs.

KELLER: We think about the Easter bunny, we also have the Easter chick. And the Easter chick comes from our Easter eggs.

MONTAGNE: Which would be delicate marshmallow eggs, concocted from sugar, egg whites whipped up into little clouds, gelatin, and Madagascar vanilla. OK. We couldn't resist - just to see what Chef Keller would say. We couldn't bringing in a package of America's most popular marshmallow chick - Peeps, ours an unholy neon pink.

KELLER: Peeps, Chicks, Chicks make peeps. Peep, peep, peep, peep.

MONTAGNE: That don't belong in this kitchen, obviously, but...

KELLER: Aww, they're cute.

MONTAGNE: This would be a commercial marshmallow.

KELLER: Yes, that would be a commercial marshmallow. Yeah. They're very cute, and, you know, they remind us of kids. When we were kids. I mean, we ate those all the time.

MONTAGNE: Yeah.

KELLER: And the boys would usually bites the heads off first.

MONTAGNE: If Peeps are undeniably adorable, Thomas Keller's marshmallow eggs glow like a bowl full of jewels. Each has been hand rolled in glittering pastel sugar: yellow from lemon zest, pale pink which takes its color from raspberry essence, plus, blue and green.

This'll be the first time I've ever tasted a marshmallow that would not last through the next war.

KELLER: It's got creaminess to it, yeah. That's what we want, we want that sense of richness to it, which doesn't really happen in a commercial marshmallow.

MONTAGNE: This is amazing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Now to the last treat of the day, this one, fit for the Easter bunny.

KELLER: Carrot.

MONTAGNE: Carrot cake!

KELLER: Yeah. Carrot muffins, carrot cake. Bunnies eat carrots. We've got to have carrots involved in Easter because that's Bugs Bunny's favorite vegetable, right? So our carrot muffin, or carrot cake, and everybody loves it because in many ways you think it's really, really, healthy for you. It's a way of being sinful but also being responsible to some health concerns.

MONTAGNE: Of course, when it comes to baking, Chef Keller emphasizes that not all carrots are equal.

KELLER: We have bunch carrots which are much sweeter than the large, what we call horse carrots, very big horse carrots, which we typically use for stocks. So when we make our muffins, when we make carrots in the restaurant that we're going to eat, we want to have the sweetest possible carrot that we can get and those are the sweet bunch carrots.

So they're small. They're maybe about an inch in diameter at most. People like to see tops on the carrots. You know, it certainly indicates freshness. I mean, if you see a bunch of carrots and the tops are decomposing, you know the carrots aren't very fresh. But you can also tell freshness by the crispiness of the carrot, the color of the flesh, the color of the skin, those types of things as well.

MONTAGNE: And here Thomas Keller breaks open a muffin that's bursting with shredded carrots.

KELLER: You can see how much carrot's are in there.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. His recipe calls for cinnamon and vanilla bean plus an oat streusel topping. You can get that and other recipes at our web site npr.org. Come this Sunday, Thomas Keller will be at one of his restaurants in California's wine country and when asked about the perfect Easter dinner, his thoughts turned from sweet to savory.

KELLER: There's nothing better than a beautiful roasted leg of lamb. So we have the aroma of roasted lamb fat and the thyme and the garlic. And then, of course, it's spring time so you'd have fava beans, beautiful fava beans would be great.

A nice spring salad, very simple food - roasted potatoes, you know, things like that. Just, I love the idea of simplicity. You know, a beautiful roast with some elegant vegetables that are really in season at that moment.

MONTAGNE: Easter culinary traditions from Thomas Keller in the kitchen of his restaurant in Beverly Hills. His newest cookbook with co-author and head pastry chef, Sebastien Rouxel, is called "Bouchon Bakery."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: And from NPR News this is MORNING EDITION.

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