Everyone knows that homemade is best, even – in fact, particularly – when it comes to Easter eggs. This year, say ‘no’ to homogenous, supermarket sweets and create something that’s perfectly matched to your intended recipient – it’s much easier than you might think. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the best result.
* Know your limitations! Large hollow eggs look impressive, but are the most difficult to make. If this is your first foray into being a chocolatier, start with solid novelties or smaller hollow eggs. Cakes Cookies and Crafts have some hollow Easter egg moulds available, or Lakeland do a selection of solid novelty moulds which are great for beginners.
* Use the right ingredients. This is one area where you can really set your homemade egg apart from shopbought equivalents. Use a good quality dark chocolate with high cocoa solids – around 70% is fine.
* Slow and steady is best when melting chocolate. Never be tempted to plonk it all in a pan and turn the heat up! You can either put the broken chocolate in a bowl and melt it over a pan of simmering water, or melt it in short bursts in the microwave. If you’re making solid novelties, you can pour the melted chocolate straight into the moulds.
* Reserve a little chocolate for ‘gluing’ the halves of the egg together when it’s finished.If you’re making a hollow egg, don’t pour the chocolate in. Instead, use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer of chocolate all around the moulds, then let it dry before adding another layer. Building up the chocolate in layers like this means a much better chance of getting an even finish.
* To decorate, you can pipe a design in coloured icing. If you’ve got children helping, icing pens or tubes can be easier to manipulate than an icing bag. Alternatively, pipe a design in contrasting chocolate (milk or plain), stick on chocolate buttons or stars with some extra melted chocolate, or brush on some melted chocolate and cover the area with hundreds and thousands or chocolate strands.
* Professional presentation is the key to the perfect present. For small novelty shapes, put them in a clear cellophane bag and tie with raffia or ribbon. Small eggs can be given in a clean egg box, and for large hollow eggs, tie a ribbon round to hide any messy seams then wrap them in a cellophane bag.
* If you’d like to make your eggs from flavoured chocolate, it’s simplest to cheat and use a good ready-flavoured brand such as Green and Blacks. If you’re set on making your own, use flavourings that are oil based as adding water to chocolate makes it split. For coffee flavoured chocolate, use instant coffee powder ground up very finely in a pestle and mortar. Add the coffee powder when you’re melting the chocolate, a pinch at a time, until you get the strength you want.
* Once you’re feeling more confident, try tri-colour or marbled eggs. Melt one sixth white, one sixth milk and two thirds plain chocolate. Drizzle the white chocolate into the mould, and let it dry completely. Drizzle in the milk chocolate in and let it dry, then build up the rest of the egg with plain chocolate, applying it in layers as before. For a marbled egg, put blobs of white, milk and plain chocolate into the mould and mix it all up loosely with the tines of a fork. Let it dry, then build up the egg with plain chocolate as before.
In addition to being packed in bags as gifts in their own right, solid Easter chocolate novelties also look great as cupcake toppers or on the top of the Easter cake.