I’ve always liked the idea of making my own Easter egg, but honestly, who can be bothered?! Well, unless you’re going to get some significant joy from either making it, gifting it, or both, perhaps you shouldn’t bother. They are pretty cheap and readily available…
But I love making things and gifting things, so I’m all over this. Especially since I mastered(?) tempering chocolate in the run up to Christmas. Tempering chocolate is by far the most daunting and difficult part of making your own Easter egg, but once you’ve done that you can just relax and enjoy all the decorating.
So, I hear you ask, what is tempering and why does it matter?
The chocolate bars that you buy in shops are tempered. They are shiny, they snap crisply, and they don’t melt when you touch them. If you’ve ever melted chocolate and used it to decorate something, you’ll notice that it’s matte, bends rather than snaps, and starts to melt the second you touch it. This is because the chocolate is no longer in temper.
There are a few ways to temper chocolate: Tabling, seeding, microwave, sous vide, food processor and hairdryer… I’ve tried them all! And I can tell you from personal experience (and failure), that the seeding method is your best bet – it is the easiest and most reliable way to temper chocolate. It involves ‘seeding’ melted chocolate with small pieces of tempered chocolate as it cools. As long as you stir continuously until the chocolate reaches working temperature, your melted chocolate should end up in perfect temper – in theory!
So let’s get right to it:
Nothing embodies the spirit of Easter better than sickly-sweet milk chocolate, and my chocolate of choice is Callebaut couverture callets. You could use any ‘eating grade’ chocolate, but these little pellets are perfect because they melt quickly and evenly. I would avoid anything sold as chocolate chips though, as they may contain added ingredients or coatings to help stop them melting when baking in cookies and cakes.
Printed on the side of the bag are the tempering guidelines, which is super helpful as I always forget! (If you are using dark or white chocolate, the temperatures you need to hit will be different)
If you use the seeding method, the only temperatures you need to pay attention to are the last 2; The target temperature is 29c-30c, and you risk taking your chocolate out of temper if you heat it over 32.5c.
So, the first thing you need to do, is melt some chocolate. I like to use a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Ceramic or pyrex bowls will work of course, but the residual heat in the bowl will slow down the tempering process. Stir the chocolate gently until it has all melted, and continue until the temperature hits 45c. If you have an infrared thermometer, I highly recommend using it – as it doesn’t need to touch the chocolate, it’s one less thing to get messy!
Once you’ve hit the magic number, remove your bowl from the heat, and wipe the wet underside with a tea towel. It’s very important to keep water away from your chocolate. If you get even one drop of water in the melted chocolate, you will never be able to get it to temper, and you’ll have to use it for some other purpose. I save my ruined chocolate to make ganache, for example.
Remove the saucepan from the heat, but don’t throw away the water – you may need it later.
Grab a handful of chocolate callets and stir them through your melted chocolate. Keep the spatula moving; agitating the chocolate is an important part of getting a good temper. Make sure you stir, rather than beat the chocolate – you don’t want to incorporate air. As the callets melt, add a few more. You chocolate should be cooling quite rapidly, so check the temperature periodically with your thermometer.
Once your temperature starts to approach 30c, really reduce the number of callets you’re adding. Ideally you want to hit that number just as all your solid pieces are melting. If you hit 30c and still have pieces that are no longer melting, you can return the bowl to the warm saucepan of water for 20 seconds – there’s no need to put the heat back on. I like to monitor the chocolate with my thermometer as I do this, and don’t let it go above 32c. Reheating the chocolate like this is more risky with a ceramic or pyrex bowl, so be careful.
If all your chocolate has melted nicely and you’re at about 30 degrees, it’s time to check for temper. I do this by putting some of the chocolate on the back of a spoon, and placing in the fridge for 4 minutes. You can tell that you’re in temper if the chocolate is firm, shiny and smooth, and doesn’t have any streaks or spots. That being said, I find the best way to test is to scrape some off the spoon with my teeth – you can tell very quickly from the firmness whether you’ve got tempered chocolate or not.
Once you’re satisfied that you’re chocolate is in temper, you can spread the chocolate inside your moulds. If you have enough to completely fill your moulds, it’s easiest to completely fill them and then shake them back out over the bowl. I didn’t have that much chocolate, so I rolled the liquid chocolate round the insides before tapping out the excess.
As with making regular moulded chocolates, it’s best to scrape across your moulds to get the excess chocolate off the edges.
I then left the mould to sit right side up for 5 minutes, before turning it upside down to let the edges thicken up.
If your kitchen is humid, I would recommend moving the moulded chocolate to a cool room to set up. I like to put it under the air conditioner in the front room, with a fan moving the air around as a double precaution. I have had lots of problems with dusty looking chocolate, which is called sugar bloom, and this is caused by moisture getting into your chocolate. For the same reason, I would never put it in the fridge, as that is a very humid environment.
My chocolate in the bowl was beginning to set up at this point, so I returned it to the pan of water, and gently heated it up, making sure not to hit 32c. It is recommended that whenever you reheat a tempered chocolate you should test it before use. I trust my chocolate skills now, but you may want to check again at this point, especially if you’re not confident.
As expected, my shells were thin on the edges, so I added another coat of chocolate.
If I wanted the insides of the shells to be super tidy, I could have done another full coat, but instead I took the easy option and spooned some down the sides.
Again, give it 5 minutes the right way up, and then turn upside down. After 5 more minutes upside down, I used my metal bench scraper to flatten out the edges, remembering to scrape outwards, to avoid caving the shell inwards.
And that’s it! That’s the hard part done 🙂
I wanted to decorate my egg with some flowers, so I whipped out my trusty royal icing and closed star tips – Wilton 31 and 133. Making simple drop flowers is a great way to decorate something quickly and easily. With the tip flat to the paper, do a quarter turn and then release pressure before pulling away. Adding a yellow centre with a small writing tip is all the finishing touch it needs. You’ll have a slightly easier time if your icing isn’t as thick as mine was! You need to make these the day before you plan to use them to decorate.
Lastly, I just need a base to stand the egg on, and some grass and flower stalks. I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone, and used one of my favourite cheats – candy melts.
You may be familiar with candy melts if you make cake pops. They’re almost like a flavoured white chocolate, except you don’t need to do any tempering – you can just microwave them up, give them a good stir, and get piping. I would suggest mixing the softened candy melts with a small amount of flavourless oil to help them pipe more fluidly. I can’t give an exact measurement as I always do it by eye. If in doubt, start with a little and work your way up.
I made the base by piping and smearing the candy melts up the inside of a muffin case, making sure that it was large enough to hold my egg. This should look a bit like grass once it’s all set up, which should only take about 30 minutes.
My original plan was to temper some more chocolate to join the 2 egg halves, but as they got a bit chipped, I decided to use some pink candy melts to disguise and decorate the join. I think it looks rather lovely actually, so I’m going to pretend I did it on purpose 🙂
All that remains then is to draw on the grass, stick on the flowers, and stick the egg to the base with more of the green candy melts. Not bad for a first try, eh? The blending between the grass base and the longer stems didn’t go exactly to plan, but I think the overall effect is still pretty good.
I decided to give this Easter egg to my mother in law. Not least because she looked after the kids for 4 days during the Easter holidays, which gave me the chance to make this! XD