Easter is upon us again and under normal circumstances I would be baking up a storm. Unfortunately 3 weeks ago my doctor gave me a very firm talking to about my weight and a diet has to be started. Result? The baking of beautiful Easter treats has had to be severely curtailed. I can’t say the diet is going that well, as we also have just returned from a lovely trip in Switzerland to see old university friends of the beloved – and a holiday is never a good time to be dieting .
Switzerland was wonderful though thanks to the appalling exchange rate it is fearsomely expensive. The old town of Zurich was particularly delightful – medieval streets, lovely shops and restaurants and beautifully kept old buildings. What were also enchanting were the chocolate shops which at this time of the year are bursting with Easter bunnies (or Oschterhäsli in Swiss German) of all sizes. One chain (Sprüngli) also decked their shops out with ceilings covered in bows of (artificial) blossom trees. All utterly gorgeous providing you were ready to part with at least £40.
As you can see, I went as mad as a March Hare for these things, and it set my mind to making my own. Frustratingly whilst you could buy the finished article everywhere, finding a suitable chocolate mould was impossible. It was only when I got back to the the UK that I found the right German words to google in order to find a supplier of interesting Easter Hare moulds. The magic words are “Oster Hase Schokoladengiessform” (literally Easter Hare Poured Chocolate Mould), and they come up with not that many websites. The mould for the bottom right bunny in the picture set above comes in on this website at a stunning 110 Swiss Francs (just about £100 at the tourist exchange rates), which makes the £45 for the finished article suddenly feel cheap! I have to say I am very tempted, though I will hunt around for a better price.
Bunny plans were not the end of my homemade easter egg quest. I did however have an Easter egg mould from 2 years ago that I still hadn’t used, so I decided to start slightly less ambitiously and make an old fashioned egg first before branching into Easter Bunny land. My mould came from Lakeland but the same one seems to be available from multiple online retailers via Amazon. It creates a 15cm traditional cracked look egg and it also comes with moulds for little eggs that you can then be put inside the egg.
My first problem was that I no longer had the instructions the mould came with. This proved to be to my benefit as it led me to hunt around for the techniques needed. I did finally find the Lakeland instructions which were complete nonsense. They involve painting the chocolate on the mould which would result in a dreadful finish if I had followed them. Their method for glueing the eggs together was also nonsense – as it would have led to a messy join.
My other decision was what chocolate to use. A month ago I had bought a 500g bag of Valrhona chips of each variety (I was fed up when using chocolate with all that chopping), and the milk chocolate one is in fact an utterly delicious Caramel Milk chocolate, which is all for the good as I prefer milk chocolate for my main egg. The plain and white chocolate were then used for the little eggs. The dark chocolate had half a teaspoon of Orange extract added to it, which made them delicious but potentially also made the chocolate a little grainy.
Was this tricky to do? Well yes and no. You have to temper the chocolate which takes much much longer than anyone says. I also had to redo the eggs because the first batch did not come out shiny (other than my time there was no waste – I just broke up the old eggs and melted then down again). The second batch (the ones on the right) were much better to look at, but were not as well tempered (that tell tale snap wasn’t there).
My mistake the first time, I think, was twofold:
- I didn’t polish the mould enough at the start (cotton wool and a lint free cloth are essential for this)
- I made the first layer too thin and did not allow it to set properly before adding the second layer. When the second layer went in, it melted the first which I think ruined any shine.
I was pleased with the outcome. This was satisfying to do and not complicated. It is though a little time consuming. There will definitely be a next time and I am going to get a smooth mould which enables you do more patterns on the egg by piping different chocolates on in various patterns before doing the main part of the egg. I might even indulge myself in one of those Swiss Giessformen.
And the diet? Well one of the eggs got given away as a present, alongside some Easter chocolate biscuits made with some new cutters I brought back from Switzerland. The other egg I’m afraid is slowly being eaten as we speak, but in my defence I have done hours and hours of heavy gardening this weekend and we have held off the booze.
Ingredients for 2 Easter Eggs (15cm long) and 36 Mini Eggs
- 400g Milk chocolate
- 160g White chocolate
- 160g Dark chocolate
- 15cm Easter Egg mould
- Mini Egg mould
- Sensitive food thermometer
Tempering the Chocolate
Tempering is needed to get the shine and snap on your chocolate. Otherwise the chocolate shape will be weak and it will develop a “bloom” (this looks like white chalky blotches on the chocolate). Frankly this is what takes most of the time as it takes at least 30 minutes for the chocolate to get down to the right temperature. The basic method I use is the seeding method as follows:
- cut up your chocolate
- set one quarter aside (this quarter must be already tempered – i.e. fresh chocolate to act as your seed) in a decent sized bowl
- melt the chocolate in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water (a bain marie) until it reaches the set temperature for the chocolate type
- take off the heat
- pour the melted chocolate on top of the chocolate you set aside
- stir continuously until the chocolate reaches the correct temperature – this will take 15-25 minutes – you will also notice the chocolate getting more viscous as it approached the right temperature)
- once at that temperature, put briefly back on the simmering pan of water until it reaches the final set temperature
The following are the temperatures for each stage and each chocolate type. In addition getting your chocolate to the right working temperature is key as at this temperature it sets quite fast ensuring the chocolate stays on your mould even in its liquid state.
- Stage 1 – Melting the Chocolate
- Dark Chocolate – 55C – 58C
- Milk Chocolate – 45C – 50C
- White Chocolate – 45C – 50C
- Stage 2 – Cooling the Chocolate
- Dark Chocolate – 28C – 29C
- Milk Chocolate – 27C – 28C
- White Chocolate – 25C – 26C
- Stage 1 – Melting the Chocolate
- Dark Chocolate – 31C – 32C
- Milk Chocolate – 29C – 30C
- White Chocolate – 28C – 29C
Making the Egg
You need to keep your chocolate at the final temperature. I recommend putting the bowl back on the bain marie saucepan between each major stage (but without any heat turned on) – the residual heat in the water should always bring it back to temperature – but don’t allow it to go above or else you have to start all over again!
- Put a piece of parchment paper on your work surface
- Also put a piece of parchment paper on a baking tay that will fit n the fridge
- Polish your mould one more time
- Fill the egg about quarter full with the melted chocolate
- Tip and roll the mould until the chocolate coats the whole mould (try to coat as generously as possible)
- Pour out any excess back into the melted chocolate
- Clean the edges (I used a plastic scraper pulled across the top)
- Place your mould face down on the parchment paper (this stops chocolate pooling in the bottom and making the middle of the egg too thick)
- Do your next mould
- Leave both for 5 minutes
- Slide a spatula under the eggs and lift the eggs onto the other tray of parchment paper
- sliding the spatula underneath stops the egg tearing when you lift it
- any excess chocolate will have pooled onto the old parchment paper – you can scrape this back into your pan
- Put your shells in the fridge for 10 minutes
- Make sure your chocolate is at the working temperature
- Have fresh pieces of parchment ready as in stage 1
- Take your shells out the fridge
- Spoon your chocolate into the shell
- Tip and pour the chocolate – work fast as the chocolate will set faster because of the cool first layer
- Pour out any excess and put onto a tray first and then into the fridge for 10 minutes
You should have used most of your chocolate by now. Check your egg for any areas that are a bit thin and use the remaining chocolate to make good, and then chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until the egg is firmly set
Assembling the egg
- To get the egg out of the mould, first gently pull back the edges to release them and then turn the egg mould with the mould side facing up and gently press the egg out. It should just pop out.
- To glue the egg to together
- warm a baking sheet in the oven (it needs to be warm not piping hot)
- briefly (at the same time) put each egg half face down onto the sheet so that the edges melt slightly
- fill one half with any items you want to put in the egg
- press the two halves together
- support the egg so that it stays horizontal (don’t use your hands – you will melt the egg)
- it should be glued together in less than a minute
- Lakeland recommended painting melted chocolate on each rim with a brush but this won’t get as neat an edge. By placing the eggs onto a warmed baking sheet you get an edge that is perfectly flat and will join neatly
Making the Mini Eggs
These are much simpler
- fill the moulds with the chocolate
- smooth the top
- chill in the fridge for 15 minutes until solid
- join using the warm baking sheet technique (put your eggs on the edge so you can pull them off fast)
Now decorate and present your egg to friends and loved ones!