Tearing off the foil wrapping of a chocolate egg and biting or smashing your way in is surely one of the joys of Easter.
Imagine if it was a confection you had made yourself. Better still, imagine the faces of your family and friends if you presented them a custom made egg as a gift.
No offence, Elegant Rabbit and Lindt Bunny, but that beats you both, hands down.
Pastry chef Kirsten Tibballs is the director of Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School in Melbourne's Brunswick. She learnt to work with chocolate in Belgium and France after winning a scholarship to study abroad. She believes people should try making their own Easter eggs.
“You get satisfaction out of anything you make yourself," she sayd.
"You can control the quality of the ingredients and when it comes to gifts, people always appreciate something you've made.”
All about the chocolate
Tibballs recommends using couverture chocolate for making Easter eggs. But it will have to be "tempered".
Couverture refers to chocolate containing more than 31 per cent cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is the natural, rigid fat in the cocoa bean and is what allows couveture chocolate to contract and also gives it its unique sheen. Compound chocolate is another type of chocolate altogether and is made using hydrogenated vegetable fats (such as palm oil).
Compound chocolate, while cheaper and more widely available, has a much higher melting point; it's more viscous and difficult to work with and when you eat it, it doesn't melt as readily in your mouth, instead thickly coating the palate. At a normal body temperature of 36 degrees, couverture chocolate is completely melted.
Time to temper
Because cocoa butter fat can cause couveture chocolate to contract when it cools, the chocolate must be tempered. If not, you could end up with “fat bloom” on your finished eggs. Chocolate with fat bloom can have a gritty texture, and may be discoloured and uneven in appearance. Fat bloom occurs when the fat separates after melting. As the chocolate re-sets, the fats sets in larger particles. Giving the melted chocolate movement at the correct temperature, or “tempering” helps to prevent this occurring.
Chocolate with less than 31 per cent cocoa fat does need to be tempered, however it can be more difficult to work with as it has a lower fat content and will be more viscous.
When you buy couveture chocolate it has already been tempered, but if you heat it above 32 degrees - such as for some Easter eggs - it should be tempered again before setting.
There are several ways to “temper” couveture chocolate when you want to reshape it, for example, into Easter eggs. We asked Kirsten to show us a simple method that people could easily follow at home and which did not require specialist equipment.
- Plastic bowl
- Plastic or silicone spoon
- Egg moulds (for hollow eggs); Kirsten recommends poly-carbonate moulds.
- A wide metal scraper (at least the same width as your mould)
- Baking paper
- Rubber gloves (to prevent finger prints on finished eggs)
Couverture chocolate. Tibballs used dark chocolate with total cocoa mass of 57.8 per cent in the video, at a quantity of 1 kg. This is much more than you will need - but it's good to have excess, which can be used again for next batch (or for troubleshooting).
If you want to decorate the eggs using white chocolate swirls (see video) you will require some tempered white chocolate (in a separate bowl) and a piping bag. The decorations will need to set in the moulds before applying the milk or dark chocolate as in the method outlined below.
Ideal working or tempering temperature:
White chocolate: 29-30 degrees
Milk chocolate: 30-31 degrees
Dark chocolate: 31-32 degrees
- Place couverture chocolate buttons in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Heat the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring well between heating sessions, until the chocolate is 50 per cent solid and 50 per cent melted. Depending on the wattage of your microwave, this make take anywhere from 90 seconds (three turns in the microwave) to two minutes or a little more. If the consistency appears to be getting close to 50 per cent liquid, reduce sessions in the microwave to 5 to 10 seconds.
- When the chocolate is 50 per cent solid, 50 per cent melted, the heat within the melted chocolate should be such that it's enough to melt the remaining solid chocolate when stirred (moved/tempered). See tips at bottom.
- Stir for a bit to see how quickly the remaining solid buttons melt. If the chocolate mix feels too sluggish, you can place the bowl back in the microwave for 5-10 second intervals.
- Stir vigorously until all remaining buttons are melted.
- Test to see whether the couverture is tempered correctly by setting a small amount. Dip a small piece of baking paper into the chocolate mix to coat paper and let it sit at room temperature (not above 24 degrees). Dark chocolate should take five minutes to set. Milk chocolate should take about seven minutes and white chocolate should take up to 10 minutes to set. If set properly, the chocolate should come away from the baking paper easily and snap nicely (not bend).
- Prepare the moulds. Using your finger, rub each egg shell mould with a thin coating of chocolate. Allow the thin layer of chocolate to set (this will take a couple of minutes at room temperature). This coating prevents air bubbles forming in the eggs.
- Use the remaining chocolate mix to fill all the egg moulds completely.
- Immediately tap the mould heavily on the bench top to vibrate any air bubbles to the top surface of the chocolate.
- Scrape across the top of the mould to remove any excess chocolate.
- Lay a sheet of baking paper on the bench. Then turn the mould upside down and let the chocolate mix run back out onto the baking paper. Tap the side of the mould to assist the process. Once the chocolate has finished dripping out, scrape again before turning the mould the right way up to prevent any of this chocolate getting back into the moulds.
- Turn the mould back up the right way. You should have a nice, smooth layer of chocolate in your egg-halve moulds. The excess chocolate on the baking paper can be re-tempered later and used but should be kept airtight and at room temperature until required.
- Scrape the mould again. Then turn the mould back upside and place it face down on some baking paper with some force to create a thicker rim around the edge of the eggs.
- Leave the mould face down on the paper for 15 minutes.
- Turn the mould over and scrape again, using a wide metal scraper.
- Set the eggs by placing the mould in the fridge for 20 minutes, or leave at room temperature overnight. This allows the couverture chocolate to contract so that the eggs will come easily away from the mould.
- Once set, you should be able to see that the eggs have come away from the mould.
- Heat a tray to 50 degrees (place a tray in oven at 50 degrees for 10 minutes).
- Remove egg halves from mould (use gloves if you don't want finger prints on the eggs).
- Place two egg halves with rims down on the hot tray and melt their edges by rubbing them on the warm tray. Then join the two halves together to form one Easter egg. Rest whole eggs back in the mould until completely set.
- Wrap finished eggs in Cellophane and keep at room temperature (but not above 24 degrees).
- After step 3, if you accidentally melt all the chocolate, you can add 25 per cent more chocolate and then stir it through to temper the chocolate (stirring).
- 25cm x 15cm poly-carbonate moulds are available $30-$65. They cost approximately $25 at Savour in Brunswick because Savour buys them in bulk.
- Couverture chocolate has a shelf life of two years – so you can keep your eggs until next Easter.
- Couverture chocolate is available at specialty grocery stores and delis. Savour stocks Belgian Callebaut chocolate for $22/kg.
Have you ever tried to make your own Easter eggs? Share your triumphs, disasters and tips here.