Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published January 14th 2011
There's a scientific case for chocolate making you feel better. It's not just that it tastes good and it's something that you're not supposed to be allowed to eat all the time. But while there's a strong case for it being good for you emotionally, the case for it being good for your physical health as well as your mental health is far less solid. HOWEVER, there is proof that shows that some chocolate is better for you than other chocolate; and with Easter around the corner already, here's a good way to make sure that you're getting the 'good' sort of chocolate eggs: make your own!
The high-sugar, low cacao shop-bought eggs, complete with artificial colours in their fillings, and bright coloured foil wrappers, are the kind that are worst for you – but these also seem like the cheapest, don't they? That's not entirely true though – you can get a lot more cacao for your money by buying quality chocolate and melting it into Easter egg moulds - or bunnies, and other springtime, or Easter themed moulds. And it's even thriftier if you use cooking chocolate, or those chocolate buds especially designed for melting and remoulding.
And of course if you're making your own you can augment your eggs and chocs with whatever you fancy: nuts, dried fruits, cookie crumbles, honeycomb and even fondants - if you're quite keen on the idea of spreading your chocolate-chef's wings.
Of course we all should do things that are good for us, and money is always an issue, but so is time, and when it comes down to it, making your own chocolates is a lot of fun and a good way to spend time with kids. And after the Easter egg hunt it's the second most fun Easter-y thing to do. (Unless you have an Easter bonnet parade?).
As mentioned, there is more than one way to make your own chocolate eggs. The difference lies in where you get the chocolate from, but however you procure it, you're going to need to get yourself some moulds to reshape it in.
Back to the chocolate. It's entirely acceptable to buy chocolate in blocks, and melt it down in a bain-marie - which is basically a glass bowl sitting in a saucepan of hot water - before reshaping it into your moulds. If there's a particular brand of chocolate you like then you can go for that, but The Chocolate Trading Co. has a very big range, and makes it easy to compare cocoa content and flavour, so if you have time it might be worth perusing their wares. If you use this method the main thing to be aware of is that the better quality the chocolate the smoother and shinier it should melt down to. Heat it up slowly and once it's melted give it a nice good stir to make sure there are no hard bits.
You may also like to opt for high quality cooking chocolate, which is designed to be even easier to work with. In the trade they call it Couverture chocolate, which means that it's got a high percentage of cocoa butter in addition to cocoa solids. In real terms that means that it will be even glossier looking and will be more likely to 'snap' when you break it rather than just crumble – this is a sign of all good chocs. This usually comes in buds which make it easier to cook with, especially when it comes to melting it down.
If you're just making your chocolates for kids and with kids then you might want to forgo some of the quality for ease and the sweeter flavour kids like and get milk chocolate melts and melt them in the microwave. Put your power on medium and put them in for one minute intervals until they're all melted up.
Whatever type of chocolate you choose, remember you can mix chocolate colours – just put them together and give them a swirl, rather than a proper stir, otherwise you'll lose the marble effect.
Once you have your melted chocolate ready to go it's time to readdress your moulds. Solid moulds are the easiest to work with: you basically get a teaspoon and spoon the chocolate into the moulds. If you want to add nuts or dried fruits or cookie crumbles etc. you should put in a bit of chocolate, then your 'extras' and then drop another dollop of chocolate on top. You can get solid moulds for smaller eggs that require you to make your eggs in two halves. With these you need to make sure both halves are totally solid before using a little fresh melted chocolate sandwiched between them to make them stick together.
Larger, hollow eggs and rabbits are made using the same general principle. You spread the inside of the eggs with a layer of chocolate, using a teaspoon is probably easiest. Then put the halves into the fridge for 15 minutes. Once they've hardened a bit take them out and give them another layer, and then a third after another 15 minutes in the fridge. This will build up your egg's strength. Once they're totally hardened, you need to pop one side out of its mould – hopefully as easy as it sounds, but if not remember that the mould should be more flexible than the chocolate. Then line up your two halves and put chocolate on both sides as if it's super glue then press them together and put them back in the fridge. If you want to put anything inside your hollow eggs or bunnies that was your opportunity.
Once the eggs/ chocs are hardened – it will probably take an hour in the fridge – you can add any external decorations. If you're good with a piping bag, now's your chance to exhibit your skills, with patterns or messages. If you're not, then you can use melted chocolate to stick smarties, or similar to the outside of your eggs.
If you're quite good in the kitchen you might want to have a go at making your own chocolate from scratch (if you've not done it before you might want to get a starter kit that includes everything you need), or else make your own fondant to go inside your chocs. For something a bit more sophisticated you can always mix a little vanilla or alcohol into your melted chocolate before you mould it.
There's not really an easy way to get that store bought coloured wrapper effect, but foil or little clear plastic bags with bows will keep your chocs protected while everyone goes a hunting for them on Easter morning.