I love chocolate and, since I’m not a Christian, Easter pretty much means a complete glut of chocolate (pretty much like every other day in my world…). I decided that I’m going to start making my own bean-to-bar chocolates this year, so Easter seems as good a time as any to start on some basic techniques (If you’re interested in bean-to-bar, the blog from Dandelion Chocolate is fantastic. Their chocolate is pretty epic too, and I’d highly recommend trying some). Making an Easter Egg is perfect as you need to master tempering and chocolate moulding.
Firstly- what chocolate to use? My local chocolate shop uses Barry Callebaut (and frankly seeing that they use them to make their chocolatey goodness is what inspired me to DIY in the first place). Barry Callebaut makes bespoke mixes for artisanal chocolate houses (and this is the main difference from getting your chocolate from somewhere like Pump Street Bakery, who control their chocolate production all the way from roasting the beans, winnowing, conching to tempering, filling and moulding to somewhere like Melt or Paul. A. Young, who also makes fantastic [and much fancier] chocolates but only control the process from the tempering stage), as well as selling pre-blended couverture (essentially chocolate bars/buttons that is ready for tempering) en masse to professionals (but not being a professional, I don’t get to order their chocolate).
However, you can easily get Callebaut (part of the same conglomerate) couverture online: they are still high quality chocolates but fairly reasonable (I spent about £40 on 5kg of chocolate, making a bog standard 200g bar cost £1.60- for reference purposes, a 200g bar of Dairy Milk costs £2.00). From the myriad of choices available I chose ’70-30-38′ (a very logical name for a 70% chocolate with 38% cocoa butter and 30% sugar) for my dark chocolate and ‘823NV’ (apparently milk chocolate doesn’t need logic?? Perhaps they stumbled upon this particular recipe on 23rd August, using non-vintage beans- and yes, that’s actually a thing) for the milk to produce a high quality, dark milk chocolate (this is the real reason why I want to make my own chocolate- I am a milk chocolate fiend and don’t understand why there isn’t more dark and creamy gourmet milk chocolate out there). While I’m definitely happy with the quality of chocolate I’m making, I’d probably try their new ‘power 80’ and ‘power 41’ lines next time for a even higher cocoa/ lower sugar hit.
For some reason, the idea of tempering your own chocolate puts the fear of God in most people-there is this preconception that it is super faffy and difficult to master! It really isn’t and since you need to temper the chocolate if you want to make anything shiny with a good ‘snap’, it’s a basic skill that needs to be mastered from the beginning. After reading quite a few books and blogs on it, I decided that David Lebowitz’s method was the simplest (and it works!). All you need is a bain marie (or a pot and glass bowl), some pre tempered chocolate for seeding (i.e. a good quality, shop bought chocolate bar), couverture, an instant read thermometer and a silicone spatula.
(The temperatures below are a general guide, your bag of couverteur will provide you with a detailed crystallization curve.)
- Put your chocolate (or chocolate mix- I use 60% dark chocolate and 40% milk chocolate) in the glass bowl and heat over water in a pan (don’t boil the water). Stir chocolate until the chocolate reaches 45C. Remove from pan.
- Throw a large hunk of tempered chocolate in the chocolate bowl and stir constantly till chocolate reaches 27C. It’s really important to fish the ‘seed’ out at this point or your chocolate will over crystalize.
- Return the chocolate bowl to the hot water for a few seconds until it warms up to 32C (this literally takes 15-30 seconds).
Woohoo! It’s done! If you want to check whether it’s worked, you can drip a tiny bit onto a cool surface (I like working on silicone mats as they are easy to clean)- the chocolate should ‘dry’ in less than 30 seconds (untempered/ not properly tempered choc will take much longer to dry). Now you can use this stuff for making shapes, bars or even shells for filled chocolate! Just make sure the temperature of the chocolate doesn’t dip below 30C when you’re working by dipping the chocolate bowl in the warm water for a few seconds every so often- it’s horrible to work with cooled chocolate as they can dry too quickly and look really icky.
Making the egg
The 3 important things to remember when working with moulds: a) they MUST be cleaned with rubbing alcohol before using, b) tap gently after filling to release air bubbles and c) you need to make sure you clean the sides of the mould after you pour it.
For the filling: My nephew loves getting Jelly Tots when he travels (and once he got me a personalised bar from Ritter World filled with sweets) so I decided to make him Lego men with a jelly tot belly for the filling. This is super easy – just lodge the jelly tot in the tummy area of the lego man mould and fill it with the tempered chocolate and it’s done.
For the shell: Pour around 2-3 tablespoons of chocolate into the shell mould and roll gently, making sure it’s evenly covered and free of bubbles. Pour the excess out, clean and leave to dry for a few minute (no more than 10 or else it gets too dry) before repeating with a second layer, making sure that you cover the edges really well. If you want a thicker egg, you should do a 3rd or even 4th layer. Leave to dry for 30-40 minutes before trying to remove it by very gently manipulating the mould (the professional clear plastic ones gives a better shine, and the flexi silicone ones are much easier to un-mould). Once you have 2 halves you are happy with, stick the edges on a warmed baking tray and place together to ‘glue’ the egg.
Was it worth it?
I would say the egg shell itself was quite difficult as you need to make sure you get a good thin, even and strong coating on the mould. Then you have to be super gentle when removing the egg as not to break it. I’d probably only make it for someone I really like, as I made 3-4 shells per egg and they still weren’t perfect. Making chocolates bars/ shapes with the silicone moulds only take about 30 minutes tops (and most of that spent in front of the TV stirring the chocolate to temper it) and is surprisingly easy once you’ve ‘got’ tempering. Needless to say I haven’t bought any chocolate bars since I’ve started this project and I doubt I’d be ever buying chocolate bars again unless they are super special single estate ones.
Check out more recipes and tips on our recipes page!