I learned a lot through mistakes along the way (which I’ll go into obnoxious detail about in a later post), but here is what did work for me.
DYEING THE EGGS
The Martha Stewart instructions for preparing eggshells for filling with melted chocolate involve using a Dremel tool to neatly widen the hole. I do not have a Dremel and didn’t want to buy one just for this project. (Not that that has stopped me from thinking about all the things I could have used it for, leading to me now, of course, drooling over a Dremel.) Short of buying an expensive but fancy egg topper, I decided to go buy the $6 one. It has adorable teeth:
It’s meant to be used on soft boiled eggs with cooked whites, so it’s a bit treacherous using it on raw eggs. The method I did was to grasp the egg and hold down the topper securely with one hand:
Gently squeeze the handles of the egg topper so the teeth are touching the eggshell. Then to squeeze the handles quickly and with purpose, like a quick punch. If you squeeze the topper too slowly the egg cracks. If you hold the egg too tightly it cracks. This is, obviously, not the best method to get eggs open. Even at the height of my egg topping flow I would still completely crush one out of ever 12 eggs, and lots were left with hairline cracks. My advice? If you have a Dremel, go ahead an use it here. If you have an egg topper already, try it. But if you really, really want to make beautiful chocolate filled eggs to give away, you might consider asking all of your friends if they have a Dremel they could loan you.
Rinse out the insides of the eggs carefully, I took to poking inside with a finger to get out the stubborn bits of white that were attached to the top end. Might seem icky but it’s much easier than trying to dislodge cooked white bits later on. Submerge the eggs in a large pot, bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to sterilize the eggs. Skim the foam from the top of the water frequently, if you forget to check the pot they cook into a bubbly foam. I found I could fit 12 eggs in a 4 quart saucepan.
To cool them I suggest lifting them with a slotted spoon and lowering them into a bowl of cold water. If you instead move the pan into the sink and put cold water into it know that boiling hot water will sneakily hide inside the eggshells, so proceed carefully.
If you’re going to dye the eggs you can do this right away. If you’re not going to dye them hang them to dry as I show below, overnight at least. I was trying to match the color of some Robin’s egg blue caramels I found and did a number of different trials combining various McCormick’s food coloring combinations. In the end I found that this was just about perfect:
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 4 cups boiling water
- 24 drops neon blue
- 6 drops blue
Martha Stewart’s directions call for you to dip each eggshell into vinegar before lowering into the dye, but I actually found this left the egg streaky. I simply submerged the eggshells carefully into the dye and let them soak for 10 minutes (15 minutes for a second batch of eggs in the same bowl).
I learned this the hard way, don’t agitate the eggshells. They’ll be covered by little bubbles and that made me obsessively try to knock the bubbles off, but it left me with blotchy color. Instead, leave them as still as possible and turn them over about half way through. Don’t crowd the bowl, I did four or five eggs at a time.
I lowered and lifted the eggs using skewers, and dried them on this tree I made using skewers and a styrofoam cone I had in the house. Catch drips at the bottom of the eggshells with a paper towel. Let the eggs dry overnight.
It was so cheerful to have these hanging out the dining room for a while.
COATING WITH CHOCOLATE
I tried, I really tried, to use excellent tasting chocolate for this project. But in the end I had to switch to Merckens real chocolate coating wafers with some chocolate thinner mixed in. (I had them left over from an earlier project.) It tastes fine for an Easter project, and it was easier to work with than the Callebaut bulk chocolate I had originally purchased. (update: Scott pointed out that the Merckens chocolate tastes better than the chocolate you get with a Kind Surprise egg, a good point!) The trouble was that the Callebaut chocolate post-tempering was too thick to work with, even after adding a generous amount ofchocolate thinning flakes.
My hang up is that I wanted to use both dark and white chocolate to imitate a Kinder Surprise egg and I couldn’t find white couverture chocolate in stores around here (I’d waited too long to order anything online, I’ll never learn that lesson). Couverture chocolates, as learned from consulting my Field Guide to Candy book, are “professional quality chocolates with a high percentage of cocoa butter, which helps them melt smoothly and temper easily.” I did find couverture chocolate on the baking aisle shelves of my local, tiny yet impossibly well stocked natural market. I believe the Valrhona feves (which you might remember best as the ones asked for in the NY Times chocolate chip cookie recipe), are what the Martha Stewart directions call for: “We used Valrhona dark chocolate in this recipe because it is relatively easy to temper”.
(p.s. If you live in Seattle I can tell you that Valhrona feves or other couverture quality chocolate can be found in dark, milk and white varieties at bothDeLaurenti market and ChefShop. I only found the dark chocolate feves at Whole Foods, it was near the good cheeses.)
I don’t have a microwave or a chocolate tempering machine so I used the seeding technique for tempering chocolate. If you’re up for tempering chocolate two of my favorite explain and teach entries are at Serious Eats: How to temper chocolate and at Cooking for Engineers: Tempering chocolate. If you don’t have couverture quality chocolate you might consider tracking down some chocolate thinning flakes at your nearest cake decorating shop. (Here in Seattle I highly recommend Home Cake Decorating Supply Co., they have everything and are generous with instructions and information.) The flakes are best added just after you’ve raised the chocolate to the high temperature and before you’re starting to cool it. If I forgot and added the flakes when the chocolate was down around 95 degrees the flakes wouldn’t melt and I’d have to start over.
If you’re not up for tempering chocolate (it always takes longer than I expect) I suggest going ahead and using candy melts. Bakerella recommends Merckensbrand melts. For these, you just melt and use, they come in pretty colors. They taste like sweet vanilla, not something I’d normally eat but let’s face it, the inside shell of my surprise eggs are unlikely to be eaten in favor of the chocolates inside the egg. Note that if you’d like to color your own candy melts you will need to use a coloring that is not water based, so no regular or gel food coloring. You can find oil based chocolate colorings meant just for this purpose.
Martha Stewart used a piping bag to fill the eggs with chocolate, but since I was filling each eggshell and immediately inverting it, my pouring chocolate would harden too quickly. If I tempered my chocolate in a mixing bowl over a saucepan then transferred the chocolate to a Pyrex measuring cup with a spout, it also hardened too quickly. So I took to melting my chocolate in the Pyrex measuring cup. In order to keep steam from the water getting into the chocolate and causing it to seize I kept the temperature to barely a simmer. Whew, you got all that?
I inverted the egg onto a small salt bowl, poured melted chocolate inside catching drips with a small silicone spatula, then immediately turned the eggshell to coat the inside and let the excess drip out, back into my measuring cup. I put the egg on a drying rack to let excess chocolate drip out and did the next egg. I set the eggs in the fridge for an hour or so to let the chocolate set, then I did it all again using white chocolate.
The chocolate will form a lip at the opening in the egg, this is good and I’ll be using it later on, so don’t level this off or wipe it away.
PAINTING THE EGGS
I used some Super Gold Luster Dust mixed with a few drops of tequila to paint “crack me” on the eggs. (This is an idea I initially got from these Golden Chocolate Easter Eggs which were on The Kitchn a few years ago.) I used a tiny brush.
Be aware that the painted on gold will wipe off, so at this point forward handle the eggs carefully so you don’t wipe away the writing. Or be smarter than I am and leave the painting until last (I was afraid the chocolate seal would melt in my hand).
A tip for you, Gold Pearl Dust made by Wilton isn’t nearly gold enough, it looks more golden colored, but the Luster Dust was a really nice effect.
I painted cracks running up the back of the eggs.
FILLING THE EGGS
By far my favorite part was shopping for what to put inside the eggs. I knew I was going to be dealing with an opening less than one inch wide, so most candies won’t fit. And I really wanted a toy of some sort.
I deicded to make mini Spring flower corsages using crepe paper. They could be scrunched thin to fit inside the egg then unfurled to be worn. I did this for six eggs, my favorites were the daffodils, but the gathered and fringed versions were easier to make.
For the other eggs I found cute pipe cleaner chicks which collapsed easily.
For both of these I put them inside small 2″x3″ zip top bags, just in case they absorbed oil from the chocolate inside.
For the corsage eggs I decided to stick with a gold-blue-and-dark chocolate theme and filled them with one Robin’s egg caramel, one gold Jordan almond, small Valrhona Perles Craquant (which are like mini crunchy malt balls) from Whole Foods, and Dark Chocolate covered Pomegranate Seeds from Trader Joe’s. And a gold foil wrapped chocolate egg if I still had room. The smaller candies made noise when you gently shook the eggs.
For the eggs with chicks inside I went with more color. I used one Robin’s egg caramel, a few of the Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cups (so addictive), the dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds and TJ’s candy coated sunflower seeds. (I had to abandon the jelly beans shown above, there wasn’t room left.)
SEALING THE EGGS
This part was the most difficult, and had me wishing I’d invested in the Dremel tool to begin with. Initially I thought I might use chocolate to glue a trimmed down mini muffin tin liner to the bottom of the eggs but it was too easy to simply pull the paper off to get at the contents. I wanted people to have to break the egg to get inside. (I have a fondness for things you have to destroy to enjoy.) I decided to mold some dark chocolate inside nonpareil molds, which were about the size of the opening and melt them to the bottom of the eggs.
I warmed a knife in a saucepan of water, wiped it dry and ran it over the opening of the egg, melting the edges of the chocolate while making the surface flat. Then I pressed a molded chocolate into the bottom.
This sort of worked, but not as well as I’d hoped. It works as a base for the egg to stand on but it’s still easier to pry this off than to crack the eggshell. If I had time to do it again I think I would fill the nonpareil molds, let them set just a bit then upend the filled egg into the mold. This would create a stronger bond, and sink the rough edges of the eggshell into the small puddle of chocolate. However, you’d also glue some of the contents of the egg into the chocolate on the bottom, so ideally I’d have a foil wrapped candy nearest to the bottom. (update: Tried that with some leftover eggs, the sealing worked but the base was too messy and it was basically inadvisable.) Still, I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out.
To present them I put them in a bakery box with some tissue paper grass.
I had a huge amount of fun making these, and see different versions in my future. Maybe Halloween eggs? July 4th eggs? Mother’s Day eggs?