Oeufs de Paques: Chocolate Easter Eggs
The beautiful chocolates in this week’s photo are the creation of Michaël Randin, an artisan chocolate maker in the tiny village of Chamblon in Canton Vaud. He’s a real artisan, making everything himself, dipping all his chocolates by hand, and generally working on every step of the process from making the chocolates to packaging and shipping them. His hard work has paid off as his chocolates are featured in some fancy stores throughout Switzerland or via his website http://www.lastchocolat.com (in French).
Here are instructions and a recipe for preparing molded chocolate eggs; you’ll need a hard plastic plaque with cavities for the chocolates to be formed.
When you melt chocolate, the crystals in the cocoa butter dissolve and become unstable. If the chocolate sets again after being melted, the cocoa butter rises to the surface and forms a grey film. To prevent this, you need to temper the chocolate so the crystals become stable and the chocolate sets with a good texture and sheen.
To make any number of chocolate decorations - cutouts or fine piping done on paper and transferred - it is important to temper the chocolate.
There are several different methods for tempering, all of which are geared toward restabilizing the crystals of cocoa butter so the chocolate returns to the same state it was in before melting. It is not practical to temper less than 1 1/2 pounds of chocolate since in a small quantity, temperature changes occur so rapidly that the chocolate will go in and out of temper haphazardly during the process.
Temperature is an important part of tempering and a good instant-read thermometer makes the process much easier. Bear in mind the temperatures in the chart below when tempering chocolate.
To Temper 1 1/2 Pounds of Chocolate:
- Very finely cut the chocolate and place two thirds of it in a stainless steel bowl. Bring a pan of water to a simmer, remove from the heat and place the bowl of chocolate over the water. Be careful that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the surface of the water or the chocolate will overheat. Stir the chocolate frequently as it is melting. Take the chocolate's temperature occasionally, to make sure that it does not exceed 125F.
- Remove the bowl from the water; dry the bottom of the bowl, so that there is no risk of water falling into the melted chocolate. Stir constantly to melt and incorporate the remaining chocolate. This process should take between 5 and 10 minutes, cooling the chocolate to 85°F.
- To bring the chocolate into a completely tempered state, reheat it repeatedly over the same pan of hot water for no more than 2 or 3 seconds at a time, until it reaches a temperature of 87°F to 91°F for bittersweet or semisweet chocolate or 84°F to 88°F for milk or white chocolate. Check the temperature of the chocolate after every heating to prevent overheating it. If the temperature rises above 91°F, the chocolate goes out of temper and you must start the process from the beginning.
110° F to 120° F
The chocolate should be melted to this temperature before tempering. The chocolate should be cooled by adding finely cut chocolate to begin restabilizing the crystals.
The chocolate should be cooled to this temperature.
87° F to 91°F
The chocolate should be elevated to this temperature to be in temper for bittersweet and semisweet chocolates.
84° F to 88° F
The chocolate should be elevated to this temperature to be in temper for milk and white chocolates.
Techniques for Filled Molded Chocolates
- Preparing Molds: Buff cavities of molds with cotton or a very soft, clean cloth. Leave molds at room temperature before filling.
- Forming Shells: Use a large paper cone to fill cavities, or fill cavities by spreading tempered chocolate on surface of plaque with an offset spatula, sweeping away excess into bowl of chocolate. Tap plaque against work surface or tap sides of plaque with rolling pin or handle of large wooden spoon to settle chocolate in cavities and eliminate air bubbles. Invert plaque over bowl of chocolate and tap gently on bottom and sides of plaque so that excess chocolate drains into bowl. Turn right side up, scrape surface clean with an offset spatula, sweeping excess into bowl of chocolate. Set plaques aside to set shells.
- Filling: Use a paper cone or pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tube to fill shells. Be sure filling has a flat top surface and does not come to a point or surpass limits of shell. This is easiest to do if point of cone or tube is only inserted about 1/8-inch into shell and held fast while cone or bag is squeezed to fill shell. Release pressure and pull tip away with a sideways motion to avoid leaving a point.
- Sealing in Filling: With an offset spatula, spread a layer of tempered chocolate over the plaque, so that it fills in the areas over the filling. Scrape surface clean with an offset spatula, sweeping excess into bowl of chocolate. Set plaques aside to set bottoms.
- Unmolding: After chocolate has set, invert plaque to a clean, paper-covered pan and chocolates will release automatically.
Milk Chocolate and Liqueur Filling for Molded Chocolates
The liquor used here should be a sweet liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Chartreuse. If using unsweetened liquor such as rum or a fruit eau de vie, be careful to use the lesser amount in the formula, or the filling may develop a bitter alcohol taste.
20 ounces milk (or white) chocolate
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very soft
½ cup cream, cold
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup Grand Marnier or other sweet liqueur
OR ¼ cup unsweetened liquor or eau de vie
- Melt chocolate with butter and transfer to bowl of Robot Coupe.
- Run machine and add cream and corn syrup in a slow, steady stream, continuing to run machine until the ganache is smooth.
- Add remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth.
- Scrape ganache out onto a half-sheet pan covered with plastic wrap. Cool to 75 degrees.
- Use as a filling for molded chocolates.