Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Eggs!

Easter is generally a crazy time in my family, since everyone is at church practically the whole week. So I decided to make my Easter goodies a week in advance, and pray during this week that they would be okay after a week in the refrigerator. I guess we'll know Easter morning!

I guess it goes without saying at this point that I hate stealing. So in order for me to share the recipe for these eggs, the link to the website where I found them is right here. The ones I used were the peanut butter and butter cream eggs.

Okay, so, first step is to mix the centers. I did the butter cream egg centers first, because they needed to set in the refrigerator longer than the peanut butter eggs. I did a double batch of the butter cream so that I had enough for a giant yellow yolk egg. Then I mixed the peanut butter centers and let them sit in the refrigerator. That was Saturday afternoon. Saturday evening I shaped the peanut butter eggs and put them in a pan to set overnight. I didn't touch the butter cream centers until the next morning, giving them extra time to set.

Sunday morning began with forming the butter cream egg centers into egg shapes, just as I had the peanut butter the night before. With the second half (or, more like the final third) of the center mixture, I died about 1/3 of it yellow, and put the white and yellow colored mixture in two separate bowls in the refrigerator to set for a bit.

Now comes the exciting part: the dipping! I've done butter cream eggs before, and I've never been truly happy with how they were formed in the chocolate because there was always too much chocolate left on the wax paper after I dipped the eggs. I have a dipping tool set, but these eggs are approximately 2 ounces in weight, so they far outweigh the capacity of my dipping circle, and I didn't want two holes in the top with the dipping fork. So I was at a loss...that is, until I saw a video online of someone dipping eggs! (Man, the internet can be a great tool.) :-)

So, the trick? Use a big toothpick. The only problem was, I didn't want to leave a gaping hole at the top of the egg after it was dipped, so I had to figure out how to cover it up. I didn't want to add extra chocolate as a patch job because it would look like, well, a patch job. But more on that later!

So, melting the chocolate. Usually when I melt chocolate I use the microwave, since it's easy and takes a much shorter time. I've just recently taken to the double boiling system on the stove, and I like the results much better. I decided to do the peanut butter eggs in milk chocolate, and the butter cream eggs in semi-sweet chocolate. The yellow yolk butter cream was also covered in semi-sweet chocolate. Finding the semi-sweet chocolate was no big deal: go to any grocery store, and they have them in the baking aisle. Mine just happened to be on sale for a dollar a bag, so that made this poor girl happy. :-) As for the milk chocolate, I decided to go with couvertures from Nuts to You, a great little candy/nut/snack shop in the Philadelphia area. Love, love, love it! So I got 2 lbs. there, and began my work on Sunday with the dipping.

When you double boil chocolate, you're supposed to chop the chocolate into small pieces, which I always forget to do; so it takes a little longer to get the chocolate melted. Also, regarding chocolate, my greatest fear is that the chocolate will bloom (get that whitish, powder-like residue over the surface), so I try to be extra careful with that. When you're working with actual chocolate, like chocolate chips, you really need to temper the chocolate to make sure that it doesn't bloom. I, however, am no expert at tempering chocolate, nor do I own a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature of said chocolate. With the milk chocolate from Nuts to You, I figured I would take a chance on the fact that it was simply a candy melt and not a pure chocolate melt, so I didn't do anything but melt and dip. But with the semi-sweet chocolate, the story was different. Since I didn't really know how to temper, or have the tools, I took a tip that someone gave me recently--add a small amount of vegetable oil to thin it out and keep it from blooming. So by the time I got to the butter cream eggs, I was holding my breath for hardening time.

Dippy dippy time! Use a sturdy toothpick, dip completely up to the top of the egg so only the toothpick shows, shake off excess chocolate gently (you don't want the egg falling off the toothpick!), and transfer to waxed paper Pretty simple. Did that with the milk peanut butter, let it sit out, then refrigerated for a bit. Then, later on in the day, did it for the semi-sweet butter cream...same deal. Again, though, there is a big giant gaping hole where the toothpick was at the top of the egg. What to do?

That's where Monday's project came in! I decided to work with royal icing for the first time in my life, and boy was it an interesting experience. So I mixed the icing, dyed some of it rose (which really turned out to be a hot pink hue), and went to pipe my drop swirl flowers on top of the eggs to cover the hole. Well, the icing was too thick; it wouldn't pipe properly. Okay, so, cut the bag, take the tip out, squeeze the icing into the mixing bowl, add a little bit of water, mix, try again. The problem? There is a fine, fine line between how much water to add if too stiff, and how much sugar to add if too thin. I have come to believe that royal icing is a pain in the royal butt (no pun intended). So, lo and behold, icing was too thin. At that point, I just didn't care, and I piped the "flowers" on the butter cream eggs. Well, the flowers didn't hold form. Instead, they kind of made a goopy star shape that sort of looked like it could have possibly been something fancily piped on top. No bueno, especially for a perfectionist like me. Super frustrated, I made a send batch of icing, this time a double batch with a little more water than called for in the recipe. This one was the right consistency. So, instead of wasting the already colored and thin icing, I added some of the fresh icing to the mix, blended, and voila! A lovely, lighter shade of pink (though still a deep pink) that seemed to work for piping purposes. And so it did! Because I was so frustrated with the butter cream eggs, I wiped a few of the original flowers off the eggs. That didn't last long; most of them still have the goopy stars/flower shape on them. So for the peanut butter eggs, and for the few butter cream that I wiped off, on went the new, easily-piped-but-holds-shape icing, and some beautiful drop swirl flowers came into existence. Okay, so they look more like rosettes, but I like them!

Some pictures for reference:

These are the peanut butter eggs with the holes on top in the refrigerator. Interesting fact: when refrigerated, peanut butter oil separates from the peanut butter; thus, my eggs leaked oil through the hole! Go figure.

The final result of the mini eggs...pure, simple, beauty. I did not photograph the runny icing eggs. I'm too ashamed of them I guess. Noeleen, always the perfectionist. It's my downfall.

On to the yellow yolk! Somewhere in the midst of the dipping and hardening on Monday, I managed to shape the yellow yolk egg. Simple enough: take the yellow butter cream, form into egg shape. Take the white butter cream, form around yellow egg shape. Put in refrigerator to set. When I was done dipping the butter cream eggs, I took the yellow yolk out of the refrigerator, turned it upside down in my hand, spread chocolate on the bottom of it, put it down on the waxed paper again, and spread the chocolate around all sides of the egg. It looked a little rough, but in a good way. A rustic way, if you will. ;-)

Set in the refrigerator over night. Pull out, cut off extra chocolate around edges (only the really obnoxious pieces, or else I would break the egg). On Monday came the fun part. With the second batch of icing, which was now a good consistency, I began to decorate my egg. Tip 104 for the rose buds, tip 352 for the stems (no leaves. I thought about it, but then decided against it), tip 104 for the bow (which turned out really well, considering that I didn't practice and I've never done it before!). The rose buds and bow were in pink, the stems in green. Then I got creative. at this point, the egg was on a 10 inch cake circle. So I decided to attach the grass tip (don't remember the tip number) to the green icing, and make grass. Simple touch board, pull up, let drop, repeat. Originally I just did it around the edges of the egg, but then I decided to cover the whole board. That way I could have a base for my...

Icing lambs! Yes, you heard me correctly. On wax paper, with tip 12, pipe out a generous base for the body, followed by a round bit on one end for the head. Then you're supposed to use a small round tip to cover in wool, but I decided to use the grass tip again, and I think it turned out well! I couldn't find my black icing color for some reason (boo), so I used a toothpick and blue icing color to make the mouth and eyes on each lamb. Using a separate toothpick and the left over pink icing, I added two ear centers and a nose.

I think we need pictures now, don't you?

Detail on the lambies! I love those little lambs. I think sitting in the refrigerator for a few days now they've sort of collapsed a little, but I still think they're cute! :-)

Detail on the top of the egg. A little dark, I know, but I don't have photoshop anymore. :-(

The whole shebang!

And then, to top it all off, I was offered a job decorating eggs for Shane Candies, the oldest candy store in America! Which I did, for two days, but then I had to stop. I made a bit of money, which was nice. And I sort of had fun, trying to get as much done as possible in as little time as I had. The icing consistency was terrible there, too, as it was a bit too runny; the star tip figures were not holding shape. *sigh* But it was an interesting experience. Who would have thought that, one, my hobby that I experimented with for the first time would lead to a job, and two, I would walk into a candy store to buy some Easter candy and be offered a job to begin on the spot? Only me, ladies and gentlemen. Only me. :-)