Making Chocolate Easter Eggs with Jean François Houdré
Compliments of FabulousFoods.com
Step 1. Prepare materials and chocolate
Jean François insists that the most important step in making great chocolates is tempering. Unfortunately, it's also one of the trickest techniques to master. We have tempring instructions here at Fabulous Foods from pastry chef Jacques Torres, so if you're going to attempt to make Chocolate Easter Eggs at home, be sure to follow this link for tempering instructions first.
Professionals like Jean François have some nifty gadgets for helping them, like a digital candy thermometer that measures the heat of the chocolate, or the warming lamp that keeps it at the proper temperature once it's been tempered. At home, chef Houdré suggest that you turn on your oven to the lowest temperature possible, keep the door fully open, and keep your tempered chocolate on the warm open oven door. This should hold it at about the proper consistency.
For the colors, Jean François uses either a good quality white chocolate or pure cocoa butter that has been colored with powdered food color. He says you could use pastes, but you have to be sure to avoid any coloring with alcohol because it will cause the chocolate to "seize" or crystallize.
Step 2. Prepare Base and Chocolate Bunnies for Filling
The next step is to prepare a base for the finished egg to stand on, and the tiny chocolate bunnies that will make up the surprise package to be stuffed into the egg later. Jean François uses an ordinary sheet of white acetate to pour the base, because the hardeed chocolate will easily slide off it. A metal pastry ring is used to mold the base, as in the first photo below (you'll see the finished chocolate disk, that is the base, later in this tutorial).
A plastic chocolate mold is used to make the bunnies. The chocolate is simply ladeled into the mold and the excess is then scraped back into the bowl. Now comes the most important technique in making the small molded candies: removing all the air bubbles. Gently tap the bottom of the mold and hold it up to the light and look underneath to insure that you have removed all the air.
The chocolate is then allowed to harden at room temperature until it is ready to be popped out of the mold. If you're in a hurry, you can chill the chocolate to hasten its setting, but letting it harden at room temperature is preferable and insures a better looking final product, says chef Houdré.
Step 3. Molding the Egg
Now it's time to pour the mold for the large egg itself. After ladeling in some chocolate, a pastry brush is used to spread the chocolate evenly aroud the mold. The chocolate is allowed to set slightly, then the process is repeated (sometimes twice more) to create another layer of chocolate. You want the egg to be thick and strong enough to hold its shape and contents but not too heavy. Jean François explained that in Europe, eggs like these are sold by weight, so the more chocolate that is poured, the more expensive the final product.
Step 4. Cleaning the Mold
Now, the molds must be cleaned, so that the edges are completely level and even with the surface of the mold -- a crucial step so the egg will fit together properly. A pastry scraper does quick work of the job. The second photo below shows two freshly poured, cleaned molds. Notice the glossiness of the chocolate in all the photos, this is a result of high quality chocolate and proper tempering.
Step 5. Unmolding the Egg
After the poured molds have been allowed to harden, it's time for unmolding. If you're making these at home, you may have to wait for the egg to catch up to you. In Jean François' case, he usually makes about a hundred eggs, so by the time he has filled his last mold, the first has already set. Give the mold about 20 minutes to set.
Unmolding takes a gentle touch and the chocolate should slide right out. Of course, you want to touch the chocolate as little as possible as the heat from your body will cause it to start melting.
Now that you have molded eggs and bunnies to stuff inside its time to paint the eggs
Step 6. Painting the Egg
Jean François uses a tiny pastry bag, fashioned from parchment paper, to make a tiny writing utensil. fter folding the cone, he fills it with tempered white chocolate or cocoa butter, then snips off just a tiny tip off the end, and begins writing. The egg mold and/or a metal pastry ring are used at various in times in the process to prop the egg at the necessary angles for work. Needless to say, our favorite pastry chef has a lot of natural artistic ability and decades of experiece. He adds the intricate embellishments to the writing, seemingly effortlessly.
Step 7. Painting the Egg
Using pure cocoa butter, colored with powdered food colors, the true artist in Jean François comes out. This egg, like the ones that are sold at the Sutton Place Hotel, are decorated with a floral design. Jean François' artistic talents go far beyond this, however, as you'll see by checking out his Easter Chocolate Gallery.
Step 8. Joining the Egg Halves
Now comes the crucial time to join the two egg halves together. You must work quickly in order to handle the chocolate as little as possible and to minimize unwanted melting.
What Jean François did next was quite interesting, although impractical for most home cooks (don't worry, we'll give you an alternative). Taking a blow torch to his stainless steel work table, he heated the surface just enough to melt the chocolate slightly on contact. Working quickly he rubbed the egg halves on the heated surface to completely level them, as well as slightly melting the chocolate into a glue that will harden and hold the two sides together. If anything is to be placed inside the egg, such as a small bag of the chocolate bunnies that were made in Step 2, now is the time to do it, or forever hold your peace!
Step 9. Finishing the Egg
To finish the egg, Jean François propped up his creation in a metal pastry ring and proceeded to fill another tiny pastry bag, this time with dark chocolate. He then piped a line of tiny chocoalte beads neatly along the seam. This border didn't reach completely to the bottom, as the bottom of the egg will rest upon the base that was made back in Step 2.
To attach the completed egg to the base, Jean François just uses a little more tempered chocolate, which acts as a glue, and carefully sets his masterpiece in place. A little packaging and this edible work of art is ready to go!
After the egg sets in the base, it time to display it for all the world to see. Take a look at Jean François' Easter Egg Gallery.