I have to admit, given that March has been something of a hell-month for me, I’d rather decided that I would let the March Vegetarian Challenge slide quietly into oblivion. But then the fabulous Johanna of Gourmet Green Giraffe made the most stunning Easter Egg pizza (really, you have to go and look at it, because it’s quite something), and before I knew it, three more people had joined the Easter Egg bandwagon, and here I was, the hostess with absolutely nothing to show for the month.
So, rather belatedly, I’m going to post two recipes, one today, and the other either this evening or tomorrow, depending how I go, for some creative interpretations of Easter Eggs.
Today’s recipe, I admit freely, is more than slightly weird, and not even a little bit vegan. I blame the Spanish nuns. (No, really – that’s where this recipe originated. Apparently, the Spaniards liked to use egg-white in their mortar, so the yolks went to the nuns, who obviously got bored with making custard tarts and started experimenting…) But who can resist an Easter Egg recipe made from real egg? Not me…
This recipe comes, almost in its entirety, from Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra’s fabulous book, Sugar and Spice, with only a few very small changes from me. First, I have doubled the lemon, because I am constitutionally incapable of using the zest of only half a lemon. Second, I have made the sweets themselves much, much smaller – these little morsels are unbelievably rich, rather like an extra-thick version of lemon curd. Finally, I let the sugar syrup go a little further than recommended, from thread stage into firm ball. This was partly by accident, because I couldn’t find a candy thermometer that would behave for me today, but actually, I rather like the results, which are much firmer than my first attempts at this candy, and thus dip a lot better into the white chocolate coating.
If you were much cleverer and more patient than me, I’d recommend the possibilities of tempering your white chocolate, so that your egg-shell would crack nicely. But I just melted mine, and that worked too. You could also decorate the eggs in a much tidier fashion by using a piping bag, rather than using a fork and dementedly flicking coloured chocolate all over the kitchen, but I was in a hurry, and the results were actually strangely appealing even with the flicky method, so I can recommend that, too.
Your Shopping List6 egg yolks (wondering what to do about the egg whites? Fear not – I have it all planned! Just put them aside in a bowl in the fridge for now, and you can use them in tomorrow’s recipe!) zest of 1 lemon 125 g white sugar 45 ml water 50 g ground almonds approx. 175 g white chocolate (Cadbury’s white melts are actually surprisingly good, and I used them here)
Now what will you do with it?
Put the egg yolks and lemon zest in a smallish saucepan and mix together well. Don’t put any heat under them yet. Measure out the almonds, and have a small baking tray and a smallish plate both lined with greaseproof paper ready.
Put the water and syrup into a small saucepan, and let the sugar dissolve as much as you have the patience for (more patience = better result) before bringing the syrup to the boil. You want to boil this up to somewhere between soft and firm ball stage, about 118°C, or when the bubbles are starting to slow down a bit before popping.
Start whisking your egg yolks before you even begin slowly pouring in the syrup – you really want the eggs to be moving the whole time the syrup is going in. Don’t panic too much if some of the syrup goes hard on you, it will dissolve again with a bit of care in the next bit.
Now switch on the heat under the egg yolks, and keep it very low. At this point, I’d switch to using a silicone spatula to stir the egg yolks, and you are going to keep on stirring them until they are very thick. By very thick, I mean that the mixture will be able to be piled on top of itself and hold its shape for a bit before slowly subsiding.
Now stir in the almond meal. This will be reasonably hard work. If it isn’t hard work, your egg yolks weren’t thick enough, and I’d consider giving them a bit more heat, though you do risk burning the almond meal a little.
Scrape your now very thick mixture onto the plate, and spread out to cool a little. You only need it cool enough to handle, and this won’t take long. By this point, your mixture should be around the consistency of very sticky, slightly grainy, playdough.
Get your hands nice and damp with cold water, because this is sticky, and start pinching off small pieces of your scary yellow playdough and rolling them into little egg shapes. Put these onto the lined tray. I got 18 little quail-egg-sized egglets out of this mixture. You can, of course, go bigger or smaller, but I find that these are very rich and a little goes a long way.
Let the egg yolks dry for a couple of hours at room temperature, or if your oven has the capacity, switch it on to 55°C, and dry the yolks out for about half an hour, gently removing their sticky sides from the tray half way through and turning them over.
When the yolks are dry and cool, melt the white chocolate in a small, deep bowl. I find that the easiest way to do this is in the microwave at 60% power, stirring once every minute or so. This will only take you three or four minutes, maybe five.
Working one egg at a time, drop each into its little chocolate bath.
Use a fork (a dipping fork if you have one) to gently turn each egg over in the chocolate until well coated, then lift it out, tapping the fork on the edge of the bowl and scraping it to remove excess chocolate.
Gently place each egg on a sheet of baking paper on yet another tray (you can, of course, wash trays and re-use during this). Don’t make the mistake I made of putting them on a rack to dry – you just end up with rack marks on the back of your egg, which is not that pretty.
When all the eggs are done, let them set in the fridge (unless you were a clever clogs and used tempered chocolate, in which case they will set pretty much immediately at room temperature).
Heat the leftover white chocolate and divide it between several small bowls. Colour it, and use it to decorate your eggs.
Pretty, aren’t they?
Store in the fridge, and feed to the unwary. I guarantee you’ll be among the very few people serving people chocolate Easter eggs made from real eggs this Easter…
I don’t think messing with this on a structural level is a good plan, but you could use a different citrus zest, or add spices (cardamom, maybe?) and might be able to get away with a drop or two of orange flower water if you were feeling exotic.
These are, of course, dairy- and gluten-free. They are not, equally obviously, egg- or nut-free.
This has, obviously, been submitted to my Easter Egg Inspirations Vegetarian Food Challenge.
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