Easter Egg Ideas from Martha Stewart

Think whatever you'd like to about Martha Stewart, but you have her magazine (aptly titled, Martha Stewart Living) to thank for the following story and recipe. Just in time for a certain holiday, what does this cooking guru have to say about the Easter chocolates?

After a trip to Brussels, where I had my first sampling of chocolate-filled eggshells, I came home enthusiastic about trying to devise a system for doing a similar thing at home. What resulted was the how-to technique that you will find below. (The chocolate needs to be tempered, or heated and cooled to precise temperatures. If you don't take these steps when melting chocolate, it may become grainy or develop grayish patches, called bloom, once it hardens.)

Made with dark chocolate, the resulting eggs are are wonderful decorations, beautiful gifts, and lovely fillers for Easter baskets. And they really are quite easy. Here's how to make the chocolate eggs.

Note: We used Valrhona dark chocolate in this recipe because it is relatively easy to temper. The temperatures that are listed apply specifically to this brand.

1. Using a pin, poke a hole in the bottom of a large raw egg. Insert the tip of a utility knife and turn to open the hole slightly. Using a rotary drill fitted with a 3/8-inch bit, carefully widen the hole to at least 1/2 inch in diameter.

2. Insert pin into the hole to pierce and ''stir" the yolk. Hold the egg, hole down, over a bowl, and blow air into the hole with a rubber ear syringe (the air will displace and expel the egg). Rinse out egg. Repeat to make 12 blown eggs (you may want to make extras in case some break).

3. Sterilize eggs: Submerge them in a pot of cold water with 1 tablespoon white vinegar; bring to a boil, then simmer, skimming foam from surface, 10 minutes. Let drain on a pin board made by sticking several flathead pins into a piece of foam board in a grid pattern. If not dyeing eggs, let dry completely on pin board, 2 to 3 days (check insides for moisture).

4. If dyeing eggs: Mix 4 tablespoons vinegar and 12 drops of blue food coloring with 2 cups boiling-hot water in a heatproof glass or enamel bowl. Fill a separate cup with white vinegar. Using a plastic spoon, dip eggs in vinegar, then into the dye, 2 to 3 minutes. Pat eggs with paper towels to eliminate streaks. (If dye begins to cool while you're working, make a new batch.) Let the eggs dry as described above.

5. Using an offset serrated knife, very finely chop 3 pounds of chocolate. Reserve 1 cup chocolate. Using a bench scraper, transfer remaining chocolate to a large heatproof bowl.

6. Temper chocolate: Set bowl over a pan of simmering water. Melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until a chocolate thermometer registers 131 degrees. (Note: Many brands of dark chocolate should not be heated to more than 118 degrees.)
Remove from heat. Stir in reserved chocolate until completely melted. Pour 2/3 of the melted chocolate onto a clean, smooth work surface (such as marble or stainless steel). Spread thinly with an offset spatula. Then gather together chocolate, and take temperature. Continue spreading and gathering chocolate until it cools to 82 degrees to 84 degrees.

7. Scrape chocolate back into bowl with remaining chocolate. Stir until it cools to 82 degrees to 84 degrees. Set bowl over a pan of warm water, and reheat to 88 degrees. To check consistency, dip a spoon in chocolate and remove. The chocolate should set in about 2 minutes, turning shiny and hard.
Note: This temperature must be maintained as you fill the eggs. Keep a thermometer in the chocolate, and check frequently. Rest the bowl on a heating pad wrapped in a towel, or set bowl over the pan of warm (not hot) water.

8. Place eggshells in an egg carton. Place a disposable pastry bag in a tall glass, and fold top down. Fill bag with chocolate. Cut tip to create 1/4-inch opening.

9. Insert tip of bag into each egg, and fill with chocolate (about 1/4 cup per egg; fill a new bag with chocolate as needed). Let set completely, about 4 hours.