Monday, March 29, 2010

Recipe: Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs of Glory

Here in Australia, Easter marks the time of the year when the world begins to cool and emerge from the summer hibernation.  We take the shade-cloths off the vegetables.  Animals walk abroad by day. Butterflies and dragonflies rise in clouds from every bush. (bringing with them sixteen billion flies, but we won't go into that here. Leave it that my very own personal ear hole is not a shady resting place for weary travelers, not even if ye come in ye thousands or hundreds of thousands.  I have a fly net and I will wear it.)
            When I was small, every year at Easter, Mum would help my sister and I make marshmallow Easter eggs. We'd whip up great froths of sugary marshmallow syrup and make moulds by filling pans with flour and pressing a chicken's egg into them to make domed hollows. I remember the softness of the flour under my hands and the sharp burring in my nose as the flour dust billowed up when I pressed the egg into it.  
            The marshmallow eggs hardened in the fridge, and using chocolate or sugar water, we'd glue egg halves together into whole eggs and roll them in coconut that we'd tinted with food coloring.  We wove baskets out of paper we'd cut into heart-shapes and, nesting the finished eggs carefully into the baskets, and piling the baskets into rustling heaps on the front seat and floor of the car, we'd go out on delivery runs, driving baskets of eggs to all our friends.
            My mother was very strict about sugar in those days.  We were allowed to keep only two eggs each for ourselves. This is the most poignant memory - the afternoons spent in smelling distance of sugar and coconut and chocolate, carrying them, gently quivering, in my arms (in my memory they multiply into hundreds) and giving them away.

I haven't made them in years - but last week, in honor of the upcoming festival of spring renewal, a friend and I spent a Saturday making 'em.

Things went wrong from the start - I misplaced my copy of the original recipe and had to go googling.  I found a copy - but there were one or two significant errors in the text.
The original said to stop whipping while the mix was still liquid - following the interweb instead, we worked till they were "light and fluffy" - and the marshmallow stood up like meringues and laughed absolutely sneerfully at our moulds.  The extra whipping time also affected the flavor.  I remember the things as sweet, and I do know that children appreciate a higher sugar content than adults can bear, but - ye hells and garters - these things reached right out of the spoon and into your mouth and punched you hard in the tonsils and then you lay down and died.
            In the fridge, they wouldn't set. We moved them to the freezer - they gooped, sludged - and oozed. Out of daylight, we went ahead and dipped them in chocolate anyway, where they dribbled and fell apart.  We used shredded coconut as a binding agent to hold the mess together - and then it all oozed, like a mudflow in a jungle, carrying turf and trees and eventually the whole kitchen downhill with it.

My friend J is a librarian.  Spooning chocolate over disintegrating marshmallow, she planned what to do with her half of the loot.
            "This student didn't return three library books all semester. Have a chocolate egg, dear."
            "That one put her books back herself - all out of order. Happy Easter, sweetie."
            "And you- you brought food with you into the library. Here darling…. Have just a little more…"


Yesterday Mr. Tabubil and I had another crack at the recipe:
            We found the original instructions, increased the proportion of lemon juice, and stopped the beaters while the mixture was still pourable.
            Lifting the balloon whisk clear of the goo, I tapped off the excess and, and we each reached out a finger and -bellisima! 
            Hordes of sugary Easter angels!  Our hindbrains took over and we each reached out to lick the rest of the mixture free - we met half-way around the beater, somewhat shamefaced and unwilling to meet each other in the eye.
            The eggs were perfect.  They poured, they hardened, they dipped, and most importantly - they tasted as I remembered them.  Not too sweet, not too sour - they were just right.
            It takes a lot of taste-testing, making Easter eggs . You have to check the mix at every single step - the sugar syrup, the beaten mix, the pour, the chocolate dip - it all wants checking.
            Last night I had a stomach-ache. I lay on the floor and groaned, and Mr Tabubil peered down at me with academic interest.
            "D'you think it was the marshmallows?" he asked.
            "Ooooohhhhhhhhhhh." I moaned.
            "What did I say? Marshmallow?"
            "Fascinating. How about 'Chocolate'?"
            "Tim-tam" he breathed, very softly.
            "Ooooh!  Marshmallow!  Chocolate!   Ice cream!  Caramel!  Gaiety Biscuit!   marshmallow!"
            "Right." I groaned, and hauled myself to my feet. I poured myself a soup spoon of cider vinegar and drank it neat.  Then a second. And a third.
            "You got another spoon?"  Mr. Tabubil asked sheepishly.  "I'm not feeling so good myself."
            "Oh reeeeeaaalllly?"  I purred.  "Marshmallow, you inconsiderate creature, you!"
            "Pass the bottle, my dear. Uuuurggghhhh."

Marshmallow Easter Eggs 

(we doubled the recipe and have about 5 dozen egg halves)


1 tablespoon gelatine
quarter cup of cold water
half cup hot water
1 cup sugar
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
1.75-ish teaspoons lemon juice

 Put cold water in bowl.  Gradually stir in gelatine; let stand 5 minutes.  Put hot water and sugar in large saucepan, stir over low heat until sugar had dissolved.  Add gelatine mixture, stir over low heat until gelatine has dissolved.  Bring to boil, boil gently uncovered, 6 minutes.  Remove pan from heat, let cool to lukewarm.  Put mixture into small bowl of electric mixer, add vanilla and lemon juice.  Beat on high speed 5 minutes until thick and creamy and still of pouring consistency.   Marshmallow can be coloured with food colouring, if desired; add a few drops towards end of beating time.

Egg Shaping:
 Pour flour into large baking dish.  (we used about 2kg total.) Spread flour out evenly.  Press a large egg half-way into flour to make half-egg-shaped hollows. 
(The marshmallow does not affect the flour in any way; after the eggs are made, the flour can be sifted and repackaged and used for any purpose.)
Pour or spoon prepared marshmallow into hollows in flour bringing it right to the top.
The marshmallow takes 10 to 15 minutes to set firmly.  At the end of the time, touch top with finger, lift out gently.  Brush off any few grains of flour still adhering.  Join two egg halves together.  Top of marshmallow is slightly sticky, so halves cling together well.

To cover with coconut:
 Put coconut in a basin;  you'll need about 2 cups coconut.  Add a few drops of desired food colouring.  Wet hands, shake off surplus water; use damp hands to rub colouring evenly through coconut.  Coat eggs evenly with warmed, sieved jam (apricot is good), then roll in prepared coconut.

To cover with Chocolate:
Put 125g (4oz) or more (lots more) semisweet chocolate into top of double saucepan, stir over simmering water until melted.  Add 60g (2oz) solid white vegetable shortening, stir until melted.  Remove from heat, cool to lukewarm.  Press fork into marshmallow egg, dip in chocolate until evenly coated.  Drain off excess chocolate, then roll in coconut (about 2 cups).  Refrigerate until chocolate has set.
Or skip the vegetable shortening and the coconut and use melted semi-sweet chocolate on its own - fondue style.

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