When I think of my grandmother, many things come to mind. She was full of life, funny and frugal, yet so very generous.
This was a woman who waterskied well into her sixties, climbed into a bullpen at the Stockyards (bull was dozing) to collect fertilizer for her garden, and made long underwear a three-season fashion staple through her judicious use of the thermostat.
At the same time, she always included a friend in need at her holiday table. Some years, she kept our meal warm while we made a quick delivery to a bedridden acquaintance. I have nary a recollection of unwrapping a birthday or Christmas present from my grandmother. All the gifts she gave were from her heart, measured in time, not dollars.
There were really long walks on the beach, collecting shells or driftwood for later projects, which always involved a glue gun. We played elaborate connect-the-dot games on the chalkboard at the bottom of her basement stairs or on a random scrap of paper. She had us for sleepovers, forgot to notice the clock at bedtime, and let us scoop our own ice cream. Enough said!
Some of my fondest memories were in her kitchen: standing on the stool beside her, rolling out my own piecrust for a mini version of what she was baking or “helping” her make and then carry the spaghetti to the dining room table, only to have the contents of the entire platter slide onto her bright green carpet. (She never even raised her voice. As it turned out, this was the perfect opportunity to validate what she always said: her house was so clean you could, in fact, eat off the floor!)
Over the years, we baked dozens of cookies, froze gallons of applesauce, and canned quarts of tomatoes. As I got older, I scheduled my visits to her Fountain Avenue home to coincide with these seasonal activities. My time with her was precious, and she came to appreciate the help with the more tedious tasks.
Of my grandmother’s many mouth-watering concoctions, her chocolate peanut butter eggs had, perhaps, the biggest following. Because it simply wasn’t enough to enjoy them only at Easter time, she made ball-shaped versions for Christmas or as a special treat.
For years now, I have carried on the tradition, giving countless boxes to family and friends as a small way to remember my grandmother and keep the memories alive.
Sometimes, I dip a few of the eggs in unsweetened chocolate. I am a fan of dark chocolate, in general, and love this truly bittersweet pairing. The sweetness of the peanut butter filling provides a interesting counterbalance to the bitter chocolate. If curious, you could set aside a few of the eggs and experiment with a bar of melted unsweetened baking chocolate.
Click here for the Coconut Cream Egg recipe, shown with the peanut butter filling, above.
- 1 (12-ounce) jar creamy peanut butter (or just over 1 1/4 cups)
- 1 (8-ounce) package Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
- 8 tablespoons (one stick) butter, room temperature (I use salted)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 (2-pound) bag confectioner’s sugar
- Approximately 1 pound good melting chocolate (milk or dark, according to your preference)
Mix all of the ingredients except the sugar until thoroughly combined. Then, stir in sugar, a third at a time, until completely incorporated. (I find this easiest to do with my clean hands.) Next, I form into a big rectangular block so that I can slice into equal-size pieces for rolling. At this point, you may wrap in parchment or wax paper, and then again in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to a few days.
When ready to make the eggs, the dough is easiest to work with when cold. Using about a tablespoon of the mix at a time, form into oval or egg shapes, placing them on a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet as you go. When finished, you may again cover and refrigerate until you are ready to coat the eggs in chocolate.
Finally, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, keeping the heat very low. Dip the eggs and remove to a parchment-lined baking sheet. I like to keep twenty or so out at a time, leaving the remaining eggs in the refrigerator. They will be easier to dip when they are cold. I have tried the utensils made for dipping chocolates, toothpicks, and any way I can think of to make this process easy and less messy! The way that has ultimately worked best for me is to use a dinner fork. I drop the egg in the chocolate, roll gently to coat, and lift it out with the fork. Hold the egg on the fork for a few seconds, allowing the excess chocolate to drip back into pot, and then gently slide off the fork and onto baking sheet. If you end up with “feet”–a puddle of chocolate that pools around the egg–you can gently break this off once the chocolate hardens. My kids, however, think these are the best ones because they get more chocolate!
Note: One year, I thought I would be smart and put the dipped eggs on a cooling rack figuring this was a fast, easy way to drain the excess chocolate. Don’t do it! The eggs stick to the rack, even if greased, and the bottoms will break off when removed.
If you want to try tempering chocolate: I’ve had a few questions on this subject, so here is a quick how-to. I used to buy the chocolate melting disks that don’t require tempering, which is totally fine. Chocolate with a higher cocoa butter content will require this step. The main risk you run if you don’t temper it properly is that the finished chocolate looks a little streaky. It will still taste fabulous. What I do, however, is melt a portion of the chocolate at a time–maybe 8 ounces–over low heat in a double boiler. Then turn the heat off and add about a quarter cup (no need to measure, just a small handful) of chopped chocolate and stir it in. This brings the temperature back down which is how it tempers. I turn the heat back on when I need to add more chocolate or if the chocolate cools too much and starts to thicken. Repeat the process as needed, adding a little more chopped chocolate after the bigger chunks are melted.
When you are melting chocolate in the microwave (which I often do when making Oreo, pretzel or salted almond bark; see website for these recipes), you can use a similar process. Just heat in 30-second intervals, stirring as you go. When all chocolate is just melted, stir in some chopped chocolate and let it melt in the heat of the already warm chocolate. I do find that the stovetop method works best for the extended process of egg dipping.
Once dipped, the chocolate should be put in a cool place to set up properly. I put the baking sheets of dipped candy in the refrigerator or near a cool window to set and fully cool.
Stored in an airtight container and refrigerated, the eggs will keep for several weeks–if they last that long! They also freeze well.
If you are partial to Coconut Cream Eggs, or would like to see a few of my favorite (and easy) ways to use the leftover chocolate, click on the highlighted recipe titles for the instructions and more photos.