As the air begins to smell sweet with apple and cherry blossom, the ground freshly turned as hopeful gardeners get ready to plant, the dawn chorus of birds getting me up earlier and earlier every morning, I am beginning to feel a tiniest bit of warmth on my shoulders, and I begin to feel restless.
Much like the March Hare, who is said to go mad every spring, capering about, dancing madly, (he’s actually trying to attract the attention of a mate) I feel the need to get out and stretch, bend and run through the mud.
Spring has always been my favourite season of the year, because it seems like anything is possible, new and just beginning. As a child, I knew my birthday was just around the corner, but first came Easter. And that meant chocolate eggs.
Maybe it’s the ancient “hunter/gatherer” urge, but I love the fact that at Easter, you have to go and look for the treats. You don’t beg or beseech adults for them, as you do at Hallowe’en (another, admittedly, favourite holiday). Instead (depending upon whether your search is indoors or out), you have to bend and stretch, climb on furniture or up trees, dig under leaves or house plants or couch cushions, scan your vistas, and think outside the box, finally pouncing on your unsuspecting, foil wrapped prey. It tastes so much better if you have to find it!
In our house, eggs figured prominently, whether chocolate or soft boiled, with toast soldiers. According to Wikipedia:
“The egg is widely used as a symbol of the start of new life, just as new life emerges from an egg when the chick hatches out.
The ancient Zoroastrians painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, which falls on the Spring equinox. The Nowrooz tradition has existed for at least 2,500 years. The sculptures on the walls of Persepolis show people carrying eggs for Nowrooz to the king.
At the Jewish Passover Seder, hard-boiled eggs called Beitzah, dipped in salt water, symbolizes the Qorban Chagigah or Hashlamim, the festival peace-offerings sacrificed at the Temple in Jerusalem to be eaten on Erev Pesach.”
I love the fact that the humble, comfortable, portable egg is a symbol of my favourite season, for so many cultures.
Because my Mum was a big Cadbury’s fan, we always got one of their milk chocolate eggs, along with a Laura Secord Cream Egg. Laura Secord is a Toronto-based candy company named after the Canadian heroine – “an icon of courage, devotion and loyalty”.
When refrigerated, the “yolk and white” fondant inside these chocolate covered eggs would solidify enough to enable you to shave off paper thin slices – my sister could make hers last at least a week – much to my envy. About the size of a baseball, but egg-shaped, they were, to my taste buds, the very flavour of Easter. Cadbury’s Cream Eggs are far too sweet and runny (I am speaking of the ones we get here – perhaps the British ones are better) for my palate. The Laura Secord egg had a rich, buttery taste, and a much firmer “yolk”.
Unfortunately, there are no longer any Laura Secord shops in western Canada. According to their website, the closest one is in Saskatoon (two big provinces away).
In the mean time, I decide to make some hollow milk chocolate eggs for the boys, using a set of silicon molds I have just picked up in a local kitchen supply store. They are really designed for cupcakes, but I have had great prior success using silicon baking cups to make tiny, perfect chocolate dessert cups, and thought these would be easy-peasy.
I apply all my Ecole Chocolat tempering and molding technique to these shells, including flipping them over for the first five minutes of setting, to provide a thicker edge, but the cavities are so large, and the silicon is so flexible, they are quite challenging to manage, and I find myself missing the rigid, professional poly carbonate molds that have caused me so much angst in weeks past. This is a bit like trying to mold wet pasta. I set them aside in a cool place to firm up, and when they appear to be ready, attempt to pop them from the flexible molds.
Agggghhhh! An Epic Fail, as they crack and splinter, just like a real egg. Many expletives later, I take a big breath, apply another coating of tempered chocolate to the sides, to cover up the inside cracks, and return them to chill. I am taking no chances, and apply a third coat, when the second one has cooled.
Then, I run away to the Gateway Theatre to watch my students’ final performance of Silverwing (they did brilliantly), and to forget all about cracking eggs, at least for the evening.
The next morning, I brace myself for the task. Quite a lot of chocolate has pooled on the bottoms of the molds, but this, at least, provides a solid base, from which to press. I ease the sides away from the chocolate, and gently wiggle them out, one by one. This is quite a different technique from the “turn ‘em over and bang ‘em” one I have grown to love with the rigid molds.
Cute. They are very cute. And they deserve to be filled. I could turn them upside down and turn them into huge dessert shells, for whipped cream, sponge cake and fruit, but that would hide the design … and show my flaws.
And then, oh happy day! I discover a wonderful grandmother’s website, with a recipe for Laura Secord inspired cream eggs.
I check the recipe. Can it really be the taste I remember?
Well, with ¼ pound of butter in the mix, it sounds like I have found the makings of another childhood memory. And the mixture itself is so easy to prepare, and made with such simple ingredients, which I just happen to have in my cupboard (except yellow food colouring, but I can close my eyes and imagine “yolk”!), I am able to whip this up in no time.
The boys have been asking me if the Easter Bunny is visiting this year (funny how teenagers become little ones again, on these occasions). I think I can safely say that (s)he will pay us a visit, and leave a basket-full of the symbol of renewal, rebirth and possibilities – hand made with lots of love and memories.