What better way to celebrate Easter than chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate?
If you've ever lived in France, you know what a big deal chocolates are this time of the year. Everywhere you look, huge chocolate eggs are filled with smaller ones, bunnies, chicks, and fish. Fish? Yes!
Well, chocolate fish, obviously. I don't really know where or when this tradition originated, but fritures are a common Easter treat in France. You usually buy a mix of dark, milk, and white chocolate fritures to hide in big eggs or chocolate hens; "friture" means something that's been fried. I can see you scrunching your nose, thinking how strange it is that people would actually want to buy sardine and lobster-shaped chocolates that seem like they're fried, name-wise anyways. Take one look at cute chocolate seahorses and I can bet you'll become a fan of fritures, too.
Usually, for Easter, I always do the same thing: I eat amazing chocolate. I just might be a little on the spoiled side. My parents send me all the American Easter chocolate I can't find over here--think Cadbury Mini Eggs--and my aunt Mimi goes the deluxe route. Let me explain: in the East of France, where my French family lives, there is a chocolate shop that exerts some kind of strange attraction on everyone I know. You step into the shop and the strong chocolate smell just hits you like a baseball bat and you forget about everything else. I'm not kidding. Some people have been known to miss flights, trains, and weddings because of Carl Chocolates. (Alright, maybe not. But maybe!) It's pricey, but so absolutely amazing that a 10-inch high chocolate hen, stocked with melt-in-your mouth chocolate eggs, disappears in less than a day in my hands. Never mind the stomach ache later on--another whiff of the chocolate smell makes you forget about it pretty fast.
Anyway, Carl chocolates have been one of my favorite treats since I can remember. This year, instead of being the passive, chocolate-devouring little girl everyone knows me as, I decided to go ahead and make my own. Yep, I made my own chocolate. I didn't really go and pick out the cocoa beans, but I still consider these "mine". After some internal debating, I settled on a few flavors: 70% dark cocoa with crystallized ginger bits, 61% semisweet cocoa with chopped almonds and golden raisins, and "Bounty" chocolate, milk chocolate with a coconut filling (made by mixing sweetened condensed milk with desiccated coconut).
One thing you need when making your own chocolates is a good thermometer: you're going to need it. Tempering chocolate is one fun activity (I say this with a little bit of irony): up and down, up and down. Your mind will be swirling with temperature charts! A quick search on Google gives you tempering charts for most types of chocolate, which is useful. But it's still a complicated task, and one that I would recommend only if you love licking chocolate-covered spoons for hours on end. I do!
There isn't a specific recipe for making your own chocolates: let your creativity run wild. Once your chocolate is tempered, mix it with everything and anything you want. Place it in little chocolate molds--I'll understand if the lobster isn't your favorite--place them in the refrigerator to set, and tada! If you hear a little crackling sound when you bend the molds around, your chocolates are ready!
Now go ahead and spoil someone. Happy Easter!