Chocolate ‘eggstravaganza’: Home cooks share DIY secrets

A volunteer hand dips Easter eggs at the Chapel Cabin Shop in Valley Forge.
A volunteer hand dips Easter eggs at the Chapel Cabin Shop in Valley Forge. PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN
The Chapel Cabin Shop sells various flavors, including milk chocolate coconut and dark chocolate coffee.
The Chapel Cabin Shop sells various flavors, including milk chocolate coconut and dark chocolate coffee. PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN

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At Strawberry Bakery in Malvern, French chef Jean-Pierre Bournazel recently taught an Easter pastry class, where students learned to make chocolate coconut eggs. His top three tips: respect temperatures, slowly melt chocolate and use quality chocolate.

“With a little bit of luck, your egg will not look like a prehistoric egg,” he said with a smile. “As long as it’s made with love, even if it’s not perfect.”

He handcrafts molded chocolate eggs, ranging in size from 1 to 9 inches, and fills them with dark chocolate ganache, peanut butter or caramel.

“My favorite, myself, I like the caramel because that’s the nickname I give to my son,” Bournazel explained. “It’s a good family moment — Easter.”

“Looking good!” manager Terri Stoltz told an assembly line of candymaking volunteers — eight retirees wearing colonial mob caps in a nod to their surroundings.

“It’s our Revolutionary thing. It’s the Martha look,” joked Carol Mellom as she formed peanut butter fondant. “We’re the best-kept secret in Valley Forge National Historical Park.”

Behind the Washington Memorial Chapel sits a 1915 log cabin known as the Chapel Cabin Shop, where supporters raise money selling their bite-sized homemade Easter eggs.

“As far as I know, we’ve made Easter eggs every year since the Cabin Shop opened in the ’60s,” she said. “Our goal is to make 625 pounds.”

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It’s a scene repeated at churches across the region like St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Obelisk, where eggs help fund the youth ministry’s mission trip.

“When I was 13 years old — I’m now 51 — my mom had a German friend Dorothy Schultz, ‘Dot’ Schultz. She gave me her recipe and showed me how to make them,” explained JoAnne Murray, youth ministry director. “It’s not difficult. It’s time consuming.”

You too can try Dot’s recipe at home with peanut butter or coconut.

“Once they make them, people will be addicted,” said Murray, who favors Philadelphia cream cheese, pure vanilla and Merckens chocolate.

When it comes to melting, “we used to use a double boiler,” she noted. “Don’t even bother. Use a Crock-Pot. Put the chocolate in there.”

“The secret is to melt the chocolate on low heat. It keeps it nice and smooth,” added Linda Steppe, president of the ladies organization at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Norristown. “We use forks when we put the egg into the chocolate because the egg comes off the fork easier, and it leaves fewer marks.”

For even better results, she recommends removing the middle tines from a plastic fork.

“They’re the best homemade eggs you’ll find in the Norristown area,” Steppe said.

Back at the Chapel Cabin Shop, some volunteers used a fork. One dipped beautifully by hand. All chatted and laughed as they worked in the back-room kitchen. Meanwhile out front, customers couldn’t wait to taste the results.

“Happy Easter!” Stoltz wished two visitors after ringing up their purchase.

“Thank you. Happy Easter!” they replied, eggs in hand.

Dot’s Original Chocolate-Covered Easter Eggs

Ingredients

¼ pound butter

1¼ teaspoons vanilla

2 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese

2 pounds confectioners’ sugar (approximately 3 1/2 cups)

½ teaspoon salt

For coconut eggs:

2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

For peanut butter eggs:

1½ cups creamy peanut butter (Jif or Skippy)

About 1 pound of chocolate for dipping (Merckens)

Instructions

Mix together butter, vanilla, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and salt, plus either coconut or peanut butter. Roll into eggs about as big as your thumb. Start small because they always grow. Place on wax paper-lined cookie sheets and refrigerate for about 5 minutes to harden. Melt chocolate in a Crock-Pot. Using a fork, drop egg into melted chocolate. Pick it up with the fork, tap to remove excess chocolate and return to lined cookie sheets. Refrigerate another 5 minutes for chocolate to form. Place in boxes or Tupperware. No need to refrigerate. They’re not going to be around that long! Makes approximately 2 to 3 pounds.

RECIPE COURTESY OF ST. LUKE’S LUTHERAN CHURCH