These Fresh-Tasting Chocolate-Covered Delights are Easy to Make
Easter is early this year — Sunday, March 31st. So we’re already hankering after baskets of chocolate candies. Especially the kind with luscious buttercream centers.
We won’t be visiting the candy aisle, though. Instead, we’ll be whipping them up at home.
And they’re easy! If you can make buttercream cake icing, you’ll find it a snap to mix the filling for these candies. And your friendly microwave can melt the chocolate for a rich coating in a just few minutes.
Best of all? No weird chemical preservatives.
Your own homemade Buttercream Candy Easter Eggs might not have the year-long shelf life of the commercial ones. But you’ll find their fresh taste to be more intense — and just all around better. Besides, who keeps these things around the house for months, anyway? They’ll be gone within a week, tops.
Or maybe the same day you make them (I’m just sayin’).
Recipe: Buttercream Candy Easter Eggs
This is a simple recipe, but it does have a few distinct steps. First, you make the buttercream filling (with flavoring of your choice to provide extra zip). Then you let the filling chill until it’s firm enough to shape. Next, you form the buttercream filling into the desired shape: little eggs for Easter, or round balls or discs if you prefer (just like boxed chocolates). Then you allow the candy to chill again, preferably in the freezer (so it will hold its shape when you dip it in chocolate coating). Next, you melt chocolate and dip the candy. Finally, you let the buttercream candy chill again so that it doesn’t fall apart when you eat it.
You can make these candies in almost any flavor you can imagine. We’re using vanilla extract today, but the Notes discuss a number of other flavor variations.
Mrs. Kitchen Riffs adapted this recipe from the Land o’ Lakes website. Active prep time is about 10 minutes for mixing the buttercream filling, and another 20 minutes or so for forming and dipping the candies. Plus you’ll need a minimum of two hours (unattended) for chilling and freezing. So allow at least 2½ hours from start to finish.
This recipe makes 2 to 3 dozen candies. Buttercream candies will keep for up to two weeks if refrigerated in an airtight container. You do need to refrigerate these: They contain no preservatives, and they’ll soften when out of the refrigerator too long.
For the Filling:
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 3½ ounces cream cheese
- 2 to 4 teaspoons vanilla (for flavor variations, see Notes)
- 4½ cups powdered sugar (see Notes)
- 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate chips work fine)
- ~2 tablespoons vegetable oil (one with a neutral flavor; see Notes)
- Place butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer). Beat at medium speed, scraping sides of bowl several times, until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla. Continue beating until well mixed.
- Turn off mixer and add one cup of powdered sugar, mixing by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon just enough to incorporate into butter mixture. Then turn mixer back on and beat until well mixed. Repeat until all powdered sugar is added.
- Refrigerate buttercream mixture for at least 30 minutes (an hour is better) so that it firms up.
- Remove buttercream mixture from refrigerator. Form tablespoons of mixture into egg-shaped ovals and place them in a freezable plastic container (separate layers of candies with sheets of wax or parchment paper). Freeze for at least one hour, or until solid enough to pick up with a toothpick.
- Melt chocolate in the microwave in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl for about 2 to 3 minutes (checking at 1-minute intervals), until fully melted. Add vegetable oil to melted chocolate and mix in well. The mixture should be thin enough for dipping candies (if necessary, add more vegetable oil to thin further). Allow melted chocolate to cool until it is just lukewarm.
- Tear off a sheet of wax or parchment paper about two feet long, and place on workspace. Remove buttercream candies from freezer.
- Using toothpicks, dip buttercream candies into chocolate mixture. Let excess chocolate drip off (or scrape lightly with a spoon). Place chocolate-covered buttercreams onto wax/parchment paper to set.
- Once the chocolate coating has become firm enough to handle, place candies in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to eat (allow at least 30 minutes for the candies to chill completely).
- It’s easy to vary the flavor of these. Instead of vanilla, you can substitute another extract (such as raspberry, orange, maple, rum, or almond). Or whatever flavor you choose.
- When using flavoring extract, start with about 2 teaspoons, then add more if desired. Mrs K R typically uses 3 or 4 teaspoons, but adjust to your own taste.
- For chocolate buttercreams: In Step 1, add ~2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa.
- For coconut buttercreams: In Step 1, add 2½ to 3 cups sweetened, flaked coconut.
- For maraschino cherry buttercreams: In Step 1, add ¾ cup chopped, well-drained maraschino cherries (be warned that these tend to turn out a bit soft; they’re good, though).
- The quantity of powdered sugar in this recipe is flexible. Mrs K R has seen versions that call for as little as 3 cups, or as much as 7 cups. She finds 4½ cups to be about right — but again, adjust to your own taste.
- Buttercream mixture is very difficult to work with when it’s soft. So refrigerating the mixture before you form it into candies (Step 3) is a necessity.
- Buttercream also melts easily. So freezing the candies before you dip them in the melted chocolate (Step 4) is also highly recommended.
- You should use high quality (pure) vanilla extract in this recipe. Its flavor is so much better than the imitation kind.
- Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol for several months. BTW, the FDA requires that pure vanilla extract contain at least 35% alcohol. If the label doesn’t say “pure,” that means it’s made from synthetic vanilla. The artificial kind is usually derived from the sapwood of several species of conifers — or from coal extracts! How appetizing (not).
- The flavor of some imitation vanillas can be nasty. You don’t have to spend a fortune on pure vanilla extract, but getting decent quality does mean spending a bit more for something that’s not loaded with sugar or imitation flavoring. Do yourself a favor and get the real stuff.
- Same deal with the other flavored extracts — it pays to use decent quality. If your supermarket doesn’t stock them, you can find high-quality extracts on the internet (King Arthur sells some good ones).
- Mrs. Kitchen Riffs has tried substituting various liqueurs and spirits (such as rum) for the extracts. Alas, they don’t work well because they’re not as strongly flavored. You have to use so much that it makes the consistency of the filling too soft (liquid).
- To thin the melted chocolate, Mrs K R suggests using a low-flavor “neutral” vegetable oil (such as canola). Or you could try vegetable shortening.
Ban the Box
“So what do you think?” asked Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as she offered samples from her first batch of buttercream candies.
I took a bite. Then another. OK, I won’t lie — I inhaled the candy. “These are terrific! The flavor is so bright and intense — better than anything except for those really expensive chocolates.”
Mrs K R smiled. “I thought you’d like them! And they’re so easy to make.”
“What gave you the idea?” I asked, reaching for another piece.
“Remember those boxes of Valentine’s Day chocolates that we saw at the supermarket — the ones that were marked down to half price on February 15? I couldn’t resist buying a box because they were such a bargain,” she said. “OK, maybe it was two boxes.”
“I remember,” I said. “It was one of those big national brands you always see in supermarkets. They were OK, but nothing special.”
“Exactly!” she exclaimed. “Even at half price, they were too expensive. And kind of stale, I thought. So I figured I could make something better myself. I had no idea how simple they were.”
“This is great,” I enthused as I reached for another piece. “How easy would it be to make something like this for Easter? You know, chocolate Easter eggs?”
“These are basically the same thing!” she exclaimed. “Just shape them into eggs. And maybe make coconut ones, since that’s what a lot of people like at Easter.”
“You’ll have to make several batches,” I said. “You know, for practice. So we can post about it on the blog.”
“And so you can taste test?” Mrs K R inquired sweetly.
“Well, that too,” I admitted.
So the Easter Bunny arrived early at Kitchen Riffs central this year. And he didn’t have to lug any boxes this time.
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