A chocolate-y easter By Stacey Stein The Easter holiday is a great excuse to surrender to your inner child by indulging in chocolate eggs, which are ubiquitous at this time of year. Whether filled with cream, coated in a candy shell, or wrapped in colourful foil, edible Easter eggs come in endless varieties, all of which are guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth. The chocolate egg is easily one of the most universally recognized symbols of the popular spring holiday. So how did this come to be? The origin of the chocolate Easter egg Before the chocolate egg, there was simply the egg. The holiday of Easter is closely intertwined with the themes of rebirth and renewal, and eggs are a powerful symbol of fertility and new life. Decorating and colouring Easter eggs is a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages. In the 17th century, artificial eggs were made using various materials and became popular gifts to hand out during Easter. It wasn’t long before chocolate was used to make an Easter egg, and with the advent of mass manufacturing and the modern chocolate making process, by the 20th century, the sweet confection became a popular gift. Nowadays, chocolate eggs are enjoyed around the world. Chocolate-inspired Easter desserts There are many different ways you can incorporate chocolate (including chocolate eggs) into the desserts served at your Easter lunch or dinner. Popular desserts commonly served during the holiday include meringues (made with lots of eggs), cream pies and desserts featuring lemon curd or coconut. Chocolate is wonderfully versatile and can easily be incorporated into any Easter dessert. Here are a few Easter dessert ideas that are sure to please your guests: Pavlova: Featuring lots of egg whites, sugar and cornstarch, this beautiful-looking dessert is crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. There are several takes on this dessert – the pavlovas in this dark chocolate caramel pavlova recipe are hollowed in the centre and then filled with dark chocolate caramel whipped cream (if you can’t find this whipped cream, you can make your own using regular whipped cream and cocoa, and then drizzling with caramel sauce.) For a fruity pavlova, registered dietitian Shannon Crocker recommends topping the meringues with berries or stewed rhubarb (or both), and finishing off with a generous sprinkling of dark chocolate shavings. Meringue nests: Shaped like an egg, this festive dessert is topped with lemon curd and sprinkled with shaved chocolate or you can fill the nests with some chocolate hazelnut spread. To boost the “wow” factor, top with jelly beans or mini candy-coated chocolate eggs. You can use any basic meringue recipe, or alternatively, try making coconut macaroons (these are easy to make, using few ingredients, including egg whites, shredded coconut, and sugar). Try shaping the coconut macaroons into little “nests”, then fill with chocolate hazelnut spread and top with jellybeans or candy-coated chocolate eggs. Coconut cream pie: This popular Easter dessert gets a chocolaty spin in this version, thanks to the chocolate pie crust. Expecting vegans at your Easter meal? Crocker recommends this dairy-free take on the classic coconut cream pie – sprinkle with some dairy-free shaved dark chocolate for an extra sweet kick. S’more shortbread cookies: Made with homemade marshmallows and chocolate, these cookies are great if you’re looking to serve your guests individual bite-sized desserts. Crocker recommends cutting the cookies into Easter egg shapes for a more festive spin. She adds that you can make the cookies and marshmallows ahead of time, storing them for up to one week. To impress your guests, try toasting the marshmallows in front of them using a mini torch (think of the kind used for making crème brûlée). More chocolaty Easter dessert ideas: Aside from its unique, sweet taste and smooth, creamy texture, one of the best things about chocolate is its versatility. Here are a few more ideas for chocolate-inspired Easter desserts: Chocolate Easter egg cupcakes: Try making these sour cream chocolate cupcakes, then decorate with chocolate icing and top with mini candy-coated chocolate eggs or sprinkle with toasted coconut or Easter-themed sprinkles (cupcake decorating is a fun and kid-friendly activity, so if you have kids, make sure to include them too!) Crocker suggests cutting off the tops of the cupcakes and shaping them into bunny ears. Chocolate shortbread egg-shaped mini cakes: Use a sheet cake recipe (like this one) and then cut the cake into egg shapes using an Easter cookie mold. Ice and decorate the mini cakes to look like Easter eggs (try using Easter sprinkles in the shape of bunnies or eggs). Roll around shortbread: These colourful cookies are fun for kids to make – use pastel-coloured Easter smarties or M&M’S for a festive spin.