Watch: As Easter approaches, it's time to appreciate chocolate
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Watch: As Easter approaches, it's time to appreciate chocolate

The delicacy should be savoured and not scoffed

“Chocolate shouldn’t just be eaten, it should be appreciated,” Pawlu Borg Bonaci says as he helps himself to some of the delicious, brown sweet.

Some of the finished products.Some of the finished products.

“You should let it melt slowly in your mouth and then breathe in to fully taste its flavours,” he advises.

Chocolate is the principal ingredient of Easter eggs and Elia Caterers, founded in 1953 by Mr Borg Bonaci’s grandfather, Elia, annually churns out hundreds of them in different shapes and sizes.

The traditional sweets are made of high-quality chocolate Elia imports directly from a fair trade-certified company in Belgium.

“We only use pure chocolate, meaning all the components are made of cocoa beans. This is different from what we call ‘baker’s chocolate’ or ‘compound chocolate’, which contains vegetable fat,” Mr Borg Bonaci, one of the company’s directors and also its sales and marketing manager, points out.

Elia Caterers churns out hundreds of chocolate eggs in the run-up to Holy Week.Elia Caterers churns out hundreds of chocolate eggs in the run-up to Holy Week.

Temperature and humidity are the worst enemies of chocolate

Turning chocolate drops or blocks into Easter eggs is quite a laborious task. The process starts with what is called ‘tempering’, which involves the slow melting and cooling of the chocolate. Through this process, chocolate shrinks a bit while cooling and can, therefore, be easily removed from moulds.

Carmelo Borg Bonaci, one of the founding members of Elia Caterers, decorating Easter eggs in the traditional way.Carmelo Borg Bonaci, one of the founding members of Elia Caterers, decorating Easter eggs in the traditional way.

Tempering also gives chocolate its shine and makes it melt in the mouth but not in one’s hands.

“Without it, chocolate would not even snap,” Mr Borg Bonaci notes as he splits one of the ready-made eggs to produce that cracking sound.

Dark, milk and white chocolate drops are first melted at different temperatures. This is necessary because, for example, high temperatures can burn the milk protein of white chocolate.

Employees then fill the moulds with the molten liquid. The moulds also hail from Belgium (Antwerp, to be precise) and are usually made of Teflon, polycarbonate or aluminium.

They come in different shapes, such as bunnies, teddy bears, ducks or more modern, abstract forms. They have various sizes, with the smallest one at Elia measuring three centimetres and the largest 80 centimetres.

The filled containers are placed on a vibrating tray, allowing any excess chocolate to drip off. They then pass through a cooling tunnel, a covered conveyor belt set at a specific temperature to cool down the chocolate.

Cake decorator Marica Attard filling a mould with molten chocolate.Cake decorator Marica Attard filling a mould with molten chocolate.

“All this happens in a controlled environment because temperature and humidity are the worst enemies of chocolate,” Mr Borg Bonaci remarks. Having a stable temperature helps avoid ‘fat blooming’, that whitish coating which can appear on the surface of chocolate when the cocoa butter gets separated from the rest of the components.

Once set, the egg halves are carefully removed from the moulds and placed on a hot plate to slightly melt the rims of each half and then stick them together. It is at this point that any ‘surprises’ are locked inside.

Finally comes the decoration part. Eggs are adorned with traditional designs using sugar paste and royal icing or else with flavoured chocolate such as caramel, strawberry, lime or orange. They can also be given a velvety texture using a spraying technique.

“The orange chocolate flavouring is definitely my favourite,” a smiling Mr Borg Bonaci admits as he points to a row of shiny, fancy Easter eggs ready for consumption.

Stefan Zahra, manager of the cake and chocolate decoration department, carefully adorns an Easter egg.Stefan Zahra, manager of the cake and chocolate decoration department, carefully adorns an Easter egg.

A process called ‘tempering’ makes chocolate shiny and easily removable from moulds.A process called ‘tempering’ makes chocolate shiny and easily removable from moulds.

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