, Gloucester, MA


April 4, 2007

Fill up the basket: From chocolate to cookies, North of Boston experts share their favorite Easter treats

While Easter is traditionally the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, many children equate the holiday with candy - jelly beans, marshmallow Peeps and milk-chocolate eggs and bunnies overflowing from straw baskets on Sunday morning.

Parents typically either buy pre-made baskets or pair confections with faux grass and small toys and give the Easter Bunny credit for the offerings. Eighty-eight percent of adults carry on the tradition of making Easter baskets for their children, according to the National Confectioners Association. Chocolate bunnies are some of the most popular items, with more than 90 million made each year.

If you're a crafty mom or dad, why not take it a step further and make some of the candy yourself, or even mark the holiday by having older children help out?

Talk to some North of Boston candy makers and you'll find it's not overly difficult to be an amateur chocolatier. All you need is a stovetop, a good amount of patience and items found at local craft or grocery stores.

Ben Silverstein, owner of Metropolis Fine Confections in Lawrence, recommends beginners use chocolate-flavored melting wafers, which can easily be heated up in a double-boiler or microwave and poured into plastic molds. The wafers are sold in one-pound bags and available at arts and crafts stores like Michaels or A.C. Moore, along with molds shaped like bunnies, carrots, butterflies and more.

"We typically don't use those," Silverstein said of the wafers, "but that's what's readily available at craft stores. A lot of moms will use those with their children."

Candy wafers are easy to work with, Silverstein said, because they have been pre-tempered before packaging. Tempered chocolate is carefully melted and cooled in order to tighten its crystals, allowing the chocolate to set firm and giving it a shiny look and "mouth feel."

But true chocolate aficionados can taste the difference between "real" chocolate and flavored wafers that are made with partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil instead of cocoa butter, which contains natural antioxidants.

Silverstein, who has owned Metropolis Fine Confections for 15 years, grew up in the business. His father, Sam, opened Silver Sweet Candies in 1957, and Ben Silverstein began making candy alongside his father at 12 or 13 years old, he said.

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