Sugar Eggs

Parents, younger children definitely need your help with this project. Choose a dry day to work on this project because the sugar won't set as well if it's humid. Make extras, as these are fragile and may break while you're working on them. One batch makes one large egg (5 to 6 inches tall) or several smaller ones. To prevent sugar from drying out while working, cover it with a damp paper towel.

Mix and color the sugar:
Place 4 1/2 cups of superfine sugar in a mixing bowl and add 3 tablespoons of water. (To make superfine sugar, pulse regular granulated sugar in a blender for a few seconds.) Use your hands to work the water into the sugar. Add tiny drops of liquid or gel food coloring to reach desired shade.

Mold:
Pack sugar mixture firmly into egg-shaped plastic candy molds. Some egg molds have one flat side on which the egg will sit; if you prefer an egg that's rounded on both sides, make two halves from the rounded half of the mold.

Bake:
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Invert molded sugar onto a cardboard cake round or baking sheet. If it breaks or any cracks appear, re-pack and try again. Transfer cardboard round to over. Because the cardboard will burn if the oven is too hot, test the accuracy of your oven with a thermometer or use a baking sheet instead.

Eggs that are 6 inches or larger should bake for about 20 minutes, smaller eggs for about 10 minutes. Adjust baking times as necessary. When the egg is ready, the surface will feel firm when you press it gently with your finger.

Carve:
Eggs can remain solid, but if you plan to hang them from ribbons or use them as boxes, they should be hollowed out. Let egg halves stand at room temperature for about 2 minutes. Hold one egg gently in your hand and hollow it out with a melon baller or small spoon, leaving the shell 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. The sugar that you scoop out can be used for another egg.

Sand:
Smooth the rough edges so egg halves join easily. Rub the cut edge in a circular motion over sandpaper.

Join halves:
If you are decorating the eggs, do that before you join the two halves. Pipe Royal Icing onto edge of one egg half, then press over half against it. Hold in place for a few seconds, then set aside to dry.

Decorate:
Decorate eggs with a sprinkling of sugar or piped-on Royal Icing, which hardens as it dries. Or use a combination of the two in a technique called "flocking."

Flocking: Pipe icing onto an egg, then spoon sugar (tinted or white) over it immediately. Continue piping and sugaring one small area or design at a time. Let dry, then gently brush off excess sugar.

Icing: Tint Royal Icing with liquid or paste colors, and transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a small round icing tip (No. 1 or No. 2). Pipe designed onto egg halves. Let dry.

Sugaring: Make stripes or plaids, or cover the entire egg with sugar. Dab small amounts of powdered coloring into superfine sugar, or leave it white. Combine two egg whites with a few drops of water (less than a teaspoon); beat with a fork until frothy. Paint egg whites onto sugar egg with a soft paintbrush. Then spoon sugar generously over wet egg whites, and gently shake off excess.

Display:
Ornaments: Suspend smaller eggs from flowering branches, indoors or out. Tie a knot in the middle of a 12-inch length of ribbon. Before joining egg halves, pipe icing onto edge of one half, then lay the ribbon onto icing with knot just inside egg; dot more icing onto ribbon, and press other egg half into place. Let dry. Tie ribbon ends into a small bowl.

Baskets: Arrange sugar eggs in Easter baskets, as you would real eggs. The plastic molds used to make sugar eggs are available in lots of shapes, so you can even make a sugar basket to hold the eggs and a sugar bunny to accompany them.

Store:
Keep sugar eggs from one year to the next. Wrap in plastic to keep pests out, nestle in a box with padding and store in a cool, dry place.

Royal Icing:
5 tablespoons meringue powder
Scant 1/2 cup water
1 pound confectioners sugar

Beat all ingredients on low speed with paddle attachment until fluffy, about 7 to 8 minutes. Thin with water to desired thickness. Use stiff Royal Icing to glue egg halves together and to pipe on decorations like flowers. Medium-stiff icing is good for piping lines.

If not using icing immediately, leave at room temperature and cover with a damp paper towel. Makes about 3 cups icing.