The Easter Egg Project

Chocolate easter eggs are a big deal in Italy.  Indeed, they can be works of (delicious) art, and sometimes have a special surprise inside them.  Laura and I have a penchant for scientific studies, particularly with friends (recent endeavors include gelato, beer and gin-and-tonics), and our last trip to Rome was with a couple of friends during Easter.  Clearly, another study was needed.

There were four of us, so we shopped for four chocolate eggs.  We resolved to evaluate the subjects of our study on visual attractiveness, taste, and fun(ness) of their internal surprises.  This was going to be a challenging and ambitious project.

Our first egg was of the mass-produced variety, a giant Kinder Egg from our local supermarket.

Kinder Egg – our baseline sample

Italian company Ferrero makes Kinder Eggs, one of my favorite childhood candies. Earlier research uncovered that these goods are contraband in the United States due to the little toys inside being considered a choking hazards — so I sometimes buy one as a nostalgic treat when in Italy.

This was, however, their super-sized Easter version.  The egg was in a gaudy, shiny Kinder Egg wrapping.  Upon cracking the egg open, we found a giant egg yolk-colored plastic capsule.

Interior of the Easter edition Kinder Egg, with the yolk-colored capsule

Three members of our research staff struggled for several minutes to open the capsule. We estimate this feature would have been horribly frustrating for a small child.  Inside was this really weird thing… which our youngest research partner recognized (staff over the age of 14 were mystified).

What the heck?

The chocolate shell is typical Kinder Egg:  a sweet milk chocolate exterior layer, with a very sweet white chocolate interior layer.  While it did bring back fond childhood memories, it’s high relative sugar content made completing this stage of the study a chore (we had to complete it because we needed all the data we could get).

Egg #1 grade: “C”.  Since this item is widely marketed, we identified this egg as our baseline.

Next up was an organic chocolate egg from Rizazzi, a new chocolate shop we found near the Spanish Steps.

Organic chocolate egg

The chocolate shop touted that it made artisanal, bio-organic chocolates.  The egg was in an attractive orange wrapping (the same color as their shopping bags), with a gold bow.  The egg shell was milk chocolate, which was tasty enough.  But it was the surprise inside that we preferred: a number of dark chocolates with cream fillings. Overall, if you had no other eggs for comparison, this research group believes you would enjoy this one for its good balance of cocoa and sugar.  And, we really liked that the surprise inside was edible.

Egg #2 grade: “B”.

Our next egg was a bright, yellow-wrapped egg from SAID Chocolate.  We had stopped by SAID before attending a concert at the Aula Magna at La Sapienza University.  It’s a very cute shop, well worth a stop if you are in the area.

The brightly colored SAID eggs … our was yellow

The egg was a pleasant milk chocolate.  Inside were two small cookie cutters. While we could appreciate the attractiveness of these items to a number of SAID’s customers, none of the research staff wanted new baking utensils.  But this egg’s wrapping was pretty, and it tasted good.

Egg#3 grade: “B”.

Our last egg was from a traditional, well-known shop.  Moriondo e Gariglio is located on the wonderfully named Via del Piè di Marmo (Marble Foot street).  This street, which runs from Via del Corso to Piazza della Minerva, is named for the massive marble sandaled foot that was discovered here, the only remains of a gigantic statue.  If you follow a specific, less crowded route, you would pass this shop on the way to the Pantheon.

By far, this was the prettiest egg, with a ribbon and some silk flowers.

The pretty Moriondo egg

The egg smelled absolutely wonderful (in a great cocoa way) upon removing its wrapping.  Upon cracking the egg open, we found that the interior had a layer of crunchy hazelnut bits.  More than just texture, the hazelnut bits contributed a wonderful note to the flavor of the chocolate.  This egg was delicious.

The last egg had a coating of lovely hazelnut bits

The surprise inside was a pair of earrings.  While they would be something some kids (with pierced ears) might be happy to wear, other children may be disappointed (I would not have been happy to find this surprise were I younger).  My wife vetoed them.

The surprise: earrings

But, this one was by far the prettiest and most delicious egg we studied.

Egg #4 grade: “A”.

Some concluding comments about this study

The obvious:  We ate a LOT of chocolate this Easter season.

Social dynamics:  As the… girthiest… of the research staff, I encountered a significant group expectation to finish each egg.  While my social capital grew, so did my circumference.

Health:  After all the chocolate consumption, I went a long time unable to even consider consuming chocolate.  I’m talking days here.

Financial:  My wife has instructed me to pre-order a custom egg for next year… with some (upgraded) diamond earrings inside.  Cookie cutters and weird plastic monsters just aren’t going to cut it.

Theological:  It did not escape our notice that the winning confectioner was on a street that runs to Piazza della Minerva, a city square named after the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom.  Certainly the chocolate we enjoyed was “divine,” so maybe there was a divine hand guiding our Easter endeavor.