Ireland: dipped in chocolate

Come spring, come Easter. Come Easter, come chocolate, and in the spirit of sweet weather and sweet treats, here comes five un-missable chocolate experiences in Ireland (PLUS one very tasty recipe)

A selection of Butler's Chocolates

Experience 1: Butlers Experience, County Dublin

Do you love chocolate? We do. Deeply. Arguably the purveyors of the finest hot chocolate in Ireland, Butlers has been feeding us cocoa-flavoured happiness for a whopping 80 years now. For the secret to the smooth, silky, sweet (must stop drooling) wares, pop into the Butlers Chocolate Experience just 20 minutes from Dublin city centre. Not sure what a visit would entail? Get an idea, and get excited here (spoiler: it’s delicious).

Decorating a chocolate bunny at the Butlers Chocolate Experience

Experience 2: Avoca, County Wicklow

Sitting in the middle of the pretty Mount Usher Garden (voted by BBC Gardeners’ World readers as All-Round Favourite Garden to Visit in Ireland), Avoca Café is home to the award winning Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tart, to name just one of the tasty delights. Expect plenty of other quirky treats to gorge on while you're there, too!

Avoca's Chocolate Cake with Orange Zest

Experience 3: Ballyvolane House, County Cork

Surrounded by lakes, gardens and parklands, Ballyvolane House is a romantic bolt-hole with culinary pedigree. Feast on an Easter-themed menu, and embark on a legendary egg hunt among the spring-time blossoms of the 19th century walled garden. Outside Easter, the hosts serve up intricate and delicious breakfasts, picnic lunches and dinners to lucky overnighting guests. Yum.



Easter egg hunt at Ballyvolane House

Experience 4: Chocolate Garden, County Carlow

Get your hands on a golden ticket á la Charlie Bucket and see the ins and outs of the chocolate-making process at The Chocolate Garden. From cocoa growing to the tricky business of moulding an Easter egg (eating them is the easy part), nibbling on several grades of premium chocolate along the way will edge you ever closer to connoisseur status. You’ll get a chance to create and decorate your own chocolate to munch at home, too. If you can wait that long...

Experience 5: A cocoa wonderland, Belfast

When it comes to chocolate, Belfast has a seriously impressive pedigree. Co Couture is one of the city's finest chocolate artisans. This boutique chocolatier crafts stunning creations, wowing customers with their classic cocoa creations. And it hasn't gone unnoticed. Co Couture's Irish whiskey truffle received three gold stars from the Guild of Fine Foods! If you're looking to get your hands messy, you should also stop over at Aunt Sandra's – this emporium of chocolate and candy offers a mind-blowing variety of sweet treats, with the opportunity to make your own at its candy workshops. Simply delicious!

Now for the best part: make your own Easter egg at home.

Chocolate yellow chicken egg

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized balloon (make sure the rubber is quite thick, or else the balloon might pop!)

Sticky tape

600g milk chocolate

400g white chocolate

Yellow food colouring

Small sweets of your choice

A few large white chocolate buttons to cover hole

Method:

1. Blow up your balloon and tie the end. Take a small piece of sticky tape and place it to the side of the knot (this will ensure that the balloon stays in one piece when you deflate it later)

2. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water and add a few drops of yellow food colouring.

3. Leave the chocolate to set until it is around room temperature (test by placing it to your lips).

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4. Holding the balloon by knot, dip it into the bowl of chocolate to coat it. Use a pastry brush to cover any gaps. Keep 4-5 tablespoonfuls of the melted chocolate to cover the hole later.

5. Put the balloon on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and leave to set in the fridge. It is ready when the surface is solid to touch.

6. Using a sharp knife, trim the excess chocolate – don't cut too deeply into it or the balloon might pop.

7. Once the chocolate has set, hold the knotted end and pierce it at the centre of the sticky tape. Once the air is released, pull the balloon out.

8. Fill the balloon with sweets!

9. To cover the hole, use the leftover melted chocolate to attach the large chocolate buttons.

10. Enjoy your yellow chicken egg!

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