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Remember panorama eggs? You can make them

Thursday, April 05, 2001

By Kathleen Ganster

Panorama eggs are back in vogue, and you can create them at home for your Easter celebration.

This lovely panorama egg is easier to make than you might think. (Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette)

Mike Novak, owner of the North Star Market Cooking School in Richland, said he's always loved these sugar eggs with the little scenes inside. He explained how the sugar egg custom came from Europe: "They were created by the great European chefs who enjoyed sugar art. It is a food art that goes back to our roots."

That's why he asked art teacher and cooking instructor Eileen Gilson to teach a class on how to duplicate these treasures at home.

"I always make a few of these at Easter for friends," she said. "It isn't that hard."

Student Brian Houston found it easier than he thought it would be. "I thought it was pretty easy but it definitely is time-consuming."

It also requires patience and correct timing.

The first step is to make the actual sugar egg. Gilson likes using superfine granulated sugar to make a more delicate-looking egg. "You can use regular granulated sugar, though, and it will work fine."

After mixing the sugar base, press the mixture into the egg molds. "You can use any molds that you have at home. If you have different shapes that you want to try, go ahead," she said.

The eggs are turned out onto a cookie sheet to bake, or they can air dry. Because time is tight in a cooking class, the students baked the eggs. That is where the timing comes in.

A student in the panorama egg class at North Star Market Cooking School in Richland puts the finishing touches on the inside scene of her egg. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette)

Even a cooking class has the occasional boo-boo. Although Gilson recommended approximately 10 minutes for baking, most of the eggs were too hard to move on to the next step -- hollowing them out. "We have plenty of sugar; let's start all over," she said, "I don't want you to get frustrated."

The next go around, the students baked the eggs for 6 minutes and had better luck.

Gilson, an art teacher, uses X-acto knives to carve out her eggs. "I have access to the knives but you can use a regular paring knife."

Gilson instructed students to leave about an 1/8 -inch-thick wall and hollow out the middle of their eggs. Although the shells are delicate, cupping them in the palm of the hand lets them hold up fairly well. Again, patience helps.

The eggs crack if too much pressure is applied. A few students went through two or three egg halves until they got the hang of the carving.

Next comes the fun part -- decorating the eggs inside and out. Gilson had selected miniature animals, flowers and eggs at a local cake supply store and had created some of her own icing flowers for the class. The students had whipped up royal icing that they used to "glue" the scenes to the bottom of one half of the eggs. With the icing dyed green, it looked like grass on the bottom of the egg.

The interior of the panorama egg can feature anything you want as long as there is enough room to "glue" the top half of the egg. (Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette)

"Remember, you are going to be putting the top on these. Make sure you have enough room," Gilson said. "After you put a few things in, put the lid on and see how it looks."

A student asked if they could use pictures from cards or other trinkets.

"Sure, you can put anything in here. If you cut out a picture, leave some space or tabs on the bottom to stick in the icing. And remember your top egg is going on," said Gilson.

Eggs are then "glued" together with piped icing and decorated on top. "You can be as creative as you like," said Gilson.

Houston, Franklin Park, is a senior at the Gow School in Buffalo, N.Y., and plans to study culinary arts in the fall. "My mom told me about the class, and I know I will have to take some baking classes, so I thought this would be fun. I'm on one of my breaks right now, so it worked out."

He was pleased with the results. "It turned out pretty good. I think I'll make some more," he said.

After all that work, it's good to know the eggs can last and last. "I have some that I have collected from the 1920s," said Novak.

Gilson added, "There are only a few things that can hurt these. One is children who want to eat them and the other is moisture."

Kathleen Ganster is a Hampton free-lance writer.

Panorama eggs:

Sugar Molding & Royal Icing

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