Monday, March 23, 2015

April Fools' & Chocolate Sardines!

Are you ready for April Fools' Day? Growing up in Canada, April Fools' Day was the one day of the year that kids knew they could get away with pulling pranks on family and friends without getting into too much trouble.

My friends never did anything crazy, just silly things that were meant to be all in good fun. I never thought much about where the holiday originated or why it was okay to play jokes on others that one day of the year.

Now that I'm living in France, I've noticed chocolate fish popping up in the windows of chocolatiers everywhere. At first I thought it had to do with Easter, but it turns out that while fish are an important symbol of Easter, they also have a lot to do with April Fools' Day.

Known as "Poisson d'Avril", or April Fish, the tradition of April Fools' Day is believed by many to have originated right here in France. While there is a lot of debate over the details, the general story goes like this: In 1564, King Charles XIV of France changed the calendar, moving the new year from the end of March to the beginning of January. The belief is that since news traveled slowly in those days and many of the rural peasants resisted the change or simply weren't informed as quickly as those in other areas of the country, many continued to celebrate the New Year between March 25 and April 1st.

Over time, those who continued with the old tradition were referred to as "poissons d'Avril", or April fools. As a prank, people would attempt to stick paper fish to their backs, branding them as fools. Some believe the tradition of fish has to do with Pisces, the water sign, but the origin is unclear. Still, in France (and some other European countries, notably Italy) the tradition of pinning a paper fish to someone's back lives on among schoolchildren. As part of the celebrations, bakeries and chocolate shops create pastries and elaborate chocolates in the shape of fish to celebrate.

I decided to get in on the fun with my boys by making some  chocolate sardines. I'm going to make a fresh batch for April Fools' Day and send it in to my son's teacher so she can enjoy a nice treat on a day that will surely require her to have more patience than usual with a group of kindergarteners running around taping fish to each others' backs! I purchased a kit from a company called Scrap Cooking, that offers kits and molds for baking projects aimed at getting kids involved in the kitchen. Not everything they make is gluten free, but I purchased a kit for chocolate sardines that is. 

The kit included a mold with transferable designs for the sardines, sardines tins for the chocolate fish, and a label to attach. Once the molds are used the first time they can be reused, but without the design. That means that my kids can decorate their sardines however they want, which may be even more fun! I made my sardines from a kit, but it would be an easy project to do on your own. Here's what you need to make your own chocolate sardines!

Chocolate Sardines for April Fools' Day!
***Recipe for 10-12 sardines

1- One or more candy molds in the shape of small fish.
2- A bar of gluten free chocolate
3- Decorations of your choice. You could use sprinkles, or gluten free icing, or even edible gel that glitters.
4- A container that resembles a sardine tin. Your kids could paint it or create labels from paper that they glue on.


1- Fill a large saucepan about 1/4 full with water, and place over low-medium heat on the stove. Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt over low heat in a small saucepan that is nestled into the larger pan. Allow to sit for about five minutes, then stir until the chocolate is melted.

2- If using decorations such as glitter or sprinkles that must attach to the chocolate, place them in the bottom of the mold while the chocolate is melting. Then fill the molds with the melted chocolate, tapping gently to remove any air.

3- Place the molds in the fridge and let harden for about 3-4 hours. Remove from fridge and gently pop the chocolate out of the mold. If you already decorated them, simply place in the tin. If not, use icing, edible glitter pens, or any other decoration to decorate your sardines. Place the chocolate sardines in the tin, then seal.

Gift them to a friend or keep them all to yourself! Enjoy!
Just a note: Typical molds  make 10-12 sardines. This kit only included one mold, which was enough to fill one sardine tin. Still, my kids ate the first batch within seconds of taking the photo for this post, so I would recommend buying two molds if you can!

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