Upping my game

I made my first wholesale order! ¬†These are my boxes for Christmas. I ordered 250 from Chocolat-chocolat in Montreal. ūüôā

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Vanilla rhubarb ice cream

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Yesterday Maui and I made ice cream together! I was so excited to make ice cream again. I found out she hadn’t seen Labyrinth (imagine) so we watched that while we waited for the ice cream to finish.

Before you get started: These instructions are written for using a Kitchen Aid ice cream maker. You need to freeze the bowl at least 24 hours in advance, and make the base of the ice cream the day before.

Yields: 16 servings of approx 120 mL (¬Ĺ cup) per serving

Ingredients:

  • 590 mL Half and Half (2¬Ĺ cups)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 200 g granulated white sugar (1 cup)
  • 590 mL Heavy Cream 35% (2¬Ĺ cups)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scrapped
  • 0.5¬†g salt (‚Öõ tsp)
  • 200 g chopped rhubarb (2 cups) + 25 g¬†white sugar (2 tbsp)

Instructions:

1. In a sauce pan on Medium, heat the Half and Half until it’s steaming but not boiling. Stir often. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. In mixing bowl, whip the yolks and sugar until just combined.

3. Gradually add the heated mix to the sugar, (I used a strainer since a skim developed). Once all the hot mixture has been added and the mixture is combined, return it to the sauce pot.

4. Add the vanilla bean to the pot.

5. Cook on Medium until small bubbles form at the edge and mixture steams, don’t boil it.

6. Transfer to mixing bowl with a spout ¬†(I strained it again), stir in whipping cream and salt. Using a bowl with a spout is the best thing you can do since you’ll be pouring this into a moving mixer later which you cannot stop as you pour.

7. Cover and chill overnight.

8. Half an hour before¬†you’re ready to start the ice cream, turn the rhubarb into jam-like consistency. Put the¬†chopped fruit and the sugar in a sauce pan, heat on Medium for a bit until it starts to break down, then keep on Low until it’s pulpy, stirring often. Once the fruit is broken down, set it aside.

9. Time to churn ice cream! Put the drive assembly in place and set the dasher into the frozen bowl. Turn mixer on to Speed 1 BEFORE you add the cooled mixture. Churn at least 20 minutes until the machine makes a clicking noise.

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Churn it up!

10. Spoon the rhubarb into the ice cream and stir a bit more.

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11. Store in air-tight container and freeze.

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Enjoy!

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Verdict:

Delicious! ¬†I will add an extra cup of rhubarb next time, since I can’t see much pink in the ice cream. I can taste it but I was envisioning striations of fruit through the ice cream which didn’t really happen.

I will also churn the ice cream for longer, I found that the bottom of the bowl was still soupy and hadn’t firmed up. ¬†That fixes itself once you freeze it, but to enjoy it right away I think you do need to churn it longer, or maybe risk stopping the bowl and using a spatula to scrape it up from the bottom? ¬†I don’t know. Last time I stopped the bowl while ice cream making everything immediately froze to the side of the bowl.

On cohabitaiton

Have you ever noticed that grocery shopping with your significant other is a lot like having tea with enemy soldiers? No?

Perhaps it’s just me.

No. I refuse to accept that I’m the only person who struggles with this. You just don’t want to admit it.

When I moved to Toronto, I had a roommate. He was a good roommate, but eventually we parted ways amicably, and I moved to my very own place in the city. Which was glorious. Total privacy, grocery shopping for just me and the cats, decorating to please myself alone. At times I felt a bit lonely, but I focused on being free, for the first time in a very long time.

There is something about buying groceries that I find ridiculously satisfying. I shan’t even try to explain, just know that I really enjoy it. Some of the stupidest, passionate, and most infuriating fights I’ve ever had revolved around groceries. Now that I live with Boyfriend, I am trying to remove the stick from my ass on this topic, but oh; it’s hard. How do I struggle with this? Let me count the ways.

1. Learning to share – combining two households into one means you have to put each other first. That lone waffle tempting you from the freezer? No longer can you just grab it. You ought to ask if the other person wants it, while secretly hoping they say no. I am convinced that sharing is one of those traits we like to think we have mastered, but take away the audience of friends and family, and we revert back to jungle law: leggo my eggo.

2. Learning to compromise – a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but compromise is a sanitized way of saying two or more people are in conflict, and to “reach consensus” at least one person must give in. When you like one brand of a particular food, and your better half prefers another brand, you’ll either spend double to buy both, or one person leaves the store unhappy. The battles we had over brand name ketchup versus generic were ridiculous.

How generous I felt on the day I announced that the budget would survive Heinz ketchup. And how infuriated I became, when Boyfriend spurned my gracious offer and said, “It’s okay, the PC ketchup isn’t that bad.” It took me a year of cohabitation to reach that moment and by the time I reached that selfless place, it did not matter.

Some time ago, as I was puttering around the kitchen, I noticed a dirty dish on the wrong side of the counter. Oh yes, there is a right and a wrong side, and I knew I hadn’t put it there. This transgression immediately opened the floodgates to mentally cataloging Boyfriend’s sins against the harmony of cohabitation; the ketchup fight, why is he a toothpaste fascist, is the convenience of pre-sliced bulk mushrooms was worth the expense, is the difference in said price actually worth a knock-down brawl in the grocery store? (This is not the first time I have clashed with a man over mushrooms, who knew they were so inflammatory?)

I had a brief sulk and got back to straightening up the kitchen. The only thing left to do was put away the huge bag of flour we picked up the other day. I hate transferring flour from the bag into the bin, it gets everywhere. I turned around to pick it up. And it was gone.

I looked all over. It wasn’t under the sink, or the microwave. It wasn’t in the living room where I left it. It wasn’t in the closet. I opened the pantry, and there is was, sitting in the flour bin. He must have done this while I was out.

My petty thoughts dissolved in a warm fuzzy glow. The happier you are with life, the more silly things you find to pick at.

 

 

Silicone candy mould review

When you’re building your chocolate inventory you come to a fork in the road, silicone moulds or polycarbonate. I went with silicone, mostly since I didn’t know what polycarbonate was, and the merchant had silicone. Zero research went into my purchase.¬†Did I make the right decision?

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I bought my first mould in 2011¬†at a baking show, and bought the rest from Golda’s Kitchen and Chocolat-chocolat Inc. ¬†The majority of my collection are Fat Daddio’s moulds. I’ve used them for our Christmas chocolates for 5 years so far.

 

What I like about silicone moulds:

They’re durable.

They’re fairly inexpensive, Golda’s sells them for $11.25 each and Chocolat-chocolat has my Christmas mould on sale for $3.95

They’re quiet, no whacking them on the counter to dislodge the chocolate.

They come in a variety of visually interesting shapes.

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What I dislike:

Are you wondering why the moulds are wet? I just washed them. But I washed them before I put them away in January.¬†There is a huge problem with silicone, a powdery white substance forms on it. It looks like dishwater detergent, but it’s not.

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From what I read¬†on Rowley’s Whiskey Forge, it was determined by a silicone manufacturer to be:

We actually did a chemical breakdown test on this white residue from a tray that we¬†received¬†back from a customer and the result of that test is below. The compound associated with the residue is Calcium Sulfate ‚Äď meaning basically the residue is associated with the chemicals in hard water. Like a mineral deposit.

However, the comments on the article found that even using distilled water didn’t cure the problem, so I am at a loss.

Obviously I can’t have this white substance on my chocolates, so we have to wash and dry them again before using them which is a huge pain in the ass. It wastes a lot of my time.

On the other hand, where I live discourages making loud noises and the noise that polycarbonate moulds make is significant. ¬†(I got to try them at¬†the McCall’s chocolate course I took with Spousal Unit. Very cool but very loud.)

It’s hard to remove air bubbles when using silicone moulds. The mould can warp in your hands if you pull it too tight, so my method is to place the mould on a cookie sheet and whack that on the counter.

Verdict:

Perhaps if I could go back in time I’d choose polycarbonate. On the other hand, all the whacking would upset my cats. So perhaps silicone was the best choice for me in the end.

Update Aug 8, 2016:

I emailed Fat Daddio’s about the residue and they replied:

I’m sorry to hear about your issues, it sounds incredibly frustrating.

It typically is a reaction to hard water, as well as oils that collect from whatever you’re using the molds for (the chocolates, in this case), as well as any other oily products that might be washed in the same sink sometimes.

We recommend putting the molds in boiling water, which should remove much of the accumulated oily build up. After that, washing them gently with a dish soap, like Dawn, should thoroughly clean them. You don’t have to boil them every time you use them, but every now and then it helps deep clean them.

If that doesn’t work, let me know.

 

(Once I try this I’ll update this post.)

The division of labour

Making chocolates is a many step process and it’s a relief to have someone I can rely on. When I said that I holler at Spousal Unit to take over the chocolate until I’m done being brilliant, I didn’t mean to imply that I do all the work when the chocolate shoppe is in session. Spousal Unit is my equal partner in making chocolate. A typical season is split like so:

Me:

  • research on ingredients and merchant pricing
  • makes the itinerary for which flavours will be done on what days, blocks off the calendar
  • carving the blocks of chocolate up
  • measuring out the chocolate for amounts to be tempered, amount to hold as seed
  • polishing chocolate moulds (SO BORING)
  • maker of ganache for the cream fillings
  • maker of the caramel (because somebody has to do it)
  • primary chocolate filler once the moulds are set,¬†putting flavours into each chocolate
  • official cartographer¬†of¬†the chocolate map

Spousal Unit:

  • assembling new equipment
  • washing and drying the containers and moulds to hold the chocolate (BONE DRY)
  • taster of ganache (this is harder than it sounds, after a few tastes it gets hard to discern flavours)
  • Chief Tempering Officer, he tempers more of the chocolate than I do now
  • secondary¬†chocolate filler once moulds are set
  • smasher of candy canes when bark is on the menu
  • assembler of the boxes (they’re shipped flat)

We do it together:

  • inventory checkers
  • shopping for ingredients
  • pouring the chocolate into moulds, have to work fast!
  • placing the finished chocolates into the boxes (so easy to get this wrong!)
  • putting maps, paper liner, and lids on
  • adding ribbon
  • boxing up for shipping
  • clean up (urgh, the clean up is the WORST)

keep-calm-and-collaborate

A lot of chocolate work is waiting. You’re waiting for the chocolate to reach optimal temperature, you’re waiting for the ganache to set, you’re waiting for the moulds to set, you’re waiting, waiting, waiting.

So what do we do with all this downtime between the work?

Play video games and eat take out. It’s difficult to use the kitchen for cooking since any heat or steam will affect the chocolate, and the tempering equipment takes up a lot of room so we’re pretty much eating sandwiches and take out for days. ūüėČ

How long does this take?

Now that we have all the equipment we need, it’s a lot less time, but I still allocate 4 weekends. You never know when bloom might strike. The major hold-up in the past was not having enough moulds; having to pour, wait, wash and dry, and repeat. Now we can pour 60 of each shape¬†and be done with it.¬†Hallelujah!

We do an inventory check in October, and will place our order for chocolate by Halloween if we’re short. Pro-tip: you don’t want to be ordering Belgian chocolate in¬†November unless delays don’t stress you out.

The bulk of the actual work is done in November on weekends, it’s easiest to assign one weekend to working with one type of chocolate and we always do the milk chocolates first because fillings have a shelf life. (Solid milk chocolates and the almonds will be fine for months.) Next up are the caramels. Depending how this goes, it may take an extra weekend.

The cream fillings are tricky and take the longest. I will make the ganache the night before and divide it by 5, adding each flavouring agent and let it chill overnight. If all goes well and it firmed up, we start pouring the chocolate the next morning. This takes at least 2 days since a lot of chocolate is needed. At this point there is practically no room in the fridge.

Once all the semi-sweet chocolates are made, we finish with the dark chocolate and the white chocolate and the Toblerones (ensuring the Toblerones are fresh). Now the fridge is at max capacity and we are dying to ship them and get some space back.

This year I will be shipping them earlier since Via Rail no longer accepts parcels, and Canada Post can be unreliable at best, so you will definitely be enjoying your Christmas chocolates before Christmas.

Confessions of a chocolatier

Today I’m mentally regrouping my thoughts on chocolate; the experiments I’m going to do once the heat stops, my stock of supplies, what to order by mid-November, and what I’m making next Christmas.¬†Yes, I was getting tired of muffin posts too.

I shall show you my chocolate book! While I’m immersed in chocolate this book is never far, and most of the pages¬†are stained with my work. If I have a particularly brilliant thought, I holler at Spousal Unit to come take over the chocolate for a minute while¬†I jot down my ideas.

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This page was from the day I was doing course work for my √Čcole chocolat class. ¬†I had an assignment to temper chocolate¬†using the tabliering method, then the seeding method, and what that lesson taught me is that while knowing how to temper by hand is a solid skill to have, I love having a machine do it for me!

Once I’ve got enough notes on a particular topic, I summarize what I’ve learned. It’s an easy way to give myself a refresher when it’s time to roll my¬†sleeves up; when making matcha ganache you should be generous with the matcha powder or the flavour is weak, to cut the caramel recipe¬†in half for the Christmas chocolates, (actually caramel has an entire page devoted to its complexities),¬†don’t buy the Toblerone in advance or you’re buying last year’s stale stock, how many drops of flavouring oil is needed to get the right flavour to the ganache, things like that.

It’s also where I draw out my ideas for new chocolates and flavour pairings. Rooibos tea-infused ganache? Yes please.

In case of a computer problem, it’s good to have my important information on hand, such as¬†the actual product codes of my preferred chocolate (online invoices don’t always specify and it’s rather critical when trying to source your favourite cacao percentages!), the quantity of each chocolate I actually need, the product codes of the boxes I buy, which merchants have the best prices, their shipping and sale times,¬†the costs of my past orders, everything I need to go forward if my computer explodes.

CakeBoss software review

Spousal Unit gave me the CakeBoss software for Christmas 2015, something I’ve been eyeing for a few years. I’ve had 7 months to play around with it, and I love it. CakeBoss software is aimed¬†towards cake bakers who sell from home, and while I’m not a home bakery, I was really interested in learning what was I spending on chocolatiering and baking. The software does a lot, including:

  • ingredient pricing
  • recipe costing
  • inventory management
  • order management
  • vendor management
  • invoicing
  • mileage log

It costs $149 USD for year one, and then $20 per year afterwards. CakeCentral.com users get a 10% discount off the cost of year one. It supports many currencies, and metric and Imperial measurements.

I¬†think the software is great and well worth the price. The developer is responsive to customer suggestions for additions to the software and while I haven’t used their customer service myself for support questions, they get a lot of positive feedback from the Cake Central crowd.

It did exactly what I wanted it to.¬†I was able to get a much more accurate cost of what we were actually spending on the Christmas chocolates. I’ve been using this software to work out the price of all my baked goods too and that’s why on my¬†blog posts after Christmas, the cost per serving has been much more accurate.

ganache cost

You can see from this screen shot that when I make¬†milk chocolate peppermint ganache, the software calculates that the amount of chocolate I’m using costs $4, the amount of cream costs $1.52, and the flavour oil is 2 cents. Neat!

Each year, we make 540 chocolates, which is 60 chocolates of each flavour. Whew!

To produce 540 chocolates and their fillings, I’m going to use:

  • 2.77¬†kg¬†milk chocolate
  • 2.52 kg semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 kg white chocolate
  • 840 g dark chocolate
  • 840 g Toblerone chocolate
  • 1.4 L heavy cream
  • 200 g white sugar
  • 100 g almonds
  • 76 g unsalted butter
  • 6 g matcha powder
  • 1 g salt
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 g buttercream flavouring oil
  • 1 g raspberry¬†flavouring oil
  • 1 g orange cream¬†flavouring oil
  • 1 g pepperment¬†flavouring oil
  • 50 boxes and ribbons
  • 50 maps

 

Since I buy chocolate in 5 kg blocks, I already knew the total cost I was spending if I was completely out of ingredients, but CakeBoss breaks it down to what does 2.77 kg of milk chocolate cost me from the 5 kg block which I purchased. It’s a very useful tool.

If I ever make the move to selling at a farmer’s market or something, it’s good to know I already have a handle on what I’m spending on ingredients and supplies thanks to CakeBoss.