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 – 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.)

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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.

The Spice Trader & gravlax

This week my friend Maui and I went to The Spice Trader, an organic spice house in the Queen West neighbourhood to attend a gravlax class, the Nordic way of curing salmon. The class was taught by Donna Ashley of Karelia Kitchen.

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We had a great time!

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This was my first visit to The Spice Trader, Maui and I had planned to visit twice before and that turned into a wash, luckily 3rd time was the charm. It’s located at 877 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, M6J 1G5 (at Strachan), across from the park. They have both a retail and online spice shop.

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It’s a beautiful store, with wooden shelves and an old-fashioned scale in the window. The shelves are alphabetically organized and have ample room making them easy to find, I appreciated that the shelves were not jam-packed with product, they had just enough bottles out.

Sadly, only one jar of Saigon cinnamon to be found and Maui snagged it first. It smelled so amazing, I can’t wait to get a bottle. They have a sample of each spice and that one just smelled so good.

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At The Spice Trader they offer classes and we learned to make gravlax, or cured salmon. The etymology of gravlax was interesting to learn. Gräva is the Scandinavian word for grave, or “to dig”, and lax/laks means salmon. (Although you can use any fatty fish for this, like trout or halibut). The fishermen used to salt the fish and bury the salmon in the sand to ferment it, and dig it up later to eat it. Due to modern sensibilities we make it slightly different now.

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So how do you make this anyway?

  • Buy the freshest cut of salmon you can find, with the skin on.
  • Make a mixture of equal parts kosher salt and brown sugar. Kosher salt is used specifically because the shape of the salt flakes make it easier to get a good application of salt, the flakes cover more surface area than rounder granules. So ratio is 1:1. You can change this a bit to taste, I prefer sweeter.
  • Place the fish on a platter and pack the mixture around it generously.
  • Get fancy by laying a bunch of fresh herbs and a citrus fruit on top, like dill and lemon. Or make a puree of beets and horseradish. Possibilities are endless!  I’m intrigued by trying with vanilla beans.
  • Cover and refrigerate 5 or 6 days to cure it. The salt dries out the moisture and the fish will firm up. Then slice thinly and serve. Cooked fish without an oven! That easy!

Our instructor Donna was great, she was thorough, funny, and very charismatic. Allison the shop keeper was amazingly good with names. She memorized 12 names on the fly.

I left the shop with Hawaiian black salt, ground white pepper, pink Himalayan salt, lemon oil, and orange oil. I made a delicious chicken dinner with my new spices and can’t wait to try the oils.

This is the gravlax Donna cured in beets and horseradish I believe. Look at how the colour stays near the top, won’t that look stunning done on white fish?

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Here is the dill and lemon gravlax, see the packed sugar and salt?

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They all tasted delicious but the red one was my favourite. I will definitely make another trip to The Spice Trader to acquire that cinnamon.

French Corner Bakery & Patisserie review

Yesterday was my first visit to French Corner Bakery & Patisserie. I am now planning many more visits.  ^^

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French Corner is located at 1224 Dundas Street West, Unit 114, Mississauga, ON, L5C 4G7.  They have an active Facebook page and you can see many delightful pictures of their wares from Yelp reviewers.

My friend and I ventured forth in the aftermath of a freezing rain to sample the goods.  She has been there many times and told me about how much the bakery has expanded since she started visiting.

Review:

Another pasty gem hiding in plain site, what is with these amazing French patisseries in unexpected neighbourhoods?

We visited around 3:30 pm on a Thursday afternoon.  There were a few other customers but it wasn’t packed (thank you weather!), which was nice. Both counter staff were friendly and helpful. The food we tried was very good, and reasonably priced.

The front area is a long rectangle, with a counter running lengthwise and a large display case. You can see into the back where the staff are at work creating their works of art which is neat.

Aside from pastries and baked goodies, they also offer fresh breads, soups and salads, hot drinks, lots of lovely things.  The only thing I found odd was that the pastry displays are not labelled, this for example is obviously a lemon tart, but some other items were not so obvious to me what they were called. It was fine however, the lady behind the counter patiently explained each item that I was interested in.

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I had the lemon tart and the night and day mouse.  The tart was wonderful, the lemon curd was tangy and light, in a nice firm crust.  The mousse was amazing, I will definitely try both of these items again!

My friend had pistachio mouse and a red raspberry item, which I forget the name.

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The cup of hot chocolate was perfect for a cold spring day.

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I’m looking forward to bringing Boyfriend Unit to this bakery with me next time.

Paradise redux at Tony’s Bistro & Pâtisserie

This summer past I ended up back home again for a little while, and you know what is just 30 minutes from back home?  Tony’s Bistro & Pâtisserie

For the uninitiated this gem is located at 137 McLaughlin Drive, Moncton, NB, E1A 4P4.

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A lot of people say you can’t recapture the past and trying to recreate a treasured memory will only serve to tarnish its glow.  In my personal experience however, that is not always true.  Some things remain spectacular.  Such is food at Tony’s.

It was precisely one year after my first visit to Tony’s that I got to make my second visit to Tony’s.  July 2015 will live forever as the summer I ate at Tony’s four times in one week.

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That may seem excessive, but I was determined to try the breakfast and lunch items, not just the desserts.  Do not fear, plenty of desserts were tried too.

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I’m pleased to report lunch was just as good as breakfast.

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For readers who enjoy factual reviews, I recommend Tony’s because:

  • delicious food with nice presentation
  • glorious desserts
  • nice ambiance
  • very reasonable pricing
  • pleasant and efficient staff
  • well-stocked, fresh pastry cabinet

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Everything I have tried so far (and I have tried a lot of the desserts so far!) has tasted as wonderful as it looks.  You don’t always find that in a pâtisserie.

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This summer I had the lemon flan, the chocolate royale, and the paradis.  Ah; the paradis. It is chocolate mousse, white chocolate mousse, and crème brûlée, and such an interesting presentation. Baking is my hobby, but it’s always been chocolatiering and fancy desserts that make my heart sing.

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It was the first time I have ever sat looking at a dessert for a few minutes, not wanting to ruin it with my spoon.  Then curiosity got the better of me.

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What I like so much about Tony’s is the variety and the artistry of each dessert.  The paradis was incredibly good.  Every layer was so complimentary to the whole, and it was just so delicious.

Leave a shout-out to your favourite restaurant in the comments. I’d like to hear who you recommend and why.

 

École Chocolat review

I’de been wanting to up my chocolatiering skills in preparation for Christmas 2015. I can usually learn a fair amount from reading and online tutorials, but lately it felt like I had hit a plateau.  When I heard about École chocolat I was immediately intrigued, but hesitant.

École chocolat is an online school based out of Vancouver, BC, founded in 2003 by Pam Williams, a master chocolatier who also founded the truffle business Au Chocolat in 1981.  Pam has authored two books on chocolate, Oh Truffles by Au Chocolat and Raising the Bar: the Future of Fine Chocolate.

Still, I couldn’t find any reviews or first hand accounts of École chocolat, and I was leary of spending a lot of money on an e-school that isn’t accredited. I hemmed and hawed for awhile, and decided to go for it. I’m glad I did.

École chocolat offers several courses:

  • Professional Chocolatier
  • Business Planning
  • Professional Chocolatier + Business Planning (cheaper than doing the two courses individually)
  • Chocolate Making from bean to bar
  • Quality Assurance for Chocolatiers
  • Master Chocolatier programs all over the globe
  • Chocolate Connoisseur courses

I took the Professional Chocolatier + Business Planning program. It’s a 4 month course, which you mostly do at your own pace but assignments have deadlines.  If you pass your assignments you receive your diploma.

How much did it cost?

  • Summer-fall 2015 tuition was $830 CAD + 13% HST = $937.90
  • School supplies cost $403.41 which includes taxes and shipping

Depending on what’s available to you locally you may be able to get the supplies for less.  I think the list was too much stuff, some of the items I still haven’t used, such as the chocolate chipper, acetate, and pastry brushes.

I’ve only used the cocoa butter and marble slab one time so far.  On the other hand, I probably would never have tried working with cocoa butter if they hadn’t said I needed it, and it’s a pretty cool product!  So I don’t regret buying any of the supplies, but they were were expensive and I am someone who already owned a lot of chocolatier supplies.

The school has a relationship with Chef Rubber who offers a starter kit for EC students containing some of the harder to source items. I was interested, but their shipping costs from US to Canada were over $100.  No thanks!

What was the course like?

Challenging.  Fun.  Interesting.  I learned so much.  The Master Chocolatier course has one instructor, the Business Plan portion has another.  Both instructors are fairly prompt at answering questions, and there is an active forum, one for students and one for grads.

I would recommend this course to anyone who has worked with chocolate and is interested in learning more techniques with some guidance. As long as you’re motivated to get work done, on time, you will be fine.

Recipe creation was a blast.  I had some home runs, like this blueberry crème brùlée milk chocolate, which my was introduction to using transfer sheets.  This is possibly one of the tastiest things I have ever thought of.

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And uh… I had some dismal failures.  Like nougat.  But it doesn’t matter if your attempt doesn’t work out, as long as you go through the process, take notes and learn, that’s all they’re looking for on most of them.  Some of my recipe creations were total disasters.

What did I learn?

Too much to quantify!  The course has a huge amount of downloadable reference material, and I’m still going through some of it. I think they really do cover pretty much everything.  Some highlights were the history of chocolate, production practices, flavours, design, decoration, business case studies, and how to contact wholesalers and find distributors in my area, which turned out to be a wonderful opportunity.  And they teach lots more.

The assignments were straightforward, and some of them really push you into experimenting with ideas you’d never try on your own.

The Business Plan part of the course wasn’t exactly what I expected.  It was good, don’t get me wrong.  I just had different expectations about what I would learn.  I still came away with knowledge I didn’t have before going in and that’s what counts.

I plan to sign up for EC’s Quality Assurance program in the future.  As a Professional program grad I get a discount on future courses. ^^

Was it worth it?

Yes. I graduated with honours, learned new skills and have a higher sense of accomplishment in my chocolate work.  My diploma hangs on the wall and makes me smile every time I see it.

It was expensive for an uncredited program.  I understand why it’s not accredited, because the students are all over the world, but as a Canadian I would have loved if it was accredited in Canada.

My Christmas chocolates this year were the best yet and I am much more confident after becoming an EC grad.

McCall’s puff pastry 1 review

Well it’s been awhile. I haven’t been able to bake much in about a year, because reasons, but something I’ve wanted to share is that for my birthday last month, Boyfriend Unit sent me to pastry school at McCall’s for a day! It was absolutely spectacular. I learned to make all sorts of treats.

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Cost: $160

Course length: 7 hours

What did we learn:

  • puff pastry
  • pastry cream
  • strudel
  • Mille-Feuille
  • turnovers
  • pastry cream
  • lots of small pastry and savory stuff too

Once again Kay was my instructor, she is a great teacher and very skilled. I recommend this course to anyone aspiring to learn more about pastry and has an interest in hands-on learning. One day I hope to make pastry as effortlessly as Kay makes it, one day… I made this!!!

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A nice feature of McCall’s courses is that the day of the class, you are given a 10% discount on in-store purchases, and a coupon for 10% off the next time you shop there. It’s fun to see the tools in person and figure out what I want vs. what I need to try things at home.

Everything was so delicious too. Puff pastry is a lot of work. It takes hours and requires a lot of folding the dough, letting it rest and chill, and rolling it out to fold again. It was actually pretty exhausting.

For a few years I’ve been reading about pricing in the baking industry; how people balk at the cost of large items like wedding cakes or mass amounts of pastry, but think nothing of going to a restaurant and paying $6 to $12 for one dessert. After these work shop I’m convinced pastry is under priced.  What you pay is not only priced to cover ingredient cost and overhead, it has to account for the skill of the baker and the time it takes to prepare baked goods. Someone is working that dough for hours and they have spent years honing their craft. If you are in a nice restaurant try their pastry! Most times it’s worth your while. 🙂