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.)

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)

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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. 😉

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 École 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.

Chocolate protein one-bite brownies

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Experiment # 2 was a success. I took a recipe posted to the Dr. Poon page called Phase 1 “Poonified” protein chocolate cupcakes by Cintia P. and made a few tweaks.

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Before you get started: I’m working with carbalose flour to reduce the net carbs in my baked goods. I used vanilla protein powder because I’ve got a 2 lb jar of the stuff and I don’t like it, and baking with it seemed like a good way to use it up.

Yields: 20

Cost per brownie: 13 cents

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $71.22

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175°c / 350°f and put paper liners into mini muffin tin.
  2. Beat egg, vanilla, and half of the water. Reserve remaining water.
  3. Combine dry ingredients. Pour into wet, half at time.20160604_100319
  4. Mix in remaining water and stir until combined.
  5. Pour into muffin tin, filling about three quarters. 20160604_101021
  6. Bake 12 min then cool on rack. 20160604_102941

Verdict: These were very easy to make and I’m pleased with the flavour and consistency. The outer layer of the brownie stuck to the liner.

I think they’d be much better with chocolate protein powder, but I like drinking the chocolate so I’m stuck using the vanilla to get rid of it.  I might add double the amount of cocoa power perhaps.

So far baking with Carbquik seems easy and it’s a nice challenge to find recipes and adapt things to the Dr. Poon lifestyle.

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. 🙂