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Jim D.

society donor
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    Staunton, Virginia

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  1. I make it 2:1, hazelnut praline paste to dark chocolate. If you use milk chocolate, I think you could increase the amount of chocolate because milk chocolate is softer. The positive factor is that you can make it however you want, test it (refrigerate a little for a brief time so that it approximates room temp), then adjust accordingly.
  2. One more thought (although it is probably one that has already occurred to you): There is more hazelnut flavor in a gianduja than in a ganache. The cream in the latter somewhat dulls the flavor. That is one reason I have mostly switched to gianduja when I'm making a hazelnut bonbon. I make something I call a "marjolaine" that, among other things, has layers of hazelnut ganache as well as almond gianduja; the almond layer has much more flavor. I need a gianduja in one of the layers since it will enclose a crisp meringue cookie. (Full disclosure: the basic marjolaine idea is derived from a bonbon Susanna Yoon makes--although her version in So Good magazine and the one in an online video differ almost completely from each other.)
  3. I have had this same problem and have concluded that the issue is the consistency of the hazelnut paste (I use hazelnut praline paste--with added caramelized sugar, so if you are using pure hazelnut paste, your situation will vary). I buy the paste already made (Cacao Barry brand), and its texture varies from batch to batch, from quite fluid to very viscous. That makes calculations difficult. If your gianduja is too firm, you vary the percentages of paste and chocolate. Or you can also add coconut oil (refined) to make it softer. Just check the consistency of the paste and vary the amount of chocolate accordingly. I have found gianduja to be very "forgiving"--there's no separation issue to content with. For a hazelnut praline ganache, I use proportions of 200g paste to 100g chocolate--though I ordinarily use dark chocolate. Plus 110g cream, 30g glucose, 50g butter. The ganache comes out soft even when set, but it does set sufficiently for my needs (for piping it). But again, it's the consistency of the paste that will make calculations difficult. That's just a built-in issue when dealing with nuts and their oil. If separation happens, just be prepared to add liquid (milk, liquor, even water). I don't know that the ganache will ever be firm enough to roll; maybe try freezing the mixture before rolling? I would probably use gianduja if I were making truffles. You can test the consistency by chilling a spoonful, then add more paste or coconut oil as desired. As I said, you can play around with gianduja without issues. One consolation: if the gianduja turns out too firm, a truffle is usually fine once people pop it into their mouths.
  4. @GRiker, my only regret is that you didn't get in touch when you were here. I was wondering why Cranberry's just notified me that they had sold out and needed another delivery--now I know. Thank you for your very kind words. I am impressed that you remembered the chocolates were available at that shop! As far as the specifics go: The filling that holds everything together in the chocolate chip cookie is pecan gianduja: pecan praline paste plus Valrhona's Orelys--which has molasses flavor--and tempered (with @Kerry Beal's cocoa butter silk, of course). There is a thread about this filling, and the major contributor, especially with suggesting Orelys, was @pastrygirl. I pipe a little of it into the shells, then add toasted pecans, dark chocolate bits, and shortbread cut into very small pieces. I press those into the gianduja, then add more gianduja on top. It takes a large mold to contain all that. Perhaps it's obvious why I don't make this item every day. Why not just make a truffle with the same stuff in it? For the simple reason that I haven't been able to roll it into a decent sphere for dipping. Thanks again for your generous comments.
  5. I have been very pleased with Madagascar beans from SloFood Group: https://www.slofoodgroup.com. Their prices are better than most, and perhaps 90% of the beans are fatter and more moist than others I have tried. They also have a substantial variety of vanillas and offer frequent sales. I looked at the Hawaiian ones Kriss Harvey likes, and the beans look wonderful (at least the ones in the photos, and especially in the photo I saw from Kriss on Instagram). As far as price goes, the nearest comparison I could do of Laie and Slofoodgroup is 1 oz. of Laie is $50 whereas 2 oz. of Slofood is $30. Most recently I bought a 4 oz. bag from Slofood for $50, and it contained approximately 20 beans. Even if a few of the Slofood beans are not as juicy as one wishes, the price difference is substantial.
  6. I think the poster means Jessica's shopping list mentioned by lironp. The poster has sent me a message, and I have referred him to the Krea Swiss (and similar) sprayers as he or she wishes to do things like glazes and velvet effects.
  7. There is no easy way to accomplish this nasty task. I use a warming tray, turn it up high, put a Silpat on it (to help keep slipping from being so bad), then place shop towels on top and rub the molds to melt off the chocolate. It takes a lot of towels, but it works. It also prevents the chocolate from doing down the drain. If your kitchen has a grease trap, you could just wash the molds and let the chocolate go down the drain.
  8. I have had no issues with the punitions. I seal them in a plastic bag once they are baked. They stay crisp for months. I don't see how they would be any more dangerous than a commercial cookie. But, as I said, I have not measured the Aw of the cookies.
  9. To tell the truth, I have never tested any of the cookies I use for Aw. I have always assumed something that crisp isn't going to have much water not baked off. I'll have to measure it to see. I use a shortbread recipe for most of my cookies, but the previous one (an Ina Garten recipe) came out with a cavity in the bottom of most cookies --there is a thread on this on eG. After trying everything recommended to me, I switched to a cookie called a "punition" (from a Dorie Greenspan recipe). It has an egg in it and comes out wonderfully crisp and stays that way (when surrounded as you mentioned with a "meltaway barrier"). You can add spices to it to make it work with some fillings, such as apple and apricot. For the s'mores and cheesecake bonbons, however, I stay with the traditional graham cracker, which aren't as crisp by nature as the punitions. I did discover just recently that little graham cookies need to be baked until they are quite crisp. Marshmallow will stay fluid depending on how long you cook the syrup and how long you beat the marshmallow, or--as you mention--how much gelatin you use. Self-leveling is definitely the way to go; a domed marshmallow is a pain.
  10. Your experiment with marshmallow sounds interesting. I am curious as to why you feel using egg whites is better, but many reputable chocolatiers and chocolate experts (such as Peter Greweling) use them as you have described. I tend to operate on the theory that if there is a safer way to do something, that's what I will use. I do use egg whites in the nut cookies I make for my marjolaine bonbon, but, of course, the cookies are baked for around 15 minutes. The recent posts on shelf life have made me rethink many of the fillings I make and have led me to make more caramels and giandujas. If you hadn't mentioned adding gelatin, I would have said that a big advantage of your egg white method is that the terrible smell and taste of gelatin wouldn't show up in the marshmallow. It takes a lot of vanilla or other flavoring to mask that taste.
  11. See my post from Dec. 9, 2020 (above in this thread). The addition of waxed paper plus bubble wrap seems to work. But, considering the chocolates will be subjected to many adverse conditions, most of which we cannot control, I am sure their appearance suffers a bit. But even a friend (who is sometimes more honest than I wish) tells me exact details of how the chocolates look after a trip from Virginia to Palm Springs, California, and she reports very few issues (in one case a tall pyramid mold lost the very tip of the pyramid in transit--note to self: even though you like the pyramid, don't use it when shipping).
  12. This is a great resource, very helpful. The only figure I wonder about is the final one. By "no additives" do you mean no ingredients other than chocolate plus liquid or (more probably) no additives such as invert sugar?
  13. Basically I follow Melissa's numbers (life would be impossible if I didn't make some sort of decision on what to follow). I test the Aw of all recipes, and if there are some I particularly like that are above 0.80, I work to get them lower. I am now emphasizing more than previously that there is a shelf life, since many customers are going by the "this will last forever" rule of commercial bonbons. For wholesale outlets, I insist they have refrigeration, preferably a freezer as well, and periodically refresh their memory of how to handle chocolates; I also make more frequent deliveries--a nuisance but better that than a mold episode. Like pastrygirl, I find myself using more caramel and gianduja fillings. For retail customers, I provide temperature recommendations and correct storage methods. If a customer cannot pick up chocolates for a longer than desirable period of time, I seal the box(es) in plastic and refrigerate them, freeze them if the time is substantial. And my most recent addition is the use of sorbic acid; unfortunately this works only in acidic environments, but I would add it to, for example, passion fruit and all fruit ganaches, and all pâte de fruit fillings.
  14. Maybe I'm being too casual, but I would not find the variance in those readings disturbing at all. I am interested in an estimate of shelf life, not in an exact reading of how much free water is in the sample, and the 4:1 readings are (rounded off) between 0.81 and 0.82, and the 2:1 ones are between 0.90 and 0.91. My Pawkit readings are only to two decimals, so to me that would have been the same. Aren't those close enough to estimate shelf life? In both cases, of course, the readings are disturbing, but we are dealing with a water ganache here. If you recall, when you were sending me fillings to test, the exact same sample would have slightly differing readings over a period of a couple of minutes. The software readings from Kerry, on the other hand, have a more significant variance.
  15. You don't mention any chocolate in your recipe. Is it just two parts fondant to one part strawberry? Kerry's recipe came out (with my measurement) to 0.73 for Aw. But the same recipe can differ from one time to another.
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