Jim D.

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    Staunton, Virginia

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  1. Troubleshooting Caramels

    The one I saw in use at Jinju Chocolates in Las Vegas was from Chef Rubber. They are on the pricey side (but isn't everything in the chocolate world?), but, more important, they weren't the right size for me--I like rectangles and those were either too small or much too large. The website says lots more sizes are coming soon, but when I asked, I was told to put in a request for a special project (we know what that probably means). So I did a search and found a mold closer to what I wanted on Bakedeco at a considerably lower price. It doesn't save time over pouring the caramel into a frame, but the caramels I finally made today (with the texture I was looking for) would have been horribly distorted by the time I finished cutting them (that may well be related to the one doing the cutting!). Needless to say, I would never cut them on my guitar, though some (braver) people do. The ones made in the mold and now dipped remained rectangular in shape through the whole process yet are soft in texture. I watched the process in Vegas, and it was obvious that, with practice, removing the perfectly shaped caramels is fast and easy. The Chef Rubber mold in use there made small rectangles, and I know you tend to prefer smaller chocolates, so it might be worth looking into (Bakedeco has a small cube as well as the rectangle). On the caramel issue more generally, do you also find that a few degrees makes all the difference in the world? Do you have trouble achieving consistency from batch to batch?
  2. Troubleshooting Caramels

    What is an example of a Maillard caramel? How does it differ in technique?
  3. Troubleshooting Caramels

    Ruth, I'm not entirely sure of the difference. Following Lebovitz's recipe, I made a caramel (he says cook it to 310F--which is a rather light caramel), then I added hot cream and cooked the mixture to the desired temperature. This is mostly the same as Notter's recipe and many others. I am at an altitude of about 1400 feet. I checked the charts on that, and it should make only a little difference.
  4. Troubleshooting Caramels

    I had decided to learn to make chewy caramels (to be dipped in chocolate) this summer and am looking for some insight from those who are more experienced. I know that it is the final temperature of the caramel that determines whether it will work or not. I used David Lebovitz's recipe, which calls for cooking the caramel to 260F/127C. I knew that was higher than anyone else recommends, but it's David Lebovitz, so who am I to doubt? After seeing Jin's silicone caramel mold at the eGullet workshop in Las Vegas in May, I found one (less expensive), so was using that to make nice neat pieces. Attempt #1: I poured the 260F caramel (also tested in cold water to check the consistency) into the mold. When I removed the hardened pieces, "hardened" hardly begins to describe how firm they were--tooth-breakingly hard. Attempt #2: I added a little skim milk and melted the pieces from the previous try. Meanwhile I had checked multiple recipes, including Peter Greweling's (239F/115C recommended) and Kerry Beal's (244 to 250F / 118 to 121C), and this time stopped at about 245F/118C. Better, but still too firm--and worse, stuck to my teeth. Attempt #3: Again, melted down the caramel. This time went to about 240F/115.5C. I decided to add some cocoa butter to help firm up the finished product (an idea from Jean-Marie Auboine, also at the Vegas workshop). This try was much better, but the caramel was too soft to hold its shape after removal from the mold. And, quite unexpectedly to me, the bottoms of each piece stuck to the silicone mold. Who knew? So a quick online search revealed that oiling the silicone may be necessary. Attempt #4: After the messy job of oiling the mold (using cooking spray and wiping most of it out), I began again. This time I went to about 242F/117C. These came out of the mold without sticking (though they had to be patted dry from the oil), and I just finished dipping them in dark chocolate, topped with some Himalayan salt I have been waiting to use for something. In spite of this final success (at least it appears so at this point), I have to ask: Is making "stand-alone" caramels really this difficult? Do 2 degrees make that much difference? Of course, I realize that taking the temperature of a boiling liquid is a very iffy proposition--moving the Thermapen around the pot shows how the temp varies from place to place. And there is the residual heat once the pot is removed from the stove (I tried dipping it in cold water, but that cooled off the caramel too much to be poured into the mold). Testing by dropping some caramel in water seems inconclusive as the firm ball stage covers a range of temperatures, and meanwhile the caramel in the pot continues to cook, even if it's off the heat. At this time of year I have time to experiment, but in the midst of Christmas production, there can be no recooking of caramel three times and waiting for it to harden in order to determine if it is right for dipping. I use Rose Levy Beranbaum's caramel pot. It's narrow enough that even a small batch is deep enough for a thermometer to register. But it's not a particularly heavy pot. Might that be an issue? Any suggestions or insights?
  5. Wholesaling your wares

    @pastrygirl I don't think it will be possible to get a look at the bakery for a while (the owner today mentioned end of July as the current goal--I don't think he is at the installing of display cases yet). We are going to meet as soon as the place is habitable. Wouldn't selling by the piece require a humidity-controlled cabinet? I don't know anything about bakery storage, but I don't imagine humidity is such a concern for bakers as it is for chocolatiers. It's a little insulting that someone wanted to put your caramels in her own packaging. Even I would draw the line at that.
  6. Wholesaling your wares

    If you are in the U.S., it depends on which state you live in. It also depends on where you are making your product. As I understand it, very few states allow products made in home kitchens to be sold retail (or sold wholesale to be retailed by somebody else). You have to be in a professional kitchen that has been inspected. My state is an exception and I had my kitchen inspected (that is another saga for another day), so I am allowed to sell anywhere. I must include an ingredient list, which also states the net weight of the contents and, of course, an allergen list (the supervisor in my area said, "I know pinenuts are not actually nuts, but you have to list them"). I also had to provide a recipe for every single filling I sell. So-called "cottage food operations" are another matter--no inspection necessary but you have to include a notice that the product was made in a non-inspected kitchen and cannot sell it anywhere except from your home or at a farmers' market. Needless to say, there are also various approvals and licenses required by the city or county in which you operate. As you can see, I have done a lot of research on this topic.
  7. Wholesaling your wares

    I have been selling my chocolates on a consignment basis in a couple of places in town. I provide boxes of 6 or 12 pieces sealed (not vacuumed) in individual bags and the seller refrigerates these. This means 6 or 12 pieces must be bought at a time. I provide a display card showing what the boxes contain and also a list of ingredients. In one case I provided an extra box opened to display what the sealed boxes look like; when a space is not air conditioned overnight, each night that display box must be refrigerated, at least in the summer. I just learned that the owner of a French bakery about to open is interested in the chocolates. I am trying to get my thoughts together before contacting him. I can imagine that in a bakery situation, where customers are purchasing one item at a time, they might well expect the chocolates to be sold by the piece as well. If that is also the thinking of the baker, I can't imagine how this might work, though obviously there are many chocolate shops where individual pieces are displayed and sold, I assume in low-humidity cases of some sort. I can't see how this would work in the absence of such special display cases. Even if I found decent clear-top boxes holding perhaps 2 pieces, the humidity would almost certainly ruin them. Has anyone else had experience in a similar situation, and if so, how did you deal with it? Any thoughts will be appreciated.
  8. I know, but I wanted to know if its invert-sugar properties are essential. Most recipes for marshmallows seem to include honey, though Melissa Coppel's includes neither honey nor invert sugar.
  9. Greweling uses honey in his marshmallow recipes. I thought the taste of honey overpowered other flavors (such as vanilla) and would like to omit it. Should I replace it with an equal amount of glucose (in addition to the glucose already called for), or is the invert-sugar effect of honey crucial to marshmallows? I should note that in his first book he includes invert sugar in addition to honey, but does not in his at-home volume.
  10. I can corroborate what you advise. I oiled the wires yesterday and the marshmallow layer did not stick, but I recount the other issues in the Greweling thread.
  11. I will be experimenting as well. Others have said (there is a thread on eGullet on pipeable marshmallow) that the secret is to stop beating the mixture sooner--though how one determines "sooner" remains a puzzle. It is a great temptation just to use marshmallow fluff from the grocery store (even Greweling calls for it in his at-home book). I have gotten the impression that in Greweling's second edition he calls for using egg whites in the pipeable marshmallow, but I would prefer not to use eggs.
  12. I didn't get a response to my question under the marshmallow topic, so I'll try again in the Greweling discussion. I have more info since completing his marshmallow recipe. I'm making a variation on the "Hot Chocolate" two-layer marshmallow recipe. I made his marshmallow recipe and spread it (with considerable difficulty) in a frame. I think I either overcooked the syrup or overbeat the marshmallow mixture. Then, for the second layer, instead of his chocolate ganache, I made a lime one (the idea of combining marshmallow and lime comes from Melissa Coppel). The lime recipe (from Ewald Notter) never really sets up firmly enough, so for dipping I added some white chocolate and cocoa butter, and it was better, but still rather soft. I let the lime set for more than a day, then applied a foot to the ganache, and cut the slab on a guitar (with the wires lightly oiled, marshmallow layer on top). It cut better than I anticipated, but I could tell the pieces were "melting" into each other. I chilled it and then tried to separate the pieces, but had to use an oiled knife. In some pieces the lime layer has separated from the marshmallow. They look OK (but not great) and are rather rough around the edges. I can see that whereas I could dip them, they would not look great. The taste of marshmallow and lime is delicious together, but what could be done to improve the situation? The marshmallow was rather firm, so if I made it more pliable, then I am sure it would never cut on a guitar and the pieces would certainly flow back together once the wires had passed through. Just as obvious (from Greweling's photo and photos on eGullet from those who have made the Hot Chocolate recipe), the recipe as written does work. I'm thinking of translating the recipe into a molded piece, with pipeable marshmallow (undercooked and underbeaten) and a layer of lime ganache on top, but I hate to admit defeat. Any ideas are welcome.
  13. I finally got around to making marshmallow (Greweling's recipe). The plan is to spread a layer of it in a frame, top it with a layer of lime ganache, and dip the finished pieces in dark chocolate. The marshmallow seems to be OK, though a little rubbery after one day. I had trouble spreading it evenly in the frame, so am thinking I may have overcooked the mixture. Greweling says to cut marshmallows on a guitar, but I have doubts about the success. I didn't want to endanger wires on the guitar, so I took a separate piece of the wire and tried to pass it through a cube of marshmallow. The wire mashed the square (which mostly rebounded, but the cut is certainly not clean). In a two-layer marshmallow piece, Greweling calls for spreading the foot on the ganache, not on the marshmallow layer. I am seeking advice on whether it is worth it to try to use the guitar or just give up and use an oiled knife. Perhaps the guitar wires should be oiled?
  14. Thanks for the tip, which has paid off. Jennine answered my email immediately and referred me to Sean Tucci, who handles custom molds at Tomric. Today (just one day later) I got a quote from him (appreciably less than the other company, which never returned my call).
  15. A little off the topic, but you mentioned your Paasche airbrush in another thread. So you use the Wagner just for pastry work?