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Jim D.

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Everything posted by Jim D.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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?
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. I use Kerry Beal's fondant recipes for fruit buttercreams (also for rum buttercream). They don't have as low a water activity reading as one might expect. For one thing, fondant is made with water, but I suspect the biggest factor is the purée. It is quite difficult to reduce it so as to remove most of the water--strawberry, raspberry, probably most purées, tend to burn and they certainly cause a dangerous splatter as the water boils off. In the case of strawberry, I add some freeze-dried strawberries to increase the solids and so lower the water (alas, freeze-dried raspberries introduce seeds into the mixture and not all fruits are available in freeze-dried form).
  12. @DomDeFrancothat's a very interesting chart--and quite alarming. There is a huge difference between these figures (Aw of 85 = 11 days) and, e.g., Melissa's (3-6 weeks). For the usual "eat within 2 weeks" directions I give customers (allowing for an additional week as they are being made and boxed), I would need to aim for an Aw not much about 80. I just scanned my recipes, and there are only a handful that are at 80 or above (one of which, interestingly, I made today, Notter's mint ganache--but that is going into the freezer before being served at an event). I have started emphasizing shelf life with customers. The uncertainty in all this definitely makes one inclined more to caramels, giandujas, etc. I have trained my one retail outlet to keep most boxes in the freezer and move them only a few at a time to refrigeration. After that, as you say, I don't have much control over what the customer does. Alas, one of my (and customers') favorites, pumpkin cream will need some more work.
  13. @minas6907 I haven't been checking this subforum and just came across your molds for sale. I'm really sorry I missed the "cherry cordial" as I would like to have another of those. Do you recall where you purchased that mold? I initially got mine from Cabrellon, but the former U.S. dealer for that brand no longer carries them. Jim Dutton
  14. I continue to try various methods of cleaning cocoa butter from the tops of molds. I set up some shop towels near the spray gun and tried wiping each mold after it was sprayed. A few of them came out OK (most c.b. gone), but a few seconds more of spraying, and the c.b. had crystallized to the point that removing it was impossible. I tried the more extreme step of wiping after spraying each side of cavities (that is, before full coverage). That was, as one would expect, better, but putting down the spray gun to wipe, then picking up the gun to spray more proved to be too time-consuming--the gun had to be reheated very often. So I went back to the tried-and-true but incredibly messy job of manually scraping off the cocoa butter. The problem is getting the little pieces out of the mold. I even tried a vacuum cleaner, but the c.b. shards were too stubborn. So I brushed them out one cavity at a time. Then, when most c.b. was gone, I gently heated a warming tray, put a thick towel on top, then did a couple of wipes with a shop towel, paused, wiped some more (to keep the temp from getting too high). For almost all molds, this system worked. But in the photo below you will see the result in some molds. The issue doesn't show up, of course, until the bonbon comes out of the mold. Please take a look and let me know whether you think it is overheating that is causing this damage to occur. I can't think of anything else, but I am puzzled by the fact that it occurred only in this particular mold and only in some of the molds. I used the same mold for another bonbon, sprayed approximately the same, and not a single piece had the damage. Thanks in advance for any ideas.
  15. There have been quite a lot of mentions of Roxy & Rich on the forum. I don't recall that anyone mentioned special problems with that brand. To have overspray is normal with airbrushing. You should have some sort of spray booth or arrangement to take that overspray out of the air. I also wear a respirator, but at least a mask would help keep it out of your lungs. Your setup sounds fine, except for the side-feed issue. That adds complication to the path the cocoa butter must travel and thus time for it to crystallize and then clog your Grex. I used to have a side-feed Paasche brush, and it was a pain. It is normal to have to reheat the gun, just one of the many issues with airbrushing cocoa butter. The larger the cup on the Grex is, the longer the cocoa butter will stay at an acceptable temperature. What size cup are you using? One major factor you did not mention is the temperature of the room in which you are spraying. In my opinion (not everyone on the forum agrees), if the temperature is too far below 70F, you will have more issues.
  16. It's just a coincidence, but I measured the Aw of La Lechera canned dulce de leche a few days ago, and it was 0.75. I never tried the submerged-can-in-water method because of what could go wrong, but I used David Lebovitz's recipe, which entails baking a little salt and cans of sweetened condensed milk in a container (not in the can) until it browns and thickens. It was fine, but no better (to my taste) than La Lechera, and the baking time was prohibitive--it often took more than 3 hours at 400F/204C to thicken the stuff. I could buy many cans of La Lechera for what the gas cost me to bake it myself. I heat La Lechera's dulce (with some sea salt) to around 80F/27C, then pipe it into molds. It pairs wonderfully with coffee ganache, and I just paired it with banana ganache.
  17. Good to hear of the improvement. When some of us were taking the Andrey Dubovik course, this topic was discussed a great deal. Dubovik favored a lower room temp, and I know @gfron1 followed this advice with what I considered quite low temps (he had success). I assume a lower temp would cause crystallization more quickly (maybe too quickly?), but my colored cocoa butter seems to crystallize almost immediately after spraying (thus the failure to be able to remove the c.b. immediately after spraying). There are so many variables involved in spraying c.b. that I gave up and just settled for 68-70F for the room.
  18. I would definitely get a new moisture trap. You do live in a damp area of the world, but I don't really think that is the cause. You would get spitting from the brush. I have had little pieces of color flaking off, but they are usually at what is eventually the bottom of the cavity, and I have concluded they come from too-zealous use of a warming tray for cleaning cocoa butter from the tops of molds. Did you perhaps miss spraying a few places and the chocolate underneath is showing through? I had that happen a day or so ago. I think my glasses were fogged up from cocoa butter spray, and I missed covering some areas of a few cavities. Maybe you need more c.b. coverage. But I am inclined to go with Ruth's "explanation"--there isn't one. Same setup, same ingredients, same technique--totally different outcome. I can't help having the same reaction you describe: what did I do wrong? I try to avoid that and just make some extra bonbons to account for the bad ones. Sometimes, if my OCD is really strong and I am desperate for every single bonbon I made, I can take a paint brush and touch up the damage.
  19. @pastrygirl, too bad the Entenmann's photo is not taken so as to show the brand name of the machine. That would reveal a lot. I also found this useful information on the type of UV light that would be required: The type of ultraviolet light that's able to effectively get rid of mold is UV-C, which is a very short wavelength of UV light. Because of how beneficial UV light can be at the right amounts, this light is commonly used for disinfection purposes, which can include treating ballast water with UV disinfection.
  20. Very intriguing idea. I found this on the Environmental Protection Agency website: If properly designed, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) cleaners that use ultraviolet radiation from UV lamps may destroy indoor biological pollutants such as viruses, bacteria, and some molds that are growing on the moist interiors of HVAC surfaces (e.g., cooling coils, drain pans, or ductwork). But typical UVGI cleaners used in homes have limited effectiveness in killing bacteria and molds. Effective destruction of some viruses and most mold and bacterial spores usually requires much higher UV exposure than is provided in a typical home unit. Also found this info: As effective as UVGI may be, it's not a practical mold solution all the time for several reasons. The first is that the light must come in direct contact with the mold spores in order to kill them. This makes it possible to kill mold spores in the air and on solid surfaces. The light may not penetrate deeply enough, however, to kill mold spores safely tucked away in porous surfaces, like drywall. On the other hand, one assumes that a company as large as Entenmann's must have support for what they are doing (inspectors, e.g.).
  21. I saw that announcement. For my location the shipping would be a deciding factor (as I buy enough to get free shipping from AUI). If Chef Rubber started carrying the more unusual Felchlin items in small quantities, I would definitely be a customer for the Caramelito (I love the stuff, but can't use a whole box of it in a reasonable time). My experience with buying colored cocoa butter from CR is that their shipping charges are high (yes, I know it's from the warehouse in New Mexico to Virginia, but still...), and I really resent the handling charge they add on. For those who have never tasted Felchlin's couvertures, this is a great opportunity.
  22. It's not possible to predict shelf life without knowing the exact recipe. It would also depend on whether the purée contains some strawberries or is completely smooth. The dried strawberries will add solids, so lowering water content and increasing shelf life a little. Much of this depends on whether you are making these bonbons for personal use (in which case shelf life doesn't matter so much) or for other people (you can't know how they will store the bonbons or how long they will keep them). As far as sweetness goes (which you mentioned in your post to minas), you can control that by adding a bit of citric acid (or, if you don't have that, lemon juice).
  23. It would help to know the ingredients in the ganache. Did you use white chocolate as the base, then add the purée and/or cream? If so, you have encountered a known issue with fruit ganaches--getting enough of the fruit flavor. There are ways to concentrate or supplement the flavor: You can substitute plain cocoa butter for some of the white chocolate. You can make a "water ganache" by using only strawberry purée, no cream (but this will have a high water content and therefore short shelf life). You can add other flavoring sources: strawberry flavoring (there are some good natural ones, such as Amoretti's), strawberry compound (which is more like a jam), or freeze-dried strawberries. Then there is the butter ganache idea that minas mentioned, using strawberry jam.
  24. Assortment for Valentine's 2022: Top row: orange balsamic caramel, hazelnut gianduja & shortbread, sesame crunch, raspberry ganache with rosewater, "caramel macchiato" (caramel, vanilla, coffee), almond gianduja with cherries & almonds. Bottom row: "cookies & cream" (Speculoos cookie butter with vanilla ganache), "crème brûlée," dark caramel with Maldon sea salt, coconut cream, "bananas Foster," solid Arriba 72% chocolate with peppermint oil.
  25. I pipe the marshmallow into the bottom of the shell, let it set overnight, then pipe in whatever additional filling I am using. It is essential to have the marshmallow fluid, or it will form a dome that will make the rest of the process quite difficult. Once a too-firm marshmallow has set, you can't do much with it--it doesn't allow for pressing it down to make a horizontal layer because it will spring back. If you are just adding a second layer (such as your lime) and not adding a cookie, then the shape of the marshmallow doesn't matter so much.
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