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Merry Berry

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Everything posted by Merry Berry

  1. How about something like a craqueline? Would that work since it is basically a sugar cookie paste. Roll it thin, cut out pieces with an upside down piping tip and bake off? I was going to try that first, but your idea, Jim, sounds good too. I guess since no one else is chiming in, it is time to experiment this weekend haha.
  2. We have been in the 90s and nearly touching 100 during the past few days and it looks like that is the norm for the next couple of weeks. But coupled with that is about zero cloud cover nor humidity. That means our lows at night will be in the mid 60's. Couple that with the production facility I utilize is located on a nearby mountain that is typically 5-7°F cooler and I am planning some chocolate production for a change. Midnight Chocolate Run?
  3. Merry Berry


    I have GOT to make these!!! Just have to source some molds first.
  4. Well sounds like you have thought it through. I should have known you would have from reading other posts on here from you haha. Staunton might be small, but what is the surrounding area population? Of course, going further outside your zone might not be desirable, but that would be my first inclination. 20k is a good start, but from looking at the map, it appears your 100 mile radius puts you within quite a bit of population. But I understand if you are not trying to work that hard as you mentioned earlier. That would be a tough game of selling all over the map and trying to make chocolates. As far as Hershey's, blech. I am quick to sample someone my chocolate's (or nearly anyone else's for that matter) tabled with Hershey's. I know it is "popular", but once you start to educate people on that disgusting burn in the back of the throat Hershey's causes, then they start to notice it and how smooth artisan chocolate can be. How many people say they "hate" dark chocolate, but change their tune when they try good dark chocolate paired with great flavorings? I know that is an uphill fight in some ways, but younger people seem to be bigger fans of chocolate other than the same ole same old. As far as a profit. Are you not showing a profit at all from year to year? If so, then what keeps you doing it exactly (I know profit on taxes is not always equal to profit in the real world)? I do not know your situation, but I would believe you qualify in nearly each category of Hobby vs Business https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/issues/2013/oct/20138370.html . If your loss is really close year to year, then that typically passes the smell taste with the IRS, but obviously I would listen to the professional you mentioned before😉 Just a few thoughts, but I am sure you have probably thought about them already. I hope your increase in price is a success!!
  5. I believe, from my perspective, that you are torn about this (if I am completely wrong, then ignore me haha). But it sounds like you are in the middle of deciding whether to take this on full-time as a business or not. You mentioned that you are wanting to go from hobbyist to a business, but it appears you are not treating it like that for several reasons. 1. You never mentioned your break-even point. I have a few basic worksheets I used a while back to run different numbers to get a feel for my business startup. I am going to attach them, but anyone can change them around and add and take things away as they see fit. The two Word document numbers will need to be used in the Excel file (anything in blue in the Excel file is to be changed by you while anything in black is static and should not have any inputs). There are probably better documents out there, but I liked this one for its simplicity (we used them during Entrepreneurship courses). This will take into account your fixed and variable costs. I left numbers in there in case you want to see how it works. 2. You mentioned being forced to buy 500 pieces from a box distributor even though they are terrible. Damaged product and poor customer service should be a quick divorce from them. You are the customer and in this day and age of online distributors, there are too many better options out there. I know it takes forever to find what you are looking for exactly because there are so many options, but oftentimes, these places have sales reps in your region. One of my good friends uses Nashville Wraps and after he called them, they were meeting with him the next day (I am not promoting them, just using them as an example). Sometimes we forget that WE are the customers at times too, which means we deserve our vendors' best. I imagine you would be mortified to send out mislabeled product, damaged goods, and provide poor customer service. 3. You are looking too much at your pricing as a cost-based model. For chocolatiers (and honestly most products and services), that is often a mistake unless it's a commodity good. You are not selling corn or wheat. Chocolates are, for most intents and purposes, a luxury good. If you have a good product (which I imagine you do from everything I see on here), people will value it and buy it (value-based pricing). When it comes to chocolates, if they are priced too low, I assume the producer is either selling millions of units (very unlikely) or cheaping out on the ingredients or process. I know I would be very skeptical of a chocolate at a $1-1.25 price point. I cannot help but feel even $1.50 is too low for your time and effort. Most professional chocolatiers are typically at the $2/piece average price point it seems. That makes sense, and I would be inclined to follow that similar lead (competition-based pricing). And of course, you can discount up to $1.50/piece as the piece per box or order increases. There is a reason chocolatiers enjoy margins most other food-based businesses will never come close to hitting. Typically low overhead and minimal equipment compared to a restaurant are an attractive arrangement. I think you will be pleasantly surprised what the market in your area will bear. The worst thing you can do is be wishy washy about your prices by increasing them a little at a time. At the very least, set it at $2 and then run discounts or promotions to help offset it if you feel uncomfortable with $2/piece. That higher price point means you can withstand some ingredient price increases without it completely wiping out your margin, forcing you to raise prices as the market shifts up and down. I hope I have not offended you in case you already know all this. Just my perspective outside, looking inward. I think what you are doing is exciting and it also helps me refocus on things I forget in my own fledgling business. Hope you are well. Sweet Merry Berry Startup Costs.doc Sweet Merry Berry Income Streams.doc Sweet Merry Berry Cash Flows.xlsx
  6. So I am definitely someone who had no use for social media until I started a business. I feel like I am trying to drink water through a fire hose trying to learn how to use it. A lot of people suggested trial and error which is working okay for me now, but just wondering if anyone had any tried and true techniques or resources they use for FB, IG, etc. I know others say to check out others and emulate them, but then I get confused on how they did it in the first place. Just curious how you all approach it. I think one of the biggest hangups I have is getting the perfect picture when I set up for an event. To me, it does not look appetizing since the lighting looks so muted, and everything is in hotel pans, etc. Others (non-chefs) tell me it looks good, but I disagree. Do y'all just pull some aside, put in a nice dish with a black background and photo like that? Again, so much inexperience and confusion haha. Thanks in advance.
  7. Another catering event. This time, just a simple Vanilla Bundt cake with mixed berries and lemon glaze. Again, this time of year in the heat and humidity, something light and simple is preferable. All of it (2 cakes) was gone by the time the luncheon was over. Always happy with no waste!!
  8. Yes, I make a mascarpone mousse with a bombe mixture heated to 165, add the gelatin sheets and fold in the mascarpone. Then fold in the whipped cream. It sets it up nicely, but not overly so (it is still light and airy without being too rigid). I typically have to keep it frozen since it will start to sag over time in the cooler.
  9. Catered a luncheon for the local Chamber of Commerce. The dessert I am pushing here lately is tiramisu since it is always simple and light for the heat this time of year. I hand make the mascarpone cheese and the ladyfingers and use ground chocolate-flavored coffee beans in the simple syrup for soaking the ladyfingers. Finish it with a 3-cocoa blend from KAF that I really like. One of my favorite desserts to make. Had a lot of people tell me they like that it does not taste like the same old same old tiramisu you see in stores or at other catered events (read, from Sysco frozen haha). Tiramisu.pdf
  10. Alternately you could make the order now and freeze until they are needed. Definitely second this. What is your capacity? How many molds do you have, how fast are you, etc.
  11. I don't know. I have never met a gruntled dishwasher haha
  12. Have you staged with them? Something to focus on when staging is how they treat people around them besides focusing on the operations. If I leave a stage without much thought to their operations, then I know they most likely make sense or I see areas of concern, etc. But watching how they interact with their staff and customers is just as important. I try to stay silent and keep my ears open to what is happening around me without them really paying me much attention. If they forget I am there, they might slip into their normal routine and drop the "best behavior". I know pretty quickly if they are people I will mesh well with or not by that point.
  13. I have a few questions for y'all For one, why did you take your cocoa butter to 60°C. Anytime I make my silk, I use the CB pellets out of the pail, set the temp to 33.7 and let it go for 24 hours. Nice creamy silk when it's finished. Taking it to 60°C would completely remove the crystalline structure necessary to hold its and the chocolate's shape, no? I am confused there. Also, when I add my silk to my chocolate mass, I do it at around 35°C and the subsequent stirring of the CB into the chocolate cools it off right to the 32.2°C, in perfect temper. Any reason you wait to add the silk at 31-32°C? Lastly, how humid is it there? I ask because I saw this a few times at my school. It is often hot and humid here, and if I leave my chocolate on the counters to set up instead of a quick pop into the fridge, this type of bloom happens. Even if your room is cool enough, the moisture in the air is still hanging around and can play havoc with the surfaces of your chocolate. I use the cooler no matter the time of year since it is almost always humid here. If your cooler is down, is there a way you can work around it? Cooler with ice packs in it to put the molds in for a few minutes? I know for me, I have to get that setup going as quick as possible. Typically after that, I can leave it at (a reasonable) room temperature without it blooming. What type of cocoa butter are you using? Hope some of this helps.
  14. Sure, but credit goes to lebowits since I am pretty sure I use a recipe he posted on here once. I want all the starch in the bananas to be converted to sugar, so I use bananas that are oozing sugar syrup. So they basically are all black and look terrible, but are delicious to use. His version just called for medium ripe. 2 bananas, black and oozing syrup 1 vanilla bean, scraped 150 g walnuts 325 g dark brown sugar 225 g white chocolate, melted 25 g butter, soft 80 g dark rum 1. Process the bananas and walnuts in a food processor until the fruit is smooth and the nuts well chopped 2. Melt the sugar in a pot with the scraped vanilla and slowly bring to a boil 3. Add the banana and walnut mixture to the pot and continue to cook for several minutes, stirring to thoroughly combine 4. Take the pot off the heat and add the butter, stirring to combine 5. Add the sugar mixture to the melted chocolate and mix to combine 6. Allow the mixture to cool to about 100F 7. Add the rum and combine 8. Allow to cool to room temp Pipe into molded white chocolate shells and seal.
  15. It is worse when you have 3 refrigerators at home and all 3 are filled with bananas falling on the floor from the freezer. My wife takes a dim view on them doing that, for some weird reason haha. Besides banana bread, one of my favorite uses for it, is a Bananas Fosters molded white chocolate bonbon. It is a hit everywhere I take them
  16. Right now it is pretty unscientific. Used to, I was spoiled with a stand-up proof box. Now, I have to put them near a warm oven if it's the wintertime, but, not close enough to get too hot and melt the butter out. Of course, since I am in the South, it is easy to proof them the other 9 months out of the year 😳 The bakery I currently use gets pretty hot when the ovens are turned on, so I roll the carts close to them and that seems to do the trick. With the heat and humidity lately, proofing is not a problem at all haha.
  17. To me, the jiggle is just like Jell-O. The entire structure moves or wiggles from the bottom up. If only the top barely moves, that is not enough. It looks like it is going to collapse, but it does not. I probably find 73° too low of a temp to proof at just because I feel like it would take it forever especially if there is no humidity to go along with it. That said, I have seen 73°F be on the low end of the proofing range by some writers.
  18. PPM, for beginning out, I really liked Burno Albouze's recipe https://www.brunoskitchen.net/blog/post/croissant-taste-of-paris My method is a little bit different from his, but I really like the recipe. I got my Bouchon book out and it said to mix the dough for 20 minutes. As Teo said, that is why too long for croissant dough. For me, I take it just up to where it just begins to relax, but is not to the windowpane stage. The other key to croissants and the crumb I have found to be one of the most important is the proofing. They are proofed when they are proofed haha. Meaning, there is no timeline for them to proof, so many people just read a recipe and go with the time listed. Proof around 80°F (or lower to 75°F) and gently shake the pan they are on. They should jiggle like Jell-O. No jiggle, then they are not ready yet. Usually I do not check until at least an hour, but often it is closer to 2 hours before they are fully proofed in my kitchen. Oven temp for me usually starts at 425°F and then I reduce it to 375 for 12-20 minutes depending on the oven. I have also done 375°F for about 20 minutes with fine results, but that was a deck oven at the school I taught at that would run hot most days. I find it curious that Bouchon says to bake them for 35-40 minutes in a conventional oven. Even at a lower temp, that is overkill and will be too dark (in your pic, they look a little too dark). They also have a bready look to them. What type of flour did you use? When I am stuck with subpar AP flour, I will sometimes sub a certain percentage of the AP with pastry flour (10% or so). Sorry if you already know all the above. By the way, I have always wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your beautiful bonbons you post on IG. I wish I were that diligent in posting stuff 🤔 and half as creative. It definitely inspires me.
  19. As JeanneCake said, I know I would never use glaze for a tiered cake. I definitely would never try to paint on it since glaze never really dries like a fondant or modeling chocolate. Making your own fondant or modeling chocolate is infinitely easier which allows you to quickly cover the cake, and gives the perfect canvas for most things you want to do to it. As for mixing the edible powders and not wanting to use alcohol, you can mix them with lemon extract. I personally use Everclear since it evaporates quickly, but I have also used the extract, vodka, etc. and they all work well. If you get the Styrofoam cake dummies, watch the video on YT by Chef Alan at Global Sugar Art for tips and tricks. I have made variations of the video below for poppy themed cakes. It is a good basic tutorial for painting on fondant. Just make sure to torte and layer a barrel cake to give you enough room to paint and play.
  20. What is her reasoning for leaving it out, exactly? I am with you that trying to handle room temperature dough is ugh. That said, I cannot imagine this being very different than leaving butter out to soften for the creaming method (actually one of my pet peeves is bakers leaving butter out like that, but that is a discussion for later). Here in TN, our food laws pretty much mirror ServSafe standards and as far as I know from teaching ServSafe for the past 5 years, butter is not considered a TCS food. But it depends on what your state laws are. Some states are draconian with their laws and might frown upon it.
  21. I definitely second what PG is saying. Order from your competitors. Or better yet, if they have a semi-open kitchen, go there and order and then watch their process. You can always ask innocent questions as a "customer". Most counter workers (from my experience), are unaware when a "customer" is asking probing questions. You are just a curious customer, killing time, by talking about cookies.
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