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Merry Berry

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Everything posted by Merry Berry

  1. Dang PG, why couldn't you live closer!! I used to love the week of sugar art when I used to teach culinary school!! It was the most frustrating fun (outside of chocolate of course). I have a lot of notes and recipes, but they are at my shoppe so I can look over them tomorrow, and post them. I definitely say use isomalt, but that price versus sugar for a 12 hour sculpture might be prohibitive. Flame is usually best since dipping in molten sugar can cause stray strings and angel hair of sugar. Flame will make for cleaner edges too. Have you thought about a dead dough sculpture instead? I used to have a lot of fun with that medium too, and would actually hold up a bit longer in high humidity conditions. Sugarwork and rain/humidity are awful bedfellows as you probably well know.
  2. I love bonbon inclusions in ice cream myself. Is that a possibility for you?
  3. Sure, you should be able to use a normal Italian Meringue for that type of use. Any meringue would probably work just fine, but I do love the silkiness of Italian meringue. The recipe I use is: 185g Sugar, granulated 30g Corn Syrup or Glucose 50g Water 115g Egg whites
  4. Are you using it to make the "collar" on the religieuse? If so, typically it is made with a buttercream and would be plenty stiff for your needs. As you mentioned, the picture you posted is exactly what I am looking for when I make my Italian meringue. Silky and smooth, but I would not call it stiff. If I needed it to be stiff, I would definitely turn it into a buttercream. I have never tried the higher syrup temperature tip the others mentioned, but cannot hurt to try. I only take mine to 240-242°F. As T said, I start whipping the egg whites when the syrup reaches 220°F. If you are adamant about a stiff meringue, why not utilize a French meringue?
  5. Did you feel the creme fraiche flavor came through on the ganache? I am going to make up a batch of creme fraiche today to try it out in a ganache. I love that idea!! But was curious if you got much of the tangy flavor from it. I have done a goat cheese ganache before that had a really nice smooth and tangy flavor.
  6. Did a chocolate gift box for a client for New Years. Truffle is Honey Clove (my fave of this run). Black heart is Salted Caramel. White heart is Raspberry Ganache. Dome is Bailey's Coffee Ganache. Was definitely a little rusty, but glad to play with chocolate again. Here's to hoping I get to do more in 2020!!
  7. The neutral glaze I use is two parts water to 1 part sugar, and 1/5th pectin. Boil for a couple of minutes and store until needed or use right away after cooling some. Have you tried it without the citric acid? Acids will start to set the pectin before you have a chance to use it. Have you thought about utilizing a simple gelatine-type neutral glaze instead of pectin based? Gelatine glazes usually give you a little bit more time to spread and smooth over the entremet before it sets up completely.
  8. If you feel like you might be incorporating too much air into your batter, you might be onto something. 20 qt mixers are so much more powerful than the 6 qts and require much less time to mix everything together. For a lot of my cake and cookies on the 20 qt, I am mixing on speed 1 only, after the creaming process is complete (sometimes speed 2 for the egg addition, and then speed 1 for the rest). I do not even bother softening the butter before creaming it in large mixers since they are powerful enough to soften it in a about a minute. Do you let the dough rest and hydrate in the cooler for a few hours after mixing? Do you scoop the dough and then let those rest in the cooler or freezer until ready to bake? What type of cookie are you making?
  9. Yes, I should have clarified using the glycerin type. It is the only one I use and forgot the others have alcohol.
  10. I know for cakes, mixing luster dusts with lemon extract is an alternative for people who do not wish to mix it with vodka or everclear. Like you said, the alcohol evaporates so it is annoying when people insist on zero alcohol touching something. When I have used dusts in the past for chocolates, I use a paint brush or blush applicator to lightly dust the molds and then flip over to knock out any excess. The molds, even when dry, hold on to plenty of the dust and really, it just takes a light touch of it on the brush to apply. I would trust what keychris said as well.
  11. I too have been making fudge the past couple of months for a few clients and have a few thoughts on it. Here in the South, it seems more commonly, people grew up with the crystallized type instead of the smooth and creamy fudge. When I first started making the chocolate version, I made it by taking it to 236°F, letting it cool for about 20 minutes and then agitating it in a mixer for a few minutes until smooth and then let it set up the rest of the way. It tasted and felt weird to me since growing up, I had only had the crystallized type. It was not bad, just took some getting used to (kept reminding me of Tootsie Rolls). Since then, I have gone to the crystallized version since it seems more in line with what most customers expect here. Secondly, I definitely do not use 234°F as the max temperature since so many things can go wrong with it. I shoot for 236-238°F since my thermometer could maybe be off a degree, or it my pan might not be uniform in temperature (I place the probe in the middle of the pot off the bottom, but my stove definitely heats higher on the upper left side than the lower right. If it is rainy, damp, and/or humid, I usually take it up to 240°F since the extra moisture can be a pain. 234°F is the very bottom end for fudge or it is at least where I live. You have a range of 234-241°F to work with, so I do not trust the lower end of the range in case something is off. My first batch of fudge, I took to 234°F and I had the same problem you are describing. One other time, something was off and it set up too loose to cut up so I set it aside wrapped in parchment paper until I had a chance to reheat it to the right temp. I put it in a cool, dark location and had no time to fool with it for about 2 weeks. In that time, it kept crystallizing and when I went to redo it, it was actually a perfect consistency by that point.
  12. Of course he did. What do you know about chocolate and the EZtemper 🙄 Don't ya just love it when people ask for help, but swear it just CANNOT be them that is causing the problem?
  13. Didn't even tell us what they are filled with...how rude 😋 Just joking. Those are beautiful.
  14. I always used dish washing gloves when I would pull sugar. Minas6907 suggestion looks like a winner too.
  15. 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.
  16. 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?
  17. I have GOT to make these!!! Just have to source some molds first.
  18. 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!!
  19. 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
  20. 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.
  21. 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!!
  22. 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.
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