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Shelf life of homemade confections


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My chocolate business is new.

Up until now I have only had small orders which were easy to fill.

I would be able to make the truffles and molded pieces 2 days before delivery.

My Valentine's day orders have grown (good news) to a point where I must begin production much earlier.

Freshness is of the upmost importance to me.

Can anyone give me some advice on how to handle this issue.

How far in advance can I begin production for a Feb. 12th delivery date?

I will be making two molded chocolates and a variety of hand rolled,dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts and coconut.

Maintaining quality and appearance comes first but I would like to be able to complete the production with the least insanity possible.

Thanks in advance

Carol

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Hi Carol!  :rolleyes:

What I do when Ineed a big number of chocolates and have to start ahead of time is to make and freeze. Do you know the process? If not, I 'll be happy to go through it. It is best to keep freshness and quality.

bye!

Hi Lior,

so glad to hear from you.

I do know the process but I haven't tried it yet but I trust your judgment and will go for it.

I am thinking of freezing the truffles plain and then dipping in tempered chocolate and nuts or coconut in small batches as ordered.

Do the molded chocolates keep a snap and shine after freezing?

Thanks so much for your help

Carol

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Hi. Yes they keep their snap. You can either store in those airtight food boxes- try to make the container as full as poss. Label and date and wrap in a few layers of saran wrap. Or you can use those food vaccum bags- Reynolds and extract most but not all the air out. There is a thread here somewhere with pictures. Both work well.

How lovely that you have some bigger orders - congrats!! Enjoy!

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What proportions are you using in your truffles? Have you done any shelf life testing? Most truffles that don't have really soft centers or high proportions of liquid ingredients will have about a 3 week shelf life. Using glucose syrup or invert sugar in your centers also helps to bind water and extend shelf life. Because I do one big production weekend for my sales, and have to allow time for shipping, I usually end up making my chocolates a week to 10 days before the holiday they're aimed at, and I just mark the boxes with a best before date that allows for the 3 week shelf life.

Freezing is certainly an option, but if you're talking about having to start a week early instead of just a couple of days, I'm not sure it would be worth your time - the freezing process takes multiple days going in and coming out of the freezer anyway...

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Thank you for your reply Tammy.

I have done some shelf life testing and 3 weeks is about right.

For this production, I have kitchen time today and then on Feb. 7.

So I thought it would be a good time to try the freezing process to get a head start and see if I like the results and how my use of time works out.

Thanks for all your help.

Carol

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I think freezing is worth doing to learn the technique. Somebody who attended an Andrew Schotts class (Sote23?) said that Schotts said that EVERYBODy freezes.

I use a foodsaver + bags from ebay. As Lior mentioned, you can use the reusable Reynolds bags (forum member David J does this). Greweling also has a blurb or two in his book about freezing. Wybauw has a shorter paragraph or two if I remember. Somebody (I think Schotts again, on here) said don't use a commercial vacuum sealer because you'll end up with mush afterwards. Just use an el-cheapo and you don't need or want the perfect vacuum.

Edited by ejw50 (log)
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ejw50,

I am in the process of trying it, I want to se to what degree the chocolates keep their freshness.

I used the ziploc vacuum freezer bags with the pump, I couldn't find the Reynolds, it does the same thing but the pump is manual(no battery).

I will be doing the reverse process starting next week.

I will report back on my results.

Carol

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  • 7 months later...

Firstly, I'm sorry for my poor English ...

I would like to ask a question about the shelf life of pieces.

It is generally accepted that most of cream ganache filled chocolates have 3 weeks shelf life. I'm controlling my pieces at the end of the 3 weeks period, and trying to decide which one is bad, which one may stay in the boxes by tasting, looking at the appearances etc. I would like to learn how I can measure shelf life of my pieces more safely. Are there any device or definitive method to control and measure the shelf life of pieces more accurately?

Thanks.

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The definitive test is for aW - or activity of water. There are several machines out there, the least expensive around $1500 US or so, but you might be able to find a lab that will test this for you.

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Thank you, but if I'm not wrong, aW may indicate how long the piece may stay in the shelf. When finished the piece in the kitchen, if you know the aW of your piece exactly, you may decide by looking at the table (I suppose there is such a table) how many days that piece may stay in the boxes if all the other conditions are ideal. Humidity, room temperature, light etc. I don't know ... is there any critical aW level, below it, we can decide that our pieces are bad?

But, let's say we don't know the aW of our piece at the beginning, or our environmental conditions are a little bit different. And, there are some pieces on my shelf and I want to decide which one is bad, which one is ok. Is there any device saying that? Or, the only way is tasting, lookin at the appearances?

Edited by Ceviz (log)
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There are factors which you have not listed that will give a ballpark figure as to the shelf life of the product. The biggest factor is the ingredients, then from there the proportions. I know of a gentleman here in my city that has truffles going bad after one week. They spoil because he has all the ingredient ratios out of balance. A properly made bonbon with no chemical preservatives can go from 4-6 weeks. Another chocolatier (a member here) had his product tested after 12 weeks and there was no mold or bacterial growth. The flavour was not as good. Shelf life, therefore, is dependant on your recipe.

If is still tastes okay then you probably are okay.

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Prairiegirl, thank you so much.

I'm wondering about exactly that section ... how "another chocolatier (a member here) had his product tested after 12 weeks." It seems that there is no definitive, but at the same time low-medium cost way or a measurement device for a chocolatier for this testing for making in his shop. Tasting is the only way in this case.

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Shelf life is a very, very complex topic. Aw is only one measure of how long something may last - it's a measure of how much water is available to support microbiological growth - typically anything about 0.6 will be sufficient to grow things. I'd be very, very skeptical if your average, cream based ganache would last at room temperatures for more then 3 weeks. You can lower your Aw by putting increasing the amount of solids - typically a corn syrup is used for this, or something with a very low molecular weight (because they're small, you can fit more of them in a given space).

That said, if you have a high Aw product, you can still get good shelf life if you modulate other things - such as temperature (keep the temperature low), or include anti-microbials (chemicals that prevent or slow the reproductive process of organisms - such as potassium sorbate). Conversely, just because your Aw is below 0.6 doesn't mean you can get infinite microbiological shelf life either. Microbes are EVERYWHERE. Literally. If you have a high concentration of them where you work, or just happen to make your ganache on a day when they're high, you may have a fairly low Aw and still get growth. And we've not even touched on pH....

Best reco? If you're going to make a water (cream) based ganache, and want to get more then 2 weeks ambient shelf life out of it, make the recipe 5 different times and measure the Aw (pay someone 30 bucks to do it). If it's above 0.55 or so, adjust your humectants (corn syrup, sorbitol, invert sugar, etc), reduce your cream/water, or add an antimicrobial.

Again, generalizations - it's a huge topic, with loads of books devoted to it. Can't cover it all here.

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Sebastian, could you point out some of the books on this subject?

I have learned to live with a 2-3 week shelf life on cream based ganaches, but my two biggest challanges in this business are packaging and increasing shelf life. I am constantly developing newer items with longer shelf life--nut bases, PdF bases, butter ganaches, caramels, nougats, and composites, but the holy grail is cream ganaches.

I'd like to read all I can about this.

Regards,

Edward

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Ceviz,

I'm guessing I'm the chocolatier in question as I had my chocolates tested in a lab and they were free of bacteria and mold after 12 weeks. It was pretty expensive and would need to be done for each recipe but was needed for one of our large customers.

I don't add any preservatives but do use glucose and invert sugar. I never tasted the pieces but I know that in general the flavor is best for 3-4 weeks and then begins to weaken....it varies depending on the piece but that is my general observation. The preparation of the ganache and the ingredients is very important but I believe the storage of the piece after production is probably a bigger variable in the shelf life. If it is stored in an optimium environment, it will last much longer than say stored in a wholesalers location where the temperature is 74 degrees during the day and even higher at night.

Another factor to consider is the type of chocolate you use in the center. While white chocolate has a shorter shelf life than dark chocolate in its solid form, I believe it has a longer shelf life as the ganache base due to the increase in sugar content and the decrease in cream/water content in making the ganache. A caramel has a very long shelf life in general and you will see many prominent artisan chocolatiers with ganaches that in many ways more resemble a caramel. I also think one reason we got a long shelf life is that we "double" seal the bottom of the bon bon reducing the chance for air to get to the ganache. I believe it was in a class with Stephane Glacier where he said a good seal will prolong shelf life and so I try to make sure there is no thin shell or holes in the bottom of the bon bon.

There are some tricks (actually tools) that can increase shelf life that I have not seen discussed much here, namely a vacuum mixer. I think many chocolatiers consider its use a "competitive" edge and so it is not mentioned often. It's cost can be prohibitive but it can add a few weeks to shelf life which can be a significant gain if you go from 3-4 weeks to 5-6 weeks. One thing I also always do is reboil any steeped cream, I never allow it to sit out and cool then pour over chocolate. The only cases of mold we've ever had were 2 batches done when we steeped cream and then my intern poured it directly over the chocolate without reboiling. I've also often wondered if boiling cream in a microwave might have an impact on extending shelf life (although I'm sure it brings a host of other concerns). Also we never use a whisk or even a spatula to mix the ganache, we always finish it with an immersion blender or will use a vacuum mixer (in the near future).

Another factor to consider in the real (or rather retail) world is the rotation of product. I've seen people restock by filling the back and then continue to pull from the newest product leaving some aging product up front. If you sell to a wholesale account it is very difficult to manage this process. Temperature is a critical factor.....the way the lab accelerates testing for shelf life is to increase temperature. I'd guess that this probably impacts shelf life as much as the actual construction of the piece.

It would be interesting to do a study where multiple people use the same recipe and then test for shelf life while documenting other critical factors that might be overlooked such as:

1. Quality of ingredients: Did you buy your cream at a store that might not properly store it? Are you using the best ingredients or the cheapest?

2. Process: Film the process of making the ganache then compare to another person who used the same recipe and ingredients.

3. Environment: What is the temperature of your working kitchen? What is the humidity etc?

4. Chocolate used: Is there a difference in shelf life based on the brand of chocolate? Does tempered chocolate improve shelf life?

5. Cleanliness: How clean is your kitchen, how clean are you and your tools?

Just a few thoughts, I'm sure someone less sleep deprived could add more. I'm very interested in shelf life but it is of primary concern if you are wholesaling your product. My experience in 2 years is that our retail customers never have the chocolate long enough from time of purchase for any shelf life issues but our wholesale partners do sometimes have issues which often are more controlled by them rather than me. I'd also love to hear more thoughts on the subject.

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My collection has 25 pieces, and most of them are cream based ganaches. I have averagely 4 weeks of shelf life for my pieces, and none of them below 3 weeks in my environmental conditions. After 3 weeks, I'm starting to taste for taking out possible spoilt ones from the shelf. At this point, my original interest was to find these bad ones with more reliable and certain method than my tasting. That is, I was looking for a affordable device that tastes instead of me, and will say "take out this one" or "not spoilt yet" scientifically when inserting into the piece :rolleyes:

Thank you Truffle Guy. I've learnt so many details about the increasing shelf life from your detailed explanation.

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if you want to control your confections shelf life you need to do the following:

get an aW measuring device, it will give you confidence in your product. an aW reading

above 0.80 is save for up to 2 month (to go below 0.6 is absolutely unnecessary)

if produced under good condition with least possible contamination.

get a copy of jp wybauws second book (fine chocolates 2) he is truly the grandmaster

of chocolate. his is specialised in inshelf life of chocolates. you find many versatile recipes

for all sorts od ganaches, even some with a very long shelf life.

use as many different sugar types as possible (glucose, invert sugar, sorbitol or even glycerol)

invert sugar, sorbitol and glycarol are very powerful in reducing aW values if you combine

them they are even mightier.

avoid expensive tools that claim to make your ganache more hygienic by mixing in vacuum.

the moment you release the vacuum you get microbes an spores back into your product ;-)

cheers

torsten schöneich

toertchen toertchen

patissier chocolatier cafe

cologne, germany

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Torsten,

I have heard about using many types of sugar in a ganache to increase shelf life but I have forgotten the science behind it... Is it because the different types of sugars prevent crystallization therefore the sugar remains 'bonded' to the liquid ingredients thereby reducing Aw? :blink:

Isn't there also a reason for using different types of fat? Not in relation to shelf life but for mouthfeel or something like that??

Fascinating stuff.

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if you want to control your confections shelf life you need to do the following:

avoid expensive tools that claim to make your ganache more hygienic by mixing in vacuum.

the moment you release the vacuum you get microbes an spores back into your product ;-)

cheers

torsten schöneich

Your point on a vacuum is not accurate.

A vacuum does extend shelf life, minor as it may be, because it keeps your ganache from having air bubbles in it. Yes, the surface will be exposed to air with spores, etc as soon as you open the mixer, but that's not what the vacuum is meant to be used for, it's purpose is to keep air bubbles out of your ganache. Bacteria needs air to grow, so if you take out as much air as you can, it helps hinder the growth of bacteria.

I have never heard of using multiple sugars in a ganache to extend shelf life, so that's new to me.

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