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jrshaul

Chocolate and confectionery: Where to start?

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After mucking about with some time with pseudo-truffles and other cheaters' confections, I finally broke down and learned the process of tempering chocolate. The end results were even better than I expected - a delightfully crunchy tempered shell on the first try, filled with a wonderfully soft ganache impossible for an un-dipped truffle - , and I'd like to figure out where I can go from here. The main areas where I have questions are:

1. Ingredients. I'm quite enamored with Trader Joes' 72% dark chocolate due to the $10/kilogram price point, but I'm a bit stuck as to where to go from here. I can obviously modify my ganache proportions with respect to butter, chocolate, or cream, but I'm a bit lost as to where to go from here. While fresh ingredients are always nice, there are an awful lot of cases where extracts are more effective, and I learned the hard way that Penzey's orange does not a pleasant truffle make. I'd also like to try non-chocolate truffles and candies - is there an easy option on these?

2. Equipment. Call me pedantic, but I hate the time, effort, and inconsistency required for making large batches of hand-rolled truffles. I've seen lots of inexpensive chocolate molds, but I'm a bit lost with respect to plastic or silicone. I also suspect that my use of an instant-read electronic meat thermometer for chocolate is not entirely ideal. And maybe there's something else I'm forgetting?

3. Books. I'm on a tight budget, but the city library system is well-stocked and Google Books has myriad options. Can anyone recommend some literature, or, better still, YouTube videos?

4. Ideas? I'm hoping to make some mocha truffles next by simmering coarsely crushed coffee beans in the cream, then straining before making the ganache, but I'm pretty much stuck after that. Chili and orange truffles are both promising, but where do I go from here?

5. This is a highly specific question, but does anyone know if homemade fondant will keep at room temperature? What if I add a little everclear?

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This eGullet class and Q & A might get you headed in the right direction

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If there's one book you should get, it's Grewling's "Chocolates and Confections". More than likely your libarary will have it, but I have seen it in Chapters(CDN bookstore chain) for under $60.00. Here you will find information not only on chocolate and it's manufacture, but information and recipies on ganaches of all sorts, caramels, nougats, brittles, etc. etc. etc..

You're forgetting one huge impact on ganaches--booze! You can substitute part of the cream with any flavour of spirits or eau de vie's. I don't suggest liquers, as these have a low alcohol content and high sugar content.

a 72% chocoalte is exactly that--72% cocoa content. But that's kinda like saying all red wines are made with red grapes. There are huge differences in the type of cocoa bean, the region it was grown in, how it was processed before shipping to the factory, and how it was processed at the factory. Read your labels!!! Any chocolate mnfctrd and sold in the E.U. can not have any dairy content in it. Milk chocolate is another designation however. The U.S has some of the strangest laws regarding chocoalte, for instance "Bittersweet" mut have a minimu of 35% cocoa content, and Semisweet? 35% ocoa content. After that, anything goes.

The best thermometer for tempering (or properly called "pre crystalization) is in your medicine cabinet. Chocolate melts at just a few degrees belwo body temperture, and most fever thermometers are scaled in percentages of one degreee, more than accurate enough for chocoalte work.

Silicone molds are lousy for chocolate--they flex and this is not good for chocolate as you can't level off and scrape the molds clean. You can get cheap (thermoformed) plastic molds--usually for under $3.00 each, and these are O.K. for chocolate work, you can get good results, but thse molds fatigue and crack very easily. Remember all molds are exact negatives of what you cast--any scratches in the mold will show up as scars.

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This eGullet class and Q & A might get you headed in the right direction

...yeah, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. Thanks for pointing it out!

You're forgetting one huge impact on ganaches--booze! You can substitute part of the cream with any flavour of spirits or eau de vie's. I don't suggest liquers, as these have a low alcohol content and high sugar content.

I actually added quite a bit of bourbon to my first batch of truffles, a roughly 2:2:1 ratio of chocolate to booze to cream, and they came out wonderfully. However, I'm a bit nervous of using this quantity in the future, as liquor is mostly water and water can reputedly break an emulsion. Lecithin seems to make this somewhat less likely, but I'm wondering if I'd be better off adding it to the cream and steaming off the excess liquid. Or am I missing something obvious?

a 72% chocoalte is exactly that--72% cocoa content. But that's kinda like saying all red wines are made with red grapes. There are huge differences in the type of cocoa bean, the region it was grown in, how it was processed before shipping to the factory, and how it was processed at the factory. Read your labels!!!

While Trader Joe's chocolate is obviously less than ideal, it's the cheapest stuff I can buy that doesn't have dairy solids or waxes or other nonsense in it. I'm not averse to buying large quantities of chocolate, but anything over $10/pound is out of my price range, and at $4.54/pound the TJ's stuff is cheap enough I can afford to make mistakes.

On a related note, I'd really quite like to try a green tea flavored confection. I've had a few that appeared to be made of some sort of combination of cocoa butter and fondant, but I'm a bit lost on this one. Any suggestions?

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You can make green tea flavoured ganaches quite simply by steeping tea leaves in cream, and then making a ganache--use white chocolate to keep the subtle tea flavours, but enrobe in dark chocolate.

Actually cream has more water in it than booze. Plain jane whipping cream is usually 33%--33% butterfat content, so that's 66% water. Most boozes are around 40-50%(80-100 proof in the States) or higher. You can make ganaches with all-booze and no cream, but the flavour (and alcohol) evaporates pretty quickly, even when enrobed or in a chocolate shell.

Stick with tj's chocolate for now. You can get decent chocolates at specialty stores, but the mark up is pretty high. Have a peek at some of the websites like Chefrubber or Chocolat-chocolat, they sell good chocolate at decent prices, but don't know about what minimum quantities areha

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Stick with tj's chocolate for now. You can get decent chocolates at specialty stores, but the mark up is pretty high. Have a peek at some of the websites like Chefrubber or Chocolat-chocolat, they sell good chocolate at decent prices, but don't know about what minimum quantities are

Agreed on the Greweling book recommendation above. He covers many types of both chocolates and confections, explains the science of how things work, and has troubleshooting guidelines for when things don't turn out as hoped.

Since Chef Rubber is in Las Vegas, you will need to pay high $$ shipping via next day air with ice packs for anything perishable - unless you really want to re-temper all your chocolate once you get it after it's melted in the 100+ degree heat that is summer in the desert. Or wait until winter. Check with specialty wholesalers in your area to see if they will do a will call order for you. If you can find Callebaut, Cacao Barry, or Felchlin at wholesale prices (Valrhona is still more than $10/# wholesale) it would be worth buying the 5kg/11# box.

Polycarbonate molds are around $25 each, which is a big investment if you only use them once or twice then give up, but will last for years if taken care of. JB Prince has good prices on molds (better than Chef Rubber), as does Design & Realisation in Toronto (although shipping to the US makes up for most of the savings, or at least shipping to the West coast does :sad: ). Chocolate molds make a great gift, if you can drop hints around your birthday or other holidays to people who might benefit from encouraging your chocolatiering.

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I found some Callebaut extra bitter for $5.27/pound online before shipping, though the going rate at most places is about 20% more. I suspect ordering any before October at the earliest is asking for eleven pounds of separated goo, but the price is only a hair over Trader Joes' and the quality, I would presume, somewhat better.

http://www.amazon.com/Callebaut-Extra-Bitter-70-Block/dp/B001U5GWWY

Does anyone know if invert sugar is preferable to corn syrup for making truffles? An awful lot of recipes call for the latter.

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Does anyone know if invert sugar is preferable to corn syrup for making truffles? An awful lot of recipes call for the latter.

I usually use glucose syrup, which is similar to corn syrup but much thicker. This is what Peter Greweling calls for in many of his recipes. I get it from one of my restaurant suppliers, $10 for a 2 kg tub. Another chocolatier, either Ewald Notter or Jean-Pierre Wybauw often uses dry powdered sucralose, available from Chef Rubber or probably other places. In short, corn syrup is the cheapest and most accessible liquid invert sugar, or you can also use honey if the honey flavor works with your other flavors.

There are dry invert sugars and liquid invert sugars, and I don't think they are all necessarily interchangeable.

P.S. where do you live? Someone here or on a regional cooking & baking board might be able to recommend good local chocolate sources.


Edited by pastrygirl (log)

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In short, corn syrup is the cheapest and most accessible liquid invert sugar, or you can also use honey if the honey flavor works with your other flavors.

I think I'm a little confused. Corn syrup is an invert sugar? Obviously it's a glucose syrup but do glucose syrups serve the same functions as invert sugar? As far as I understand the concepts (granted, that isn't very far) the primary function of corn syrup in a recipe is to prevent recrystallization of sugar, which invert sugar will also do. But is corn syrup as hygroscopic as invert sugar? Will it lower water-activity level and extend the shelf-life of a confection the way invert sugar does? Is corn syrup as sweet as invert sugar? Depending on the role it plays in the recipe, I'm not sure if substituting one for the other would give the same results. But I've never worked with invert sugar so I could be wrong. I'm just going by what I read in Grewling's books. Could someone please clarify for me? Thanks.

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I was under the impression that invert sugar was standard table sugar (sucrose) heated with an acid to split it into glucose and fructose? Aside from the obvious difference in sweetening, I find that corn syrup has peculiar aftertaste that I quite enjoy in pecan pie but would prefer to avoid in my confectionery.

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Hmm, too close to bedtime to check references now, but I thought 'invert sugar' was a more general term referring to a variety of products - glucose syrup, corn syrup, honey, atomized glucose, trimoline, sucralose - with a variety of practical applications. Still so much to learn...

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Hmm, too close to bedtime to check references now, but I thought 'invert sugar' was a more general term referring to a variety of products - glucose syrup, corn syrup, honey, atomized glucose, trimoline, sucralose - with a variety of practical applications. Still so much to learn...

From what I understand, invert sugar is composed of monosacchrides - glucose and fructose - and usually produced by heating sucrose (table sugar) with a bit of acid?

I may also speak blasphemy when I say this, but it seems pretty much identical to high fructose corn syrup, though I suspect the proportions and consistency are a bit different.

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According to the .pdf Kerry linked, the main difference in between the sweetness, otherwise they serve the same properties.

Hey, and jrshaul, check out this site:

http://keylink.org/instructionalvideos/

It's kinda neat, theres alot of information in those videos. They sell a dvd with 14 videos, but you can just stream all the videos from the site.

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A question: How would you go about making coffee-flavored truffles? Simmering coffee grounds in cream and then filtering out the grounds doesn't work quite how I would hope.

Hey, and jrshaul, check out this site:

It's kinda neat, theres alot of information in those videos. They sell a dvd with 14 videos, but you can just stream all the videos from the site.

That's a fabulous website - thanks!

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A question: How would you go about making coffee-flavored truffles? Simmering coffee grounds in cream and then filtering out the grounds doesn't work quite how I would hope.

Hey, and jrshaul, check out this site:

It's kinda neat, theres alot of information in those videos. They sell a dvd with 14 videos, but you can just stream all the videos from the site.

That's a fabulous website - thanks!

Whole beans and hot cream, a little expresso powder and some coffee flavoured booze works well.

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A question: How would you go about making coffee-flavored truffles? Simmering coffee grounds in cream and then filtering out the grounds doesn't work quite how I would hope.

What about it is not working out so well? I only have 2 books on chocolates, Chocolates and Confections and The Art of the Chocolatier. Both suggest boiling the cream and steeping the coffee for a few min. Maybe your coffee to cream ratios are a bit off? Like I said, what is it that isnt working out for you?

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A question: How would you go about making coffee-flavored truffles? Simmering coffee grounds in cream and then filtering out the grounds doesn't work quite how I would hope.

What about it is not working out so well? I only have 2 books on chocolates, Chocolates and Confections and The Art of the Chocolatier. Both suggest boiling the cream and steeping the coffee for a few min. Maybe your coffee to cream ratios are a bit off? Like I said, what is it that isnt working out for you?

While I very obviously used excessive coffee in my first batch, the acidity and sourness are unpleasantly high, giving a flavor not unlike cold espresso. I might use a very light roast instead of a dark roast; alternately, I may have simmered the grounds in cream for too long or at excessive heat. Kalhua would no doubt solve the problem neatly, but a bottle of kaluha costs an awful lot more than a few teaspoons of beans.

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While I very obviously used excessive coffee in my first batch, the acidity and sourness are unpleasantly high, giving a flavor not unlike cold espresso. I might use a very light roast instead of a dark roast; alternately, I may have simmered the grounds in cream for too long or at excessive heat. Kalhua would no doubt solve the problem neatly, but a bottle of kaluha costs an awful lot more than a few teaspoons of beans.

You might try a cold infusion, more sugar, or a little mini airline-size bottle of liquor.

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I made a batch of the "Egullet introductory course" caramel today with a few minor differences..and one very big one. I increased the vanilla by half and heated the final product all the way to 145, and added 500g of Trader Joes' chevre I had in the fridge. While the caramel on the cooking utensils was rock-hard as might be expected, the addition of the chevre produced a sort of pleasant caramel custard. It's very nice on its' own, but I think I'll try enrobing it in chocolate tomorrow to produce pralines so that it might be enjoyed at room temperature.

Incidentally, can anyone recommend an affordable enrobing chocolate? Trader Joes' 72% is a bit brittle, while their milk chocolate goes soft very easily. Maybe their 53% dark chocolate, which includes more cocoa butter, would be more suitable?

You might try a cold infusion, more sugar, or a little mini airline-size bottle of liquor.

But buying commercially produced flavoring of a sort I might produce myself would be cheating. Where's the fun in that? :smile:

I'll try the cold infusion next time.


Edited by jrshaul (log)

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Incidentally, can anyone recommend an affordable enrobing chocolate? Trader Joes' 72% is a bit brittle, while their milk chocolate goes soft very easily. Maybe their 53% dark chocolate, which includes more cocoa butter, would be more suitable?

Darker chocolate is always going to be "snappier" than chocolate with milk fat. The milk fat has a softening effect. I like the contrast of a brittle shell on a soft center. More cocoa butter increases fluidity and will give you a thinner shell, while more cacao solids make it stronger (as far as I know - at the world pastry forum a few years ago the chef doing the showpiece demo said to always use dark chocolate for structural strength, and to spray it white if you want the look of white chocolate).

The best chocolate to use to enrobe your caramels is the chocolate that tastes best with your caramels. Sorry, probably not the answer you were looking for :smile: You can blend the 53% and the 72% to make a 60% if neither is perfect for you.

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Incidentally, can anyone recommend an affordable enrobing chocolate? Trader Joes' 72% is a bit brittle, while their milk chocolate goes soft very easily. Maybe their 53% dark chocolate, which includes more cocoa butter, would be more suitable?

Darker chocolate is always going to be "snappier" than chocolate with milk fat. The milk fat has a softening effect. I like the contrast of a brittle shell on a soft center. More cocoa butter increases fluidity and will give you a thinner shell, while more cacao solids make it stronger (as far as I know - at the world pastry forum a few years ago the chef doing the showpiece demo said to always use dark chocolate for structural strength, and to spray it white if you want the look of white chocolate).

The best chocolate to use to enrobe your caramels is the chocolate that tastes best with your caramels. Sorry, probably not the answer you were looking for :smile: You can blend the 53% and the 72% to make a 60% if neither is perfect for you.

I'd mix some dark and some milk.

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Incidentally, can anyone recommend an affordable enrobing chocolate? Trader Joes' 72% is a bit brittle, while their milk chocolate goes soft very easily. Maybe their 53% dark chocolate, which includes more cocoa butter, would be more suitable?

If it's 53% cocoa content, what do you thik the other 47% is? Allow 1% for vanilla and soy lecethin and you stillhave 46% sugar--almost half. That, combined with a caramel is going to be very sweet.

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