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Miriam G

Cooling and rewarming effect on shelf life of bonbon fillings

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I've been having a discussion with an assistant in my kitchen about the potential dangers of cooling and then rewarming ganaches and other bonbon fillings, before actually filling the molds.

 

The issue is that I usually make all my fillings over the course of 1-2 days, and then the shells after that.   So that means that my fillings are refrigerated immediately after making them, and then I gently rewarm  (and re-emulsify with an immersion blender) before piping into my shells (which happens anywhere from 1-3 days after making them).

 

My assistant says that in her 7 years of working in chocolate shops, she has only ever piped fillings on the very same day they were made, as cooling and rewarming encourages bacteria growth.   She's very adamant about it and says that my process is risky and incorrect.

 

I have an AW meter and ensure that all my fillings are between 0.65-0.8AW.  Is this not sufficient?  Is she correct that I am creating additional risk for bacteria by cooling and rewarming?   

 

I don't want to put my customers' health at risk or damage the integrity of my product.  But I'm also a very small operation and do not have the people power to make exactly the needed quantities of all the fillings for 10-15 flavors in one day and ready to pipe exactly when the shells are ready.   I am open to changing our process if necessary, but would like additional verification and not rely on one person's limited experience.  I am also looking for a food scientist or lab to talk to about it.

 

Thank you for any and all input.

-Miriam

 

 

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Miriam,

Sounds like your assistant is a very assertive person!  I've never heard that before about added risk from keeping fillings, but I am not a scientist. I have to say that I don't think the Aw reading is all there is to it. A ganache could have a very low reading but still contain spoiled ingredients. That said, there really isn't a lot in a typical filling to spoil, especially if one is using ultra-pasteurized cream. Have you noticed the expiration date on your typical grocery store heavy cream?

 

As to your method, it's what I used to do all the time--making fillings ahead of time, refrigerating (or freezing if time required it), then reheating and piping into the shells. But I found that reheating is a very tricky process (and takes about as much time as making the filling from scratch). Anything with white chocolate will tend toward separating and be very difficult to re-emulsify. I gave up on that procedure. Now I make all the shells, keep them in a cool place, then make the fillings. There is no danger (of which I am aware) of keeping a chocolate shell for a long, long time. In this method, the fillings are made and used immediately.

 

If I have a substantial amount of a leftover filling, I vacuum-seal it and freeze it. Then when I want to use that filling again, I cut the leftover amount into small pieces, heat it very gently to around 80F, stirring frequently, and use an emulsion blender to combine it with the new amount that I have made.

 

Jim

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I hope your assistant is being overly cautious, because I warm and re-emulsify ganaches and buttercream icings all the time.  Usually it's leftovers kept in the freezer, but it might sit in the fridge a few days.  I guess any time you touch something there is potential to introduce contamination, but if it's high sugar and low AW and not that hospitable to mold or microbes in the first place I don't see where the danger is.

 

 

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I think with aW readings that low - and refrigeration after making - that you are quite right that what you are doing is safe. 

 

I'm a little uncertain where she got her information about the dangers of cooling and rewarming but in my years as the shelf life tutor of Ecole Chocolat - I don't recall teaching anyone that. So if you want to pull rank - tell her the old broad with more than 25 years experience says it's fine. 

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Thank you all so much for your responses.  This is very helpful and I'm breathing a little easier now.

 

Jim, I don't actually use any dairy products.  Everything I make is vegan (dark chocolate only) and the liquids for my ganaches are either coconut milk, coconut cream, soy milk, or some combo thereof.  So I would think that would decrease the risk even further, right?

 

Yes, she is assertive.  And I'm fine with assertiveness as long as it's based on facts and data (and a touch of humility doesn't hurt either).  I'll tell her what the 'old broad' said 🤣

 

Thanks again!!

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Probably she is thinking about condensation forming on the ganache surface during re-warming. If you store your ganache correctly (in a vacuum bag, or in a box with a piece of cellophan / shrink wrap / whatever_it's_called_in_English on direct contact with its surface) then there are no risks of condensation forming. If you store your ganache in open contact with air then she is right that you are risking to raise microbial activity: the dew caused by condensation is the perfect environment for microbes, especially in the danger zone (the temperature at which ganache sits while getting re-warmed).

If you store it correctly, just point her out that microbial activity is much slower at 4°C (fridge temperature) than at 16°C (bonbon storage temperature). 2 days at 4°C correspond to few hours at 16°C, so it's really a tiny tiny fraction of the planned shelf life of your bonbons (with those Aw readings).

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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On 5/10/2019 at 8:19 PM, teonzo said:

Probably she is thinking about condensation forming on the ganache surface during re-warming. If you store your ganache correctly (in a vacuum bag, or in a box with a piece of cellophan / shrink wrap / whatever_it's_called_in_English on direct contact with its surface) then there are no risks of condensation forming. If you store your ganache in open contact with air then she is right that you are risking to raise microbial activity: the dew caused by condensation is the perfect environment for microbes, especially in the danger zone (the temperature at which ganache sits while getting re-warmed).

If you store it correctly, just point her out that microbial activity is much slower at 4°C (fridge temperature) than at 16°C (bonbon storage temperature). 2 days at 4°C correspond to few hours at 16°C, so it's really a tiny tiny fraction of the planned shelf life of your bonbons (with those Aw readings).

 

 

 

Teo

 

Teo, that is super helpful, thank you.  I can definitely be more careful and consistent about covering with a piece of cellophane before closing the containers, as I have noticed condensation when I open the containers, sometimes.  I will pay close attention to this going forward, as well as look into the vacuum bag option. 

 

Thank you again, everyone, for your feedback and guidance.

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10 hours ago, Miriam G said:

I can definitely be more careful and consistent about covering with a piece of cellophane before closing the containers, as I have noticed condensation when I open the containers, sometimes.

 

That's something to pay attention on. Condensation is almost pure water, so its Aw is nearly 1. Aw1 + temperature in the danger zone + plenty of food (the ganache in contact with the condensation) = microbes have a huge party and multiply as mad. That condensation is going to be mixed with the ganache, so you are adding a sensible amount of undesired microbial activity.

 

 

 

10 hours ago, Miriam G said:

as well as look into the vacuum bag option

 

I would suggest to look into the vacuum boxes. I don't know how they are called in English, I mean plastic boxes with an airtight lid, there's a valve in the lid, you attach a vacuum pump and suck out the air, so you form a sort of vacuum inside the box (not 100% vacuum of course, depends on the vacuum pump). This way you have less troubles about storing and handling. Boxes store better in the fridge. You just need to pick the box from the fridge and let it thaw at room temperature, without worrying too much if it stays at room temperature a couple hours more. It's much easier to pick every single gram of ganache from a box than from a bag. Plus you can use that box when you re-emulsify the ganache, no need to transfer the ganache in another bowl.

Those boxes are re-usable and not that expensive, so in the long term you save money (vacuum bags are costly and you don't re-use them). Those boxes come in various sizes, so look carefully for the ones that suit your quantities better. Same for the vacuum pumps, read the specifics of many of them before buying one, even if they are pretty cheap nowadays. Usually pumps and boxes have native attachments, so you need to use the ones made from the same producer, otherwise you risk they won't match.

 

 

 

Teo

 


Teo

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Thank you again, Teo.  Really helpful ideas and information! 🙏

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3 hours ago, teonzo said:

I would suggest to look into the vacuum boxes. I don't know how they are called in English, I mean plastic boxes with an airtight lid, there's a valve in the lid, you attach a vacuum pump and suck out the air, so you form a sort of vacuum inside the box (not 100% vacuum of course, depends on the vacuum pump). This way you have less troubles about storing and handling. Boxes store better in the fridge. You just need to pick the box from the fridge and let it thaw at room temperature, without worrying too much if it stays at room temperature a couple hours more. It's much easier to pick every single gram of ganache from a box than from a bag. Plus you can use that box when you re-emulsify the ganache, no need to transfer the ganache in another bowl.

Those boxes are re-usable and not that expensive, so in the long term you save money (vacuum bags are costly and you don't re-use them). Those boxes come in various sizes, so look carefully for the ones that suit your quantities better. Same for the vacuum pumps, read the specifics of many of them before buying one, even if they are pretty cheap nowadays. Usually pumps and boxes have native attachments, so you need to use the ones made from the same producer, otherwise you risk they won't match.

 

Teo

 

 

If it's not too much trouble, could you point us to an example of these boxes? I have spent some time searching without success--Google came up with huge vacuum storage containers, but no storage boxes to which a pump could be attached.

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2 hours ago, Jim D. said:

 

If it's not too much trouble, could you point us to an example of these boxes? I have spent some time searching without success--Google came up with huge vacuum storage containers, but no storage boxes to which a pump could be attached.

 

While we wait for Teo to answer, I'll put my oar in as a non-chocolatier. Here is an example of a 12" x 6" x 3" clear box to which a pump can be attached. Is this too small for production purposes? If so, there may be larger alternatives among the professional sources.


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1 hour ago, Smithy said:

 

While we wait for Teo to answer, I'll put my oar in as a non-chocolatier. Here is an example of a 12" x 6" x 3" clear box to which a pump can be attached. Is this too small for production purposes? If so, there may be larger alternatives among the professional sources.

 

Don't know how I missed that. It looks like what Teo described. Thanks very much. Needless to say, care would need to be taken (as with all vacuum solutions to storing chocolates) not to end up with the insides of the bonbons on the outside).

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6 hours ago, Miriam G said:

Thank you again, Teo.  Really helpful ideas and information! 🙏

 

You are welcome!

 

Some considerations after all this.

You listened to your employee and questioned your own working method, you should be proud about this, it's the only way to get better time after time. Most people would have reacted saying "shut up, I'm the boss here, my shop my rules".

Better having an assertive employee that questions you aggressively, than a passive one that just repeats things without thinking.

If I were in your shoes, I would say to this employee something along these lines: "thank you very much for pointing out this matter, I hope you appreciate I'm listening to your suggestions, but I also hope next time you will use a bit of diplomacy". She needs to understand that she is an active part of the operations and is going to be listened, but she also needs to understand that you are the boss in charge there.

 

 

 

Teo

 


Teo

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4 hours ago, Jim D. said:

If it's not too much trouble, could you point us to an example of these boxes? I have spent some time searching without success--Google came up with huge vacuum storage containers, but no storage boxes to which a pump could be attached.

 

I hope it's not a case where our choice in Italy is wider than the one in the USA (usually we are way behind with kitchen appliances).

I'm linking some stuff on Amazon Italy. One example is FoodSaver 10X. You can use it with many different boxes, for example this box (square section) 1.8 liter capacity, or this set of 3 boxes (round section) 0.7 liter, 1.4 liter and 2.36 liter. I suppose the round boxes would be better for the purpose of this thread, it's easier to re-emulsify a ganache with a stick blender in a box with round section than in one with square / rectangular section.

There are various producers that make this kind of stuff, almost all the ones that make the machines that suck air out of bags.

There is also the cheap version with a manual pump, but I don't see much sense in that.

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Jim D. said:

Needless to say, care would need to be taken (as with all vacuum solutions to storing chocolates) not to end up with the insides of the bonbons on the outside).

 

Thanks for pointing out this detail. I was talking about using these boxes to store ganache in the refrigerator before using it to fill bonbons. Those boxes can be used to store finished bonbons too, but better following your suggestion before having bad surprises. For that purpose I would say square / rectangular boxes are better.

 

 

 

Teo

 


Teo

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Posted (edited)

More food saver containers.  Not sure how well the seal holds in the freezer.

 

This is the one that intrigued me when I first saw it a few years back.  More here. Again - not sure about the seal in the freezer.

 

And vaculids which also fit on standard stainless containers.


Edited by Kerry Beal (log)
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Take a look at this: 

Though I find the concept of talking to my food containers creepy.  Guess I'm old school.

 

 

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