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Bonbon flavor lifespan


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I am very new to the world of chocolate. I  do have goals, but I honestly don’t want to have a business. I’m old, and ready to retire, so I don’t want any of that stress. Mainly I’m about making chocolate from beans, but I’ve started making bonbons as an aside to use what I make. So here’s something interesting I’ve found. One of my early efforts was a lavender ganache made from Greweling’s recipe in his book. When I made it, the ganache punched me in the mouth with the lavender flavor. I got worried at the strength and lack of sweetness, and added a small layer of a soft caramel to the filling. A few days later, the lavender mellowed out and was quite nice. The caramel was a nice addition, but totally not necessary. I had a similar experience with a whisky ganache. We also recently bought some bonbons from a bean to bar place not far from us, and some of them it was a head scratch to taste what was supposedly in there. 

 

How does one deal with that? I can’t imagine being a commercial business and putting out a product that doesn’t taste at all of what is says, but also I can’t imagine putting out something that tasted like the lavender ganache I made which needed a week to mellow out.

 

Just curious...

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Ah the million dollar question. Shelf life involves not just safety but flavour maintenance. 
 

I like to build layers of flavour - so for a fruit - some puree, some freeze dried powder, a bit of compound and maybe a few drops of Sosa Flavour or essential oil.

 

 

Edited by Kerry Beal (log)
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There are no sure rules for this, it's all on a case to case basis.

Flavor strength depends on where you live and what people expect. The "traditional style" (Belgium, Switzerland and France) calls for subtle flavors, you need to taste the chocolate first, the chocolate again second, then concentrate to find the subtle flavor. A Belgian chocolatier aims for his lavender to be really in the background. From what I gather, US customers want their flavors to be frontal, not in the far background. It depends also on the way you sell/give your bonbons: if you are making a valentine box with 4 different bonbons then you don't know in which order they will be tasted, so you need to avoid the chance that eating the "wrong" one as first will ruin the enjoyment of the rest. Extreme example: the chili bonbon adapts to the the rose bonbon strength, not the opposite.

About flavor variation during time, the only certain thing is that the taste of a bonbon will change with time. How and how much? Only one way to know: direct experience. It depends on lots of factors. Lavender ganache made from dried flowers is one thing, made from essential oil is another. If you make it from flowers, then it depends on the flowers themselves (which subspecies, how old, so on) and how you infuse them (temperature and time, for lavender it's always better to infuse below 70°C). In some cases the flavor witll fade noticeably after 1 week, in other cases after 1 month, in others it will fade really slightly. The way it fades depends also on the chocolate you are using.

Then there is the composition factor, this is especially true for multilayer bonbons. Water migration will happen between the various layers, "merging" the flavors. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. There are cases where the bonbon will taste "raw" during the first days, then after the flavors will merge it will taste harmonious. Other cases will be the opposite. Other cases you won't notice much difference. Then there are the cases where one flavor looses strength, the other flavor not, resulting in loosing balance.

Best way to deal with this is doing a test batch. You freeze almost the whole small batch and keep out 10-15 bonbons, taste one every 5-7 days, to check how this new bonbon evolves with time. If it holds up to your expectations then you put out for sale the frozen ones and keep the recipe. If it tastes "wrong" for the first X days then it tastes "good" then you write that that bonbon must be "aged" for X days before going out for sale. If it's not on par with your standards, well, you work to fix the recipe and eat your mistakes so you learn from them.

 

As with everything it takes experience. At the beginning it seems an absurd puzzle, time after time it will become clearer (relatively speaking, hahahahhaha).

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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10 hours ago, Douglas K said:

I am very new to the world of chocolate. I  do have goals, but I honestly don’t want to have a business. I’m old, and ready to retire, so I don’t want any of that stress. Mainly I’m about making chocolate from beans, but I’ve started making bonbons as an aside to use what I make. So here’s something interesting I’ve found. One of my early efforts was a lavender ganache made from Greweling’s recipe in his book. When I made it, the ganache punched me in the mouth with the lavender flavor. I got worried at the strength and lack of sweetness, and added a small layer of a soft caramel to the filling. A few days later, the lavender mellowed out and was quite nice. The caramel was a nice addition, but totally not necessary. I had a similar experience with a whisky ganache. We also recently bought some bonbons from a bean to bar place not far from us, and some of them it was a head scratch to taste what was supposedly in there. 

 

How does one deal with that? I can’t imagine being a commercial business and putting out a product that doesn’t taste at all of what is says, but also I can’t imagine putting out something that tasted like the lavender ganache I made which needed a week to mellow out.

 

Just curious...

 

Since you used Greweling's recipe, those of us who know his recipe have a point of reference.  I found the amount of lavender he calls for insufficient and added more for my revision of his recipe. But in the case of lavender, I think the flavor of the flowers is the key, and not only does that vary from one producer to another, but it also varies over time.  I bought my lavender buds from a local lavender farm (yes, there is such a thing), and I noticed the last time I made lavender ganache, their flavor was much more muted (they had a taste closer to dried grass than to what I imagine lavender should taste like). I realize this is no huge insight--it happens to every spice/flavoring that comes in dry form.  The spice producers take advantage of that fact by scaring people into throwing out the contents of their spice rack every year or so.  But some dry flavors fade more than others; I find ginger fades quickly.  I don't think there is any foolproof way of judging what a ganache will taste like over time--except Teo's method.  I believe that liquid forms of flavoring are more reliable.  I use peppermint oil for my mint ganache, and it tastes about the same every time I make it.  I use rosewater in Shotts's "raspberry rose" ganache, and it also tastes approximately the same each time (and I might add that my bottle of rosewater is so old that I will not confess how long I have had it--and I detect no difference over the years).  I agree with Teo that Americans tend to like bolder flavors.   And since my audience is American, I want people to taste what flavors the bonbon has.  I have one customer who steadfastly refuses to look at the printed guide to the fillings until after he has tasted the chocolates and guessed what the flavors are.  Now that's a challenge to the chocolatier. 

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Those are all interesting answers. I realize it was a somewhat generic question, but my specific examples kind of shocked me. @teonzo I worked in California winemaking (winemaking and beer brewing were my formal education), and I am certainly aware of differing tastes between Europe and the USA 😉. A major part of winemaking is having a good idea of what a wine is going to do  so you can get it where you want at bottling, so I was curious how chocolatiers looked it. So many different permutations to be aware of!

 

@Jim D. My lavender flowers were freshly purchased from a local and reliable spice shop: Savory Spice. They have spread to other locations in the country as well as providing online shopping. I don’t know what their source is, but it is indeed strong. With the difference in taste between Europeans and Americans, do you see that in the recipe approach between Greweling and Wybauw? I just got Wybauw’s “Fine Chocolates: Gold”, but haven’t had the chance to make anything from it yet. Was hoping to today, but life got in the way, and only got to finish up my batch of white chocolate. 

 

@Kerry Beal I like your approach. Now I just need to get experience and figure that out!

 

We’re ( or I am) making bonbons and bars for Christmas gifts this year for friends and family, and I’ll have to do it over a period of weeks. It will be important for me to get the order of operations right. My salted caramel seems to be pretty steady so that can be early. It will be a big learning experience for sure! Thanks for all your insight.

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The book Belgian Chocolates by Geerts is a fine example of the subtle flavours of Belgian chocolates. I find that Greweling - while his recipes are sound - are under flavored for the north american market. Wybauw's recipes are a little more highly flavored I find but there aren't any really 'out there' recipes. 

 

I found it amusing when I was in Belgium and we went into a shop (the Chocolate Line) in Bruge - a newspaper article on the wall described the owner as the Ferran Adria of chocolate because he was doing a pizza flavored chocolate. It flew in the face of tradition. 

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With the difference in taste between Europeans and Americans, do you see that in the recipe approach between Greweling and Wybauw?

Quote

I find that Greweling - while his recipes are sound - are under flavored for the north american market. Wybauw's recipes are a little more highly flavored I find but there aren't any really 'out there' recipes.

 

I agree with Kerry about Greweling's recipes.  He is widely considered THE expert and his book THE bible, but his recipes are on the conservative side.  I had not actually realized it, but he suggests almost no colored decorations of his chocolates.  This was corroborated recently when I watched his interview with Brian of Tomric and learned that my impressions are no accident--he does not actually like the more "out there" American style of chocolatiering.  I read every recipe in Fine Chocolates Gold this past summer and found some I wanted to make.  Wybauw has more unusual flavor pairings (kalamansi and rhubarb, for example--one that I denigrated on this forum and was promptly taken to task for questioning the recipe).  But neither of them (IMHO) is as bold as Ewald Notter, who offers lots of decoration ideas, uses colors, and has more striking flavors.  From a trip she took, my sister brought me some chocolates from various European shops, and they were great in texture, had very predictable flavors--and no decoration beyond the occasional swirl of chocolate or a hazelnut.  It seems to me that Instagram has become the place to see what chocolatiers are up to these days--daring flavor combinations, previously unthought-of fillings (marshmallow, cookie inclusions, pâte de fruit, gianduja made of ingredients that would make a traditional European chocolatier faint), and colors that dazzle the eye.  Stars like Melissa Coppel, Dallas Southcott and others at the Chocolate Lab in Calgary, Kate Weiser, Luis Amado, Susanna Yoon, Andrey Dubovik, Norman Love (widely credited with coming up with the idea of using colored cocoa butter), etc., have taken bonbons to a new level.  Whether one likes that level or not is a matter of taste.

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On 10/12/2020 at 3:35 AM, Douglas K said:

Those are all interesting answers. I realize it was a somewhat generic question, but my specific examples kind of shocked me. @teonzo I worked in California winemaking (winemaking and beer brewing were my formal education), and I am certainly aware of differing tastes between Europe and the USA 😉. A major part of winemaking is having a good idea of what a wine is going to do  so you can get it where you want at bottling, so I was curious how chocolatiers looked it. So many different permutations to be aware of!

 

The big difference between wine/beer and chocolate (especially bonbons) is your "control" on your target market. A winemaker can have a good idea of what kind of customers are going to buy his wines, it depends on the final price and on the sale channels. If a bottle of wine is above a certain price range then it's hard that people will buy it blindly, most of them will be a little informed or more. Similar with artisan beer. If you sell chocolate bonbons, then it's almost impossible to have a good grasp of your customers. Few people buy artisan chocolates on a constant basis for personal consumption (those people tend to buy industrial stuff), most of your sales are meant as gifts, which worsen your situation: if you ask your customer what he likes, then most of the times he will answer with his own tastes, not the ones of the receiver. If you explain him how to consume that box of chocolates (temperature, before X days) then most of the times he won't repeat these infos to the receiver, since giving a gift and saying "you need to do so and so" is considered rude. The only setting where you have a good control when making bonbons is in an avantgarde restaurant: you know in advance how many customers you have, they will consume those bonbons on the spot, they are there to be surprised. All other settings are a nightmare, in a way or another.
Besides that, people have different tastes. Someone will like light flavors, someone else will like bold flavors, even in the same family. No matter what you do you will always disappoint someone. That's something to learn to live with: never take it as a personal offense, let it go over your shoulders and try to fix the relationship with this customer. Your goal is to do something you like and try to please the more people possible. Pleasing everyone with the same product is an impossible task. Tailor making each product for each customer is an impossible task for a chocolate business. So you need to find a balance between what you like doing (there's not much sense in working in the artisan food business if you don't have passion for it) and what most of your customers like. Some times this can be an impossible task. Personal example: here in Italy chili is a polarized taste. There are people who love it and want it strong (most of them are from the South); there are people who like it but when it's moderate; there are people who can't stand it (most of them are from the North). Time ago I made a mango + lime + chili jam, I thought "I'll try to be on the medium range for the chili strength, so to please both sides". Result: the first group complained it was too bland, the second group complained it was too strong, nobody was satisfied. How do you solve it? If you take one of the two sides, then the other one will be even more disappointed. If you make two products, one light one strong, and write it on the label, then some people will buy the wrong one for mistake and will be even more pissed off. Telling a customer "you are the dumb one because you bought the wrong jar" is like shooting on your feet.
For cookbook authors it's the same. They don't know the style of the professional buying their book. Some will aim for bold flavors, some for light ones, some for middle ones. Then you need to consider the difference in product availability. A chocolatier in Brasil that aims for a quality pineapple bonbon is going to use a ripe fruit just picked from the tree; being in Italy I can only put my hands on a pineapple that is like night compared to day. So we would be starting with different tastes, different intensities, different sugar contents and so on. Pretty hard to write a recipe that is the best for both cases. The cookbook author could write to use the standardized frozen puree of a particular producer (like Wybauw did), but the guy in Brasil would be masochist to use a frozen pineapple puree when he has the ripe fruit out of the door.

 

 

 

On 10/12/2020 at 3:35 AM, Douglas K said:

We’re ( or I am) making bonbons and bars for Christmas gifts this year for friends and family, and I’ll have to do it over a period of weeks. It will be important for me to get the order of operations right. My salted caramel seems to be pretty steady so that can be early. It will be a big learning experience for sure! Thanks for all your insight.

 

In this case you can make them with good advance and freeze them.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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@teonzo, as usual you are "spot on."  And some of your insights I had not thought about in any depth, such as the fact that most artisan bonbons are bought as gifts.  I do try to counteract the fact that the gift-giver will not tell the recipient how to store the chocolates by including, on the enclosed list of flavors, a sentence saying basically "keep them cool and eat them within two weeks."  But, as I have written previously, I have absolutely no control over what the recipient does, and there is always my sobering example of people who stretch their consumption of a box from Christmas to Easter.  Sometimes I get honest feedback about the chocolates from customers, but I live in a part of the world where people tend to be polite at all costs, and if they know me personally, they will not often say anything negative.  Except, maybe, for my sister!

 

Basically someone who purchases artisan bonbons is trusting the chocolatier's taste--at least for the first purchase!

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22 hours ago, Jim D. said:

But, as I have written previously, I have absolutely no control over what the recipient does, and there is always my sobering example of people who stretch their consumption of a box from Christmas to Easter.

 

You could write something like "the best moment to be happy is now, not tomorrow". People should get the message, especially during this peculiar period.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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44 minutes ago, teonzo said:

 

You could write something like "the best moment to be happy is now, not tomorrow". People should get the message, especially during this peculiar period.

 

 

 

Teo

 

 

Or perhaps a blunt "Eat chocolate, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you [may] die"?

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