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tammylc

Question for chocolatiers

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I've just broken into the world of molded chocolates, and am having lots of fun with it. But I have some questions.

How long do you recommend leaving the filled chocolates to setup before capping? Obviously this will vary based on the consistency of the filling, but is there any sort of general rule?

On a related question - I know Kerry Beal recommends long room temperature setting times for rolled truffles. Do other people do the same thing, or do you find you can still get good results with other methods? And what are they?

The reason I'm asking is that I'm trying to really make a go of having a side business making chocolates, and Michigan law requires that all food preparation must happen in a commercial kitchen. I think I've found a kitchen that I can use, and I'm meeting with them today to talk $$$. But since time equals money, I need to figure out ways to minimize my kitchen time, or else it will quickly eat into my profit margin to the point where there won't really be any point in my doing it.

In my limited experience so far, it seems like molded chocolates are more time efficient (and also potentially more beautiful!) than truffles, and that would be even more true if I invested in more molds instead of having to reuse.

Any other ideas or thoughts?

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Tammy

I also work out of a rented kitchen, and have some of the same issues. A lot depends on your process, do you carry everything into the kitchen in the morning, how do you temper the chocolate, what machine do you use, how much do you temper at a time, do you have use of a frig that will hold 1/2 sheet pans, how many truffles at a time, making any other products at same time?

I move everything into the kitchen in the morning. I make my ganache the night before to let it setup in frig. I usually temper 6 to 8# at a time. I have found it is easier to work with more than just what I might need for the day. This takes approx 2 hrs for the chocolate to melt and temper. Working on ways to speed up the process. During this time I scoop and roll truffles into balls. I will then put truffles into frig to firm up. The amount of time depends on ingrediants used & how firm the ganache is (whether it is cream or butter based). Can't let them get to far from, room temp or there can be cracking issues after dipping. About the time I need to take seed chocolate out of my machine I take truffles out of frig and let them start to warmup again.

I hand roll a thin coat, let them sit a bit, put them back into frig to have this coat well setup for a few minutes, and then I hand dip them all and decorate.

You can also work molds into the process which does not add a lot to the overall time. Just have to order operations to let setup time occur while you are doing other things.

When everything is decorated & setup, I put all chocolate into storage containers. Then cleanup. The whole process can take 4 to 5 hours depending on the amount you are making. You will have to work on your process & tune it as you go.

You should also look into using a church kitchen, they might be easier on cost, they might consider you an outreach program. But the downside is that you have to work around their needs. You can also negotiate for a number of hours per month at a cost rather than $ per hour of use. Also ask if you can put in a storage cabinet in the kitchen. This way you don'y have to move everything in & out everyday.

Mark

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Thanks Mark - that's really helpful information.

Right now I'm hand tempering my chocolate, although if I do actually follow through on this and establish myself as a business, I'll probably buy at least a small tempering machine, as I can then write off the expense.

The kitchen I'm looking at using is in one of those make-ahead meals places, so I would already be working around their schedule and using it mostly during their off-hours - the same kinds of issues you mention for a church setting.

Well, I'm meeting with them in an hour, so I'll have some better ideas when I get back! I'm thinking of beginning the conversation by offering a profit sharing idea or a percentage of total sales, rather than an hourly rate. That way, as my business grows, so do their earnings. And that would probably give them some good incentive to act as a retail location selling my wares to their own customers!

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Well, that worked out very well! They're very willing to have me just pay a percentage of my sales rather than a set hourly fee, which works really well for me as a start up. Also very interested in co-marketing opportunities and selling my wares. I'll be doing my Valentine's Day work from there, so that will be a good trial run for the future.

One more question for you all, however. Since they're a startup themselves, they're working on keeping their own costs low. Which means they keep the kitchen at about 62 degrees. That's a few degrees cooler than optimal chocolate temperature - what compensations will I need to make in that environment? Obviously things will set up faster, so I'll have to work especially quickly with the molds so my shells don't get too thick. And it'll be harder to keep my chocolate at working temperature.

Any other considerations? Or work-arounds?

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since you're just starting out, you can keep a couple of heating pads around to keep your chocolate in temper a bit longer. put a heating pad in a bowl larger than the bowl your chocolate is in, insulated with a towel if necessary. remember that this will change in the summer when they're still keeping their costs down and they don't want to air condition :blink: .

of course, you can spring for holding bins (the heated ones) which work very nicely as well, but they can be expensive. you can try to source reconditioned ones on-line.

if they let you keep a small storage cabinet (a good rolling rack with a door like this), you can always line your molds, fill them with ganache and let them crust overnight, then you can back them the next day...pop out the chocolates when they've set up and refill them so you always have some molds lined.

i'm sure you'll find a groove. congratulations on your new business tammy! i wish you success. will you still be doing the meals for 40+ at your housing community? sounds like 2007 is your busy year!

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Thanks! Right now I think I'll still just focus on occasional chocolate sales (right now about 4-5 times a year), which means I'll end up taking the summer off. But who knows? I have a job and a toddler and those 40+ meals for my community, so I'm definitely planning to start small. This is just one piece of a larger business concept I'm trying to get off the ground (http://www.tammystastings.com). But it's the most tangible piece at this point.

Fortunately it's just a mile or two away from my house, so it's easy to go home for a while and come back after things have set up.

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This is all very exciting. I hope we get to follow along with you as you start the business.

Those closed rolling racks that Alana linked to would be wonderful. I have seen similar things at a place called "Mr Used" (you might have seen it referred to if you have ever seen the Red Green show). They are a whole lot cheaper used than new if you can find then.

I have an open version of those racks and it is still very useful, allows you to put sheet pans out of the way as you go along.

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the advantage of the closed racks (especially in a rented kitchen) is that you can padlock them, preventing anyone from messing with your stuff :cool:

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I started working with chocolate in 1995. Within two years I had people buying from me at Christmas. Business has literally exploded for me and I need to get out of my house! I have only sold thru friends and word of mouth. I have developed an expertise in chocolate and have been doing chocolate tasting presentations for corporations. They call me, again from word of mouth. I don't advertise because I am not in a commercial kitchen. I am looking for a location and because I am in probably thee most expensive city in Canada right now, leasing is expensive, so finding a space is not easy. It all began with making chocolate for fun and people found out!!

I am responsible for creating many a chocolate snob!!

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Wow that is great! That is how I would love to be. By word of mouth. I am also in my home and word of mouth is slow here. Perhaps the people are less into good chocolate. Or just that word of mouth has not gotten around?

How do you divide your time? I find that house affairs sometimes get in the way? I am just making some ganache and one of the kids (big or small!) phones for a ride, then comes home hungry, etc and of course, since I am there... well you can figure it out.

I am very new so perhaps it will work out in a natural way. I often feel overwhelmed by how much I still need to learn. The more I know, the more I realize how much more there is! I wish someone in this forum could come here and spend two weeks teaching me!!! A dream! But your story gives me the motivation I sometimes feel slipping away! So thanks!

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Lior,

I have 4 kids and it is difficult at times. The ages are 16,15,11,10 and I have been doing chocolate since they were small. It does get hectic at times. My house is an absolute disaster at Christmas time because I am so busy trying to get orders out. Now that the kids are older, my husband makes them help clean and organize the house. They do it with much complaining! When they were small they would wait for a certain sound -where I would bang the mould before demoulding- and then they would come running because they knew the chocolate was ready for eating!! My concerns now are how to increase production and what equipment should I be buying. I keep going back and forth on different ideas.

There is always plenty to learn! I will be learining new things about chocolate until the day I die!

With my presentations I educate people on what chocolate really is. I go thru a whole explanation of deodorized vs. non deodorized and then we sample exquisite chocolate from each of the 4 variations of cocoa trees. Lately I have used Amano Chocolate, Askinosie Chocolate, Vintage Plantations, and then for my Forestaro I use Cocoa Barry 64% Quayaquil. The first 3 companies have a great story of what they are doing so I share that with my audiences. People love to hear positive news of what is going on in the world, and the first 3 companies are truly making a difference in people's lives.

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Very fascinating! I also have four kids and the youngest is also 10!! But I cannot imagine doing it with little ones around!! My 3 older are "old" 24, 21, 19. And they still come wandering down looking for goodies! I never ask for help-my fault- and so all the cleaning and arranging is on me. I need to perfect techniques, and there is soooo much to learn! I can't get all those kinds that you mentioned - I wish I could. I would be very interested in hearing more if you have the patience. If not, I really can understand!! I know a bit about Amano- brother and sister team.. right? From reading A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light. Well I thank you for sharing your story- a bit of it- with me, it does me good. Do you have an internet site?

Well happy New year and thanks once again

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Lior,

Amadei is the brother/sister team from Italy. The ones mentioned are fairly young companies in that they have only been around for less than 18 months!! They are making awesome chocolate!! I am going to PM you with some suggestions on how to get American products shipped for cheaper!

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Thanks so very much! Sorry about the Amedei mistake-oops! Are you in the states? To order would not I need some kind of importing license? I am excited to read your tips-thanks! :biggrin:

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