I'm down to the dregs now. I took a dozen of the extras to work this morning and immediately sold them off to two coworkers. I took the rest of them over to the common house for a potluck dinner. One person upgraded her order from an 8 to a 12 because she thought the box lookd more impressive. Then I sold another 3 boxes of 4, and a set of 2 to another person. In the end, I sold 150 out of the 190 I made. Of the rest, I gave away a couple to a neighbor as thanks for cutting my grass, gave a box of 8 to a neighbor who watches Liam for us regularly, and put some aside for assorted friends. Then there were the ones Eric and I have nibbled on.

Upon hearing people's reactions to the flavor list, I think I would have higher sales had I had more conventional flavors. My perspective is skewed from being such a fan of funky artisanal chocolates. A few people were wildly enthusiastic about the list, but I think others just looked at it and didn't see anything that appealed to them. Heck - the passion fruit are the only flavor of the bunch that appeals to me, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

The scotch were the most popular, but there were definitely two camps for that one. Had I had more passionfruit this evening, I think I would have had more impulse sales to the neighbors. But the passion fruit ganache was so soft that my scoops were bigger, making my yield from that batch the lowest.

I'm really pleased by my application of my learnings from last time. Because I made lots of spares, I was able to pick and choose the nicest looking for the paying customers, and eat the ugly ones myself. And I never had any stress about not having the right quantities to fill numbers. Much better. The extras are part of the reason I had to raise my prices, but I think it generates a better product for the customer (and the price increase also more acurately reflects the cost of materials and labor).

I still have several boxes in my basement waiting to be delivered or picked up, but I'm done now for the forseeable future. (Well, done making them for sale, I've promised [livejournal.com profile] legocoach and [livejournal.com profile] sarahf some next weekend.) Valentine's Day is the next obvious target, although something around Christmas might have some potential. If I do it again, I'll aim for a mix of exotic flavors and more conventional ones. Hazelnut, pomegranate and cardamom are three on my list. Eric's asked for orange. Given how simple (and fun) the ganaches are to make, I might go as high as 5 or 6 different flavors - there's a little bit more work on the dipping end involved in having more flavors, but not that much more.


Jun. 15th, 2006 11:46 pm
Finished the truffles at 11 pm. Given that I started at noon and took a break from 5 until 8 to pick Liam up at daycare, go for dinner, and do my part of bedtime, my guess that a truffle making session can be accomplished in 8 hours seems about right. If'd been smart and made my ganache last night, then it would have been even more efficient, as much of my waiting time would have been spent asleep. Well, more lessons learned, if I ever decide to do this again. While I love making the ganache fillings and experimenting with flavors, the coating is annoying as all get out, time consuming, and messy.

But they turned out well. The texture is especially soft and creamy this time, which is great for eating, and part of the reason why they were a pain to make. The passion fruit in particular were really soft, but damn, they are good. So glad that worked out. The chipotle have a smoky start and a hot finish. The scotch are pretty much just like my test batch. The Earl Grey are probably the weak link, as I only turned out to have one tea bag to work with, so they're kinda subtle.

The boxes made packaging much less of a pain in the ass, and were reasonably cost effective, so they were worth the trip out to Saline.

But now I must get to bed. I've been up since 4:30, and the best case scenario for tomorrow morning is that I'll get to sleep until 6.
So, I had this plan for making all my truffles today. Make ganache first thing in the morning. Chill for a couple hours, then scoop. Dry for a couple of hours, then coat. Pick Liam up from daycare, do dinner, put him to bed, and package up all the truffles after dinner. Fini!

Ahh, the best laid plans. Liam is being fussy about daycare drop off these days, so that took a lot longer. Then there was the whole passion fruit thing. Then, I decided to drive out to Baker's Nook in Saline, as they have a better selection of boxes. Then I had to drive back to Ann Arbor and pick up cream, and only then could I get started on the ganache. Which put me at least a couple hours past schedule.

The ganache making went great. All the flavors are fabulous. It's certainly the easiest part of the whole process. But here comes the second delay - although the ganaches have been in the fridge for over an hour, they're not firm yet. And I can't scoop them until they're firm. And they need to dry for at least an hour, preferably two, after they've been scooped. Then, and only then, can I do the complicated and messy part of coating them. Which I was hoping to have completed and cleaned up before having to leave to pick Liam up. This is getting less and less likely as time goes by.

I've cranked the refigerator up to its coldest setting (I'm wondering if Eric turned it down because our ice cream was getting too hard?). I'm going to go check on status, and perhaps move some of the worst offenders into shallower dishes, which should harden faster.
If anyone on my friends list wants to order some tasty chocolate truffles, please let me know by noon tomorrow. Eric was right - chocolates are not nearly as popular on Father's Day as for Mother's Day - I have only about a third of the orders I had last time.

Chocolates will come in three sizes.
Package of 4 truffles - $8
Package of 8 truffles - $15
Package of 12 truffles - $20

You have your choice of four flavors:
Single Malt Scotch
Earl Gray Tea
Chipotle Chile
Passion Fruit

Chocolates will be available for pick up on Friday, June 16. Delivery within Ann Arbor may be possible - talk to me if you need that.
Moms aren't the only ones who like chocolate, so I'll be selling hand-dipped chocolate truffles for Father's Day as well. (And if you eat them all yourself, I promise I won't tell Dad.)

Chocolates will come in three sizes.
Package of 4 truffles - $8
Package of 8 truffles - $15
Package of 12 truffles - $20

You have your choice of four flavors:
Single Malt Scotch
Earl Gray Tea
Chipotle Chile
Passion Fruit

Chocolates will be available for pick up on Friday, June 16. Delivery within Ann Arbor may be possible - talk to me if you need that. Delivery outside of the Ann Arbor area would require overnight shipping, so if any of my far flung readers are that eager to try the truffles, then there is an expensive but do-able option for that. (Come winter I'll do a special batch just for y'all, since then I won't have to worry about shipping trouble.)

Let me know if you'd like to place an order!
The truffles are finished, most have been delivered or picked up, and the kitchen is mostly clean. Things definitely didn't go as smoothly today! To start with, lunch was late, so Liam's nap was late, and I got started later than I'd planned. And then, when I was in the middle of tempering my first batch of chocolate, I realized that the digital probe thermometer I was using was no longer registering accurately - it was claiming that my chocolate was 104 degrees when that was obviously not the case. Tempering chocolate requires really close control of temperature, so this was a really big deal. Fortunately I live in cohousing, so I was able to borrow a replacement.

I set aside that batch of chocolate to harden for reuse later, and started from scratch. But it was a harbinger of things to come - I had temperature issues with my tempering all afternoon long, resulting in some really bad bloom on the coffee truffles, and minor bloom on the other flavors. The bloom could also be caused or exacerbated by today's high humidity - it's been raining on and off for days. We had to temper several batches of chocolate, and because of the failed first batch, I was short on seed chocolate. Fortunately, one of my helpers (Candace, a women I know from eGullet who was interesting in seeing how the seed tempering method worked) had brought some bars with her, and we used one of them to temper the last batch so we could finish it all. Speaking of helpers, I had a ton of help from [livejournal.com profile] nubianamy as well. Couldn't have done it without you!

Here's a picture of the finished truffles when I was about halfway through packaging. I forgot all about taking pictures until then. Would have been cooler to have a shot of all 180 or so that I did today!click for pic )

For packaging, I had some candy boxes that I picked up at Michael's, plus some boxes from other chocolate makers that my friend Katie happened to have around her house (mostly Jacques Torres, a couple of Godiva). I used those for the larger orders (8 or more), and used the bags like in my earlier picture for the orders of 4-6. Then ribbon to make it festive for mom, and a little label for my "business," which my coworker Carrie insisted I needed.click for pic )

Took me longer than I'd planned for, complicated by Liam taking a shorter nap than usual (thank goodness for children's television), but I had almost everything packaged up and delivered by 6 pm. I ended up selling 247 truffles. I made more than that, but not a lot more. I ate a few, and gave some to helpers.

It was fun. Stressful at times, but fun. I earned enough money to pay for my Niman Ranch dinner at Zingerman's in a couple weeks, plus some to put towards household expenses in this time of money stress. So it was a success from that perspective. The chocolates aren't the most beautiful there ever were - my dipping technique needs a lot of work - but the flavors were all really excellent. They tasted as good as any I've bought from professional chocolatiers, and that's saying a lot. So I'm very proud of that.
Lessons for next time - assuming I'm crazy enough to do this again )
Two batches of ganache down, three more to go. I could have got more done, but I delayed while waiting for a neighbor to come over and take a look. The raspberry turned out very well - my strategy of reducing the framboise before adding it worked really well. So long as it stiffens up sufficiently overnight, it should be great. If not, it'll be one of those things where I'm moving it in and out of the freezer and fridge to keep it at workable consistency. Which would suck, but not be a disaster.

I was too timid with the mint on my first pass at infusing the cream for the mint truffles. I think the mint from our garden isn't particularly strong. But after a second infusion with a lot more mint it had a nice flavor. Fresh mint in truffles is such a completely different thing from artificial mint flavoring - it doesn't have any bite. The first thing you taste is chocolate, and the mint comes out on the finish. And it's a greener, fresher mint. The chocolate did something weird - it's almost as if it was about to seize up - the texture is a little odd. But these are one of two that I'm planning to do as squares, so a stiffer texture will be better for cutting anyway.

In addition to making the ganaches, I also chopped up crystallized ginger for topping the ginger truffles. And Eric roasted some peaberry coffee beans for me - their diminutive size will make them the perfect topping for the coffee truffles - regular coffee beans would have totally overwhelmed the size of truffles I'll be making.

Tomorrow morning, three more ganaches (coffee, ginger, rosemary-lemon). Tomorrow afternoon, form the centers. Tomorrow night, after Liam goes to bed, dip enough chocolates for the orders I need to fill on Friday, plus however many else I need to do to use up the rest of the chocolate I'll be tempering. I'll do the rest on Saturday afternoon, then get them into bags/boxes.

In the midst of all of this, I need to cook common meal tomorrow too! Fortunately it's a meal I've done many times before (tortilla soup) and it doesn't take too much time.


May. 9th, 2006 10:13 am
Well, my chocolate truffle making scheme has been wildly popular so far. I currently have orders for 213 truffles. Wow! That seems like a lot, but my last truffle making escapade I made 75 just for fun, so it's not actually that many. I'm pretty close to maxed out at this point, but might be able to sneak in a couple more orders.

I've decided to make 5 flavors. I was planning on only 3 or 4, but with the quantity of orders and people's flavor preferences, it makes sense to make half batches of a couple of the infused ganaches. I'll be making:

Raspberry (flavored with Bonny Doon Framboise, reduced to concentrate the flavors so I can get more raspberry punch without adding liquid)
Coffee (flavored with espresso)
Ginger (infused ganache, with a bit of crystallized ginger on top)
Mint (infused ganache with fresh mint, not an extract, so it will be a more subtle mint flavor) - 1/2 batch
Rosemary-Lemon (infused ganache) - 1/2 batch

The only hitch in my plans so far is that the chocolate is not yet in stock at Zingerman's. Duff thought she'd be ordering it Friday, and have it on Monday, but she actually didn't order it until yesterday, so it won't be in until tomorrow at the earliest and maybe Thursday. I was planning to make ganache Thursday morning/afternoon, so that puts a bit of a kink in my plans, but not too much. I was planning to go to a tasting at Zing tonight and take advantage of the 20% of coupon for my chocolate purchase, but Duff says she'll give me 20% off when it comes in anyway. Woot!

Edited to add: Duff called to say the chocolates were shipped Monday, so should be in on Wednesday. Nifty.
You may have seen the pictures I posted of the chocolate truffles I made a couple of weeks ago. If not click for the prettiness )
I've been wanting to try out some different flavors and techniques, and I really shouldn't eat all that chocolate myself! So I thought I'd see if anyone would be interested in buying chocolate truffles for their moms for Mother's Day. (Or for themselves - I promise not to tell your mom you kept them all...) This offer probably only applies to local folks, as it's getting to be too warm to ship chocolate without it being really pricey.

Comment or email me if you're interested. I'd likely end up making them the afternoon of Saturday May 13, although if you needed them earlier, I might be able to arrange something. Cost would be $1.50 per truffle. Similar quality truffles sell for $2 to $2.25 apiece at stores. I'll take suggestions/requests on flavors - although I'll probably be able to make at most 2 to 4 different flavors, depending how many I need to make.


Apr. 24th, 2006 09:41 pm
Should I take this online course?

Secrets of the Caterer

At the very least, I'd probably learn a few useful things for cooking common meal. It's $89 - not cheap, but not a lot of money either.



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