But I'm just too tired. So I'll go with my original plan and go in tomorrow during the day. I was planning to get some done tonight, because it's supposed to be really hot tomorrow - up to 90 degrees! Although you couldn't guess that from now, when it's downright brisk outside! I only have about 100 pieces to make, so shouldn't be that big a deal. And as always, I need to decide how I'm decorating the damn things. Most of these are one-off flavors for a party, so I can do pretty much anything I want, even use a dedicated design from another chocolate. The buyer wants some with gold luster dust, but I want to get some color in there too. I'm thinking Amaretto with colored cocoa butter, Sambuca with luster dust, and Frangelico topped with a half hazelnut.
I really hope I get some business out of this puma deal, because MAN, it feels like all I have been doing lately is making chocolate (and most of this time is uncompensated/ a donation). Part of the problem is that I can't spend any concentrated time at the kitchen - I get a few hours here and there - I'd be much more efficient with 8 hour stretches. Thursday I went in for a couple hours in the afternoon and made more puma bars and some filled pumas. Friday I wasn't feeling well so I took the night off and went to bed early. Saturday I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, then went back after Liam went to bed and stayed until midnight. Today I ran in for a 2.5 hours around his nap, and I have to go back tonight.

200 puma bars. I should have at least that many finished right now, although I'll make a couple trays more because Amy would like to have extras and I haven't pulled out the bubbly ones. Only about 50 are wrapped, though.
54 filled pumas. That's how many I need. So far I have 30 finished, which means - assuming no defective ones - I just need to turn my molds two more times. And they all still need to be brushed with luster dust.
64 mint chocolates - done
64 raspberry - done
80 salty caramel - done
64 cardamom - The ganache is made and bottomed. The transfer sheets are cut. I still need to cut the ganache into squares, dip it, and top with transfer sheets. Then it needs to sit for 12-24 hours before I pull the transfer sheets off.

This will give me enough chocolates to fill all the orders I have, bring 10 large and 6 small boxes to sell the day of the event, and still have 10 of each flavor to use for samples. I'll cut them into quarters, so that gives me 160 samples. Which probably isn't enough, but will have to do.

Tonight we're having dinner with [livejournal.com profile] sueij and [livejournal.com profile] scottij. I'll head back to the kitchen (sigh) after Eric takes Liam upstairs for bed. Hopefully won't be stuck there too long tonight - just have to do the cardamom and the pumas, and clean the damn place up! It's a wreck. I probably won't get two turns of the pumas, since they take a while to set up (I tried to rush some today and lost 4). But I can do that during Liam's nap tomorrow when I go to take the transfer sheets off the cardamom.

And then packaging. Which I probably won't get to until Thursday, since I need to go out to Baker's Nook and get boxes. Although - as silly as it sounds - I may have them ship them to me, since between gas prices and my time, it probably saves me money to get them shipped than to drive the 20 minutes there and back.

Saturday is the big day, and I need to print off business cards and flyers and all of that between now and then. I wonder if I have time to get business cards printed from Office Max or Staples? Need to find out. I've been putting it off because I've not got a business card design I like, but I might just need to bite the bullet and do it.


May. 13th, 2007 04:35 am
Mother's Day chocolate sales went well. Not quite as good as Easter, but certainly respectable. And I was really pleased with how all of the flavors turned out - I think this is probably my most consistently high quality collection yet. The texture on the ginger is not quite right, but I've no idea how to fix that. And the flavor is great.

Friday night I did a chocolate tasting at Nicola's Books here in Ann Arbor, in conjunction with an author talk by Sarah Zettel. We had around 10 or 11 people in attendance. It was a great experience, getting a feel for what worked and didn't worked. It really helped to have [livejournal.com profile] shadowriderhope and [livejournal.com profile] sazettel in the audience - they were my shills who weren't shy about coming up with aroma and flavor words, which got the rest of the group talking. Plus Hope passed the chocolates for me, which was really helpful. I sold a couple small boxes, and then left a few more at Nicola's, which was down to just one small box. I'm so pleased that the chocolates are selling at Nicola's! From what I know, the buyers are maybe entirely people who read my LJ, but hey, it's something. I had some leftovers when I got home, but put out a notice to the Great Oak mailing list and found buyers for most of the rest of them.

Next up in chocolate land, I'll be making 200 chocolate puma bars as a giveaway for the U of M Natural History Museum. Making them will be work enough, but then I also have to foil wrap them all! Depending how awful that is I may end up having a foil wrapping party - let me know if you'd like to come and help with that. I'll feed you - chocolates for sure, and probably dinner too. And lest you think I'm taking advantage of your free labor, I should note that I'm doing this work for the museum for cost of materials. We will also be offering a fancier gourmet chocolate puma collection for sale, with boxes of gold brushed truffle filled pumas and some assorted other chocolates. That's a fundraiser for the museum - they'll get a cut off the top, but I'll actually make some money on them. And the marketing potential is huge - getting my name and website in front of that many eyes will hopefully pay off in the future! Current thinking on the flavors is raspberry, fresh mint, cardamom and sea salt caramel. All classics that people like and I don't require any development time on my end. (Although I don't like the texture of my raspberry recipe, so I may do some experimenting with that one.)

Saturday afternoon I got my Mother's Day present, which was Eric watching Liam while [livejournal.com profile] netmouse and I went out shopping. I got one pair of really wonderful pants and a bunch of shirts. But given how long we were out (almost 5 hours) and how many things I tried on, I really should have ended up with more than that! I still have a pair of pants and a shirt on hold at one store, and need to decide if I'm going to buy them. Today during Liam's nap I'm thinking I might go to TJ Maxx and see what I can find there. If it seems like I'm buying a lot of clothes lately, I am. When nothing you've bought in the last 10 years fits anymore, you need to buy a lot of new clothes!
I posted about my final flavor selection a few days ago, but I didn't give any other details. If you're thinking of ordering some treats for yourself or your mom, visit the Mother's Day page at my website. I'm accepting orders through May 5, and will have boxes available through Nicola's starting next week as well.

Surely some more of you should have received yours by now? Unless they all got snagged by USPS machinery...

I've heard from [livejournal.com profile] drusni and [livejournal.com profile] shsilver. How about the rest of you? [livejournal.com profile] greenmansgrove, [livejournal.com profile] mnfiddledragon, [livejournal.com profile] kgkofmel, [livejournal.com profile] marykaykare, [livejournal.com profile] annaoj? Did the package arrive intact? Can you please give your feedback here?
Now don't think I was sending you those caramels gratis. You all have an important task here, which is to give me feedback. So please comment on this thread when you get your caramel in the mail. Thanks to the big top of [livejournal.com profile] kgkofmel's head, here are some questions to consider in formulating your reponse:

Date rec'd
Condition of package
Condition of contents on opening.
date consumed
Consumed by
Condition before consumption
Flavour (did it taste like what it was described as? What did it taste like? What was the most lasting flavour element?)
If you've had them, how does this compare to other flavours from Tammy?
How does this compare to similar flavours from other makers?
Would you want more of this?
General comments or impressions?
Do any of your comments change when you imagine it coated in dark chocolate?
[livejournal.com profile] greenmansgrove, [livejournal.com profile] mnfiddledragon, [livejournal.com profile] kgkofmel, [livejournal.com profile] shsilver, [livejournal.com profile] marykaykare, and [livejournal.com profile] annaoj - I have sitting on my desk an envelope addressed to each of you with a caramel in it. Hopefully USPS will get them to you relatively unscathed! This is an experiment at cheap sample testing, so be sure to report on the status of the envelope as well as its contents.

[livejournal.com profile] twoofdtm, [livejournal.com profile] larcb, [livejournal.com profile] shekkara - you will all be at Penguicon, correct? I will bring you samples (maybe not of this particular item, but of something or more than one something) there.

I have one more caramel waiting for whichever of [livejournal.com profile] mcauliflower or [livejournal.com profile] simonepdx gets me their address first.

Thanks for playing!
Lavender caramel and dark chocolate orange ganache.

I'm not sure I'm very fond of lavender as a flavor, but other people seem to like it, so I thought I'd give it a try. I think the caramels are going to come out a little too hard. I am thinking of trying a technique from my Andrew Schotts chocolate book, which is making a caramel ganache (includes chocolate) instead of just a straight up chocolate filling. Main advantage to this is that the texture is not contingent on my making the caramel perfectly. And the combination of lavender and caramel and white chocolate seems more appealing to me somehow.

The orange ganache has cream infused with orange zest as well as some Grand Marnier. I left the finely grated zest in the cream, so the ganache won't be perfectly smooth. I think I may have overextracted the zest - I wasn't paying adequate attention, and put the zest in before I boiled the cream. Then I had to reboil because I'd forgotten the corn syrup. So I think it will be a little more orangey-bitter than is ideal - we'll see what my tasters think.
The deadline for pre-ordering chocolates for Easter is tomorrow, March 30. I'll almost certainly have extras and be able to fill late orders, and there will be some available for purchase at Main Dish Kitchen and Nicola's Books after that, but order now if you want to be sure to get some!

Flavors: cardamom eggs, raspberry eggs, peanut butter domes, milk chocolate or dark chocolate truffle bunnny

I'm working on my flavor descriptions for Easter promotion. Any comments on my imperfect prose?

Each box contains:
One truffle bunny, in your choice of a 72% dark chocolate or 41% milk chocolate, and an assortment of hand-dipped and hand-decorated truffle eggs and molded chocolates in the following flavors:
Cardamom: The aromatic floral spice notes of cardamom combine with earthy dark chocolate for an exotic treat.
Raspberry: Smooth dark chocolate ganache with organic raspberry puree.
Peanut Butter: Dark chocolate surrounds a luscious center made from roasted peanuts, caramelized sugar, milk chocolate and cream.

I'm torn about the peanut butter. Right now I'd been planning to do them as a molded piece. But in some ways it makes more sense to have them all be eggs. But that's a lot of hand enrobing, plus there's the waste factor, since cutting out the egg shapes leaves lots of little bits, whereas molded chocolates are zero waste. And I'm still not happy with any of the decoration angles I've come up with for those molds. Need to do more experimenting.
For Easter, I'm planning to offer two set boxes, one small (probably for $12) and one large (probably for $20). Each box will have one "truffle bunny" - a roughly 2-inch by 1-inch by 1-inch bunny in your choice of dark chocolate with dark chocolate ganache or milk chocolate with milk chocolate ganache. Then you'll have some number of additional chocolates (number TBD depending on how the pieces actually end up fitting into the boxes). My plan is to do two different sheet ganaches*, cut with an egg shape cutter, hand dipped, and decorated with cocoa butter transfers. One of them will be stripes of various colors, and the other will be speckles of various colors (from the airbrush). And then I was thinking I'd do one additional molded chocolate, although I don't know which shape or how I'd decorate it. I'm decided on three of the four flavors:

1. Truffle bunny in dark or milk
2. Cardamom (sheet ganache)
3. Raspberry (could be either a sheet ganache or a molded piece)
4. ??? (either sheet ganache or molded piece)

What should my fourth flavor be? It's Easter, so I want to stay family friendly, so Scotch, coffee, etc are out of the picture. Caramel is always popular (I hear [livejournal.com profile] eviljohn and [livejournal.com profile] kgkofmel licking their lips as I type) but if I do caramel I'd like to do something different from the salted caramel I've done a couple of times now. And it doesn't have to be a new flavor, I'm happy to do something I've done before (list here), I'm just being really indecisive about coming up with anything.

Edited to add: I'm not particularly looking for Easter-themed flavors. After being quite disappointed with my overly contrived Christmas flavors, I've decided that it's better to have flavors that taste really good than that fit a theme. If I can have both, even better, but taste is the priority.

* Ganache that gets spread out into an even layer and then cut either with a knife or a shaped cutter, as opposed to being rolled for a truffle center or piped into a mold.
I have 4 bottles of colored cocoa butter, 1 dental vibrator, an egg shaped ganache cutter and a bunny mold all sitting on my counter. I want to play with them, but I'm too sleepy to start anything tonight. Not to mention that much of what I'd need to play is at the kitchen, and the rest has yet to be purchased. Pout.

Still need to buy/find:
- small tray, like a school lunch tray
- PVC ring to attach lunch tray to dental vibrator
- acetate sheets for making cocoa butter transfers

Oh, and my compressor is at the post office. I'll go pick it up tomorrow. I think I need to buy an adaptor, though, to make it actually work with my airbrush. Wonder if I can just get that at Michael's, or if I need to mail order? And I need to get one or more replacement glass paint jars for the airbrush too, since the one that came with it went missing already, and it would be nice to have multiple colors anyway.
My apologies to the people who came to my chocolate tasting today. I was not a very good host. I woke up with a sore throat and a cold, and the medicine I took wiped me out. The 2.5 hour unexpected nap I ended up taking this morning prevented me from doing much in the way of getting organized for the tasting. Had I been thinking, and had the time, I would have set up the tables so we could all sit more or less together. Instead, we had two tables, and I failed to adequately circulate, which I only realized when people started leaving and I realized I hadn't really talked to them. Particular apologies for that are owed to [livejournal.com profile] otterkin, [livejournal.com profile] celtic_elk, and [livejournal.com profile] shadowriderhope. I hope you had a good time even though I was rude. And next time I'll make sure that I have some cheese or veggies or something more food-like for afterwards, so we don't all end up with sugar highs.

We tasted 13 different chocolates - 10 dark and 3 milk. The darks ranged from 61% to 74%, and featured 4 single-origin bars from E. Guittard, and one ultra-schmancy single-estate chocolate I got in a freebie from my Chocosphere order. Plus the basic E. Guittard blended chocolates that I've been using for my pieces, and some odds and ends I'd gotten in trade from people on the net. The list:

Dark Chocolates
1. E. Guittard 61% (B)
2. Noel 64% (B)
3. New World 64% (U)
4. E. Guittard Sur del Lago Venezula 65% (SO)
5. E. Guittard Quevedo Ecuador 65% (SO)
6. E. Guittard Chucari Columbia 65% (SO)
7. E. Guittard Ambana Madagascar 65% (SO)
8. Valrhona 2002 Chuao Venezuala 65% (SE)
9. E. Guittard 72% (B)
10. El Rey Apatmate Carnero Venezula 74% (SO)

Milk Chocolates
11. Callebaut Milk (B)
12. El Rey Irapa Rio Caribe 40% (SO)
13. E. Guittard Orinoco 41% (B)

B=blended, SO=single origin, SE=single estate, U=unknown

I was pleased that the E. Guittard chocolates I have been using stood up well against the rest. I didn't particularly like the El Reys - as Ruthie said "I know I'm supposed to be impressed by El Rey, but I'm just not." The 74% in particular was downright unpleasant - kinda chalky. I'm not really sure what #3 was - it was labeled as "New World 64%" but I can't find anything like that anywhere on the net. I'll have to email the person I got it from and see if I can get more info. I have a sneaking suspicion that it may actually be an E. Guittard 64%, which would explain why it tasted like a slightly darker version of #1...

Of the four Guittard single origin bars, the Ecuadoran (#5) was the favorite. Mostly, I think, because it tasted the most like how we expect chocolate to taste. The others were more varietally distinct. #6 was interesting - woody, smokey and kind of peaty - might be good on it's own as a single origin truffle.

#8, the single estate bar, was very complex. Lots of layers of flavor. It comes from the Chuao cocao bean, which is only grown in one small place in Venezula, which is only accessible by the ocean, blah-blah-blah... Very unique, very interesting. It's a vintage chocolate, in that it has a year of harvest associated with it, and is made only from beans from that harvest.

#2 came from [livejournal.com profile] malawry, who traded me her go-to chocolate pistole for some of my bonbons. It was quite different from the others in the tasting, I think because it has much lower acidity than the others. It had some distinct anise and cinnamon kind of notes. Some people thought it was almost peanut-buttery. It's not a clean enough tasting chocolate that I would want to use it for general use, but I may play around with it for for a cinnamon or peanutbutter center, places where it's unusual character will contribute.

The milk chocolates were, well, milk chocolate, which I mostly don't like. But the E. Guittard Orinoco was better than the other two, so I'll keep it as my basic milk chocolate for now. Even [livejournal.com profile] sueij liked it, and she generally doesn't like milk chocolates that are too high in cocoa solids. So that's cool.

After the chocolates were all tasted, we shared around some bonbons and truffles. I'd brought two kinds - cardamom and raspberry, both flavors I am experimenting with for future chocolate offerings. The cardamom was quite good, although it definitely needs more cardamom. The raspberry is also good, although I am on the fence as to weather it is quite raspberry enough yet. Texture's a little firm for a molded chocolate, so I may end up adding a little more cream to the recipe. David J, a chocolatier from eGullet, came and brought a whole bunch of different things for us to try, mostly from the Andrew Garrison Shotts book. The peanut butter sizzle (a cayenne spiked peanut butter filling) is very good indeed. I did not like the caramel banana ganache. Which was good to learn, since I'd been thinking of trying that recipe out and now I know I shouldn't. At least not without some major modifications. He'd brought a raspberry filling as well, which was useful for me, as it was a recipe I'd been thinking of trying out, and which has chambord (a raspberry liqueur) which I'd been thinking of adding to mine to punch up the flavor. But I learned that I didn't like the raspberry flavor it provided, so I'll look to other alternatives. Maybe the raspberry wine I've used before - a little bit of alcohol to carry some flavor compounds, but not so much to be hot and overwhelming.
The chocolate was nicely melted when I got home from work. I had abandoned my direct temper plan, but fortunately, the chocolate tempered fine on my first try. Working with larger volumes is nice that way. But before I actually got to the tempering of the chocolate, I had to decorate the molds. Doing molded chocolate means saving time and effort in some areas - like not having to roll a million truffle centers, but spending time in others - like decorating molds. Once I get a compressor for my airbrush and get more adept at using it, that may go faster (for some designs, anyway), but molding isn't as much of a time saving as I first thought.

Anyway, got my molds decorated and the chocolate shells made (note to self - full melter of chocolate more than enough to do 6 molds). Then filled them all. Now all I have to do is a little more cleanup before I go to bed. Once I'm done cleaning up, I'll have spent about 3.5 hours tonight, plus a half hour this morning cutting ganache squares (man, I want a guitar cutter!). So that's about 8 hours so far.

Plan for tomorrow: Wake up, temper my chocolate again. Dip some strawberry-balsamic right away, for the ones I need to package up and get in the mail tomorrow. Then, cap my molds. As soon as they're ready, pop them out, so that I can decorate and fill. Put some more chocolate on to melt. Package up the ones that get mailed, then take a break to go to the post office. Come back, temper chocolate, enrobe the rest of the strawberry balsamic, and cap the last three molds. Decorate the strawberry-balsamic.

Plan for Sunday: Packaging and delivery. Then, get ready for my trip to Chicago.
Making fillings:
2 batches of caramel - done
3 batches of hazelnut praline - done
1.5 batches of passionfruit - done
3 batches of strawberry-balsamic - done. Except that I wanted to cut them tonight, and they're just not cutting right. Too cold, I think. So I'm going to try again in a minute, and otherwise, wait until tomorrow.

I wanted to go to bed two hours ago, but I pushed through to the finish line.

Plan for tomorrow: Polish, decorate and fill 6 molds, so they can stand overnight to firm up. If I've got leftover chocolate and time and am feeling up to it, dip some of the strawberry-balsalmic pieces.

Plan for Saturday: Cap the 6 molds. Go to Baker's Nook. Pop out the chocolates, decorate and fill 3 molds, so they can stand for several hours on Saturday to firm up. Dip the rest of the strawberry-balsamic. Package up chocolates that need to be mailed and take them to the post office. Cap the 3 remaining molds. Start packaging.

Plan for Sunday: Finish packaging. Deliver to neighbors. Take chocolates into work and leave them in people's offices (I leave early Monday morning for Chicago).

Okay, I'm going to go set up 6 lbs of chocolate to (hopefully) direct temper. And see if my strawberry-balsamic is yet amenable to cutting.
A bunch of experimentation with mold decoration, some of which turned out better than others (although I have to say that even the not-so-pretty ones look better in reality than in the photo).

I can see that this airbrush thing has great potential... And that I need to buy more colors of cocoa butter. Tis the season for red and pink, but I'm going to be sick to death of those colors by the time I'm done!

We're going to the anniversary party for our community tonight, so I used it as an excuse to try out three recipes from Carole Bloom's book,Truffles, Candies, and Confections. At the bottom are Espresso Caramels, in both wrapped and chocolate covered versions. To the left, wrapped and chocolate dipped versions of the Honey Nut Caramels. To the right and in the middle (with the chopped nuts on top) is a slightly overcooked Hazelnut Butter Crunch. It's definitely edible, but darker than I would have preferred. The caramels are both good, but the honey nut is the best.

Here's what the caramels look like inside:


Feb. 3rd, 2007 07:06 am
I stayed up too late last night playing around with making caramels/candy. I made espresso caramels and honey nut caramels and some hazelnut butter crunch. And learned that the author of the cookbook I was using, Carole Bloom, prefers her caramels more chewy and less soft than I do. I'll have to cook everything to a few degrees cooler next time.

Unfortunately, I overcooked the hazelnut butter crunch. It's not burnt, but the sugar definitely got darker than it should be. I was planning to coat it with chocolate, and I'm thinking I might actually use milk chocolate (gasp!) because I think the extra sweetness would offset the bitterness from the darker sugar. For the others, I'll dip some of them in dark chocolate, and leave some of them undipped and just wrapped instead.

I got inspired to make all this stuff because we're having our Great Oak Anniversary party tonight, and I figured it would give me a good excuse to try out some candy recipes. I probably wouldn't have planned to dip anything in chocolate, except that I got an order yesterday for some custom chocolates that I need to make up this weekend, so I'll have chocolate handy for that. *And* my coworker Donna wanted to order some chocolates, but needed them before they were going to be ready next weekend, so I'm going to package up a bunch of the assorted caramels for her to take instead. So I've got a bunch of sales to offset my experimentation - I love it when that happens!

Today I'm going to go to Michael's and buy an airbrush, I think, so that I can play around with that technique for decorating molds. Fortunately, the airbrush that's most suitable for chocolate work is also the cheapest. I'm given to understand that Michael's regularly includes 40 or 50 percent off coupons in its newspaper flyer - I wonder if any of my neighbors still have that one?
Got my haircut this afternoon, so I took some chocolates to my stylist and left him (and another stylist who'd been listening to our conversation) with an order form. Then went down to Kitchen Port to get some silicone spatulas, and talked to Roberta about my new business and how I'd love to do a class for them (either a truffle making class or a "how to host a tasting party" class). Then dropped off some order forms at daycare too, since they all loved the box of chocolates I gave them for Christmas.

If you want an order form, you can get one here. And since my 43 lbs of chocolate won't get here until Monday, meaning I can't do any chocolate making this weekend, I've extended the deadline for ordering to next Wednesday, February 7.


Jan. 27th, 2007 12:26 pm
I just ordered $270 worth of chocolate.



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