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Candy Making Tips from a Real Chocolatier Making artisanal chocolates takes a great deal of skill and dedication. We sat down with a trained chocolatier to learn about some candy making techniques.Read More
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Chocolate is a decadent dessert that has been around for centuries! While it may be readily available today at grocery stores and even gas stations, there’s a big difference between prepackaged products and artisanal chocolate candies. There are people who devote their entire careers to the study of chocolate, and they are the top chocolatiers in the world.
Our friend Josh Gingerich spent some time learning the art of chocolate making from one of the best chocolatiers in the country. He was kind enough to share a little bit about his experience with us.
Q: How did you first get involved in candy making?
A: Spontaneously. I started in the pastry industry—I wanted to be a baker and work with bread. I enrolled in the pastry arts program at YTI (York Technical Institute) and got an internship right out of school where I met a friend who introduced me to a well-known chocolatier in the area.
I wasn’t seeking to become a chocolatier, it was more a matter of the opportunity presenting itself and I decided to take a chance.
Q: What kinds of candy do you make?
A: Mostly chocolate, but I also have some experience working with caramel and pate de fruit, which are fruit jellies that are cut into squares and tossed in sugar.
Q: Tell us about your experience working with candy.
A: I was hired as an assistant chocolatier at an artisanal French-influenced chocolate shop. I had only tried tempering chocolate once or twice in school, so I had to learn quickly. The shop where I worked had tempering machines that I used when preparing candies to sell, but the owner encouraged me to temper chocolate by hand in my spare time so that I could get a better sense of the process and learn to identify exactly what was happening to the chocolate as it reached different temperatures.
Q: What does it mean to temper chocolate?
A: Basically, chocolate is a crystalline substance. It has two types of crystals that become interlocked at two different temperatures, but there is a window where those temperatures overlap and that’s where chocolate tempers. Well-tempered chocolate has a specific, satin sheen.
Q: How do you temper chocolate?
A: To temper chocolate at home, you need to use a double boiler. Having chocolate directly on the heat will burn at the bottom while the top is still solid, so you’ll end up with a mess. You also need to be really careful not to get any liquid in the chocolate because that can ruin the process too.
Q: What’s a challenge that you faced while learning to make candy?
A: Any kind of candy making requires a specific skill. It’s a medium that you have to practice with and eventually you can tell the different stages just by looking at it and by smelling it. I’ll still use a candy thermometer when working with caramel, but I’ve become familiar enough with chocolate to recognize when I need to add more cocoa butter or take it off the heat.
Q: Why would you add cocoa butter?
A: Cocoa butter is just the fat from the cocoa bean. Processing plants take the raw beans and separate the solids from the fats (or cocoa powder from cocoa butter). The art of chocolate making is introducing these two ingredients back together in an artful way. In ganache, you can add cocoa butter at any point to make the chocolate more stiff, since cocoa butter is solid at room temperature. It helps keep it stable and it’s also tasteless, so it won’t ruin the flavor of your candy, which is especially important when you’re working with exotic fruits or other flavors in the chocolate.
Pure white chocolate is basically just cocoa butter and sugar, without any cocoa powder, to give you an idea of the role it plays in the mix.
Q: Do chocolatiers ever process the raw cocoa beans themselves?
A: It’s possible to process cocoa beans and I’ve seen it done, but the results are not consistent. Processing plants have the proper equipment to get really consistent, high-quality ingredients from cocoa beans and the chocolatier then chooses from a catalog of products offered by the manufacturer. I worked mainly with single-origin chocolates and found that each region has a distinct flavor profile, just like specialty coffee beans.
Another similarity to coffee is there are different grades of chocolate and the top-tier products are harvested from old growth plants. But, unlike coffee, it’s not just a matter of roasting and grinding the whole bean to achieve a final product. There’s more that goes into the process of chocolate making, so most chocolatiers will entrust that first step to a processing plant.
Q: What’s the difference between artisanal chocolate and commercial chocolate?
A: The main difference is that many commercial chocolate makers will replace some of the cocoa butter with other fats. Cocoa butter is very expensive, but if you’re trying to make ganache or any kind of pastry, trying to work with commercial chocolate becomes extremely difficult because the fats don’t melt at the same rate and don’t solidify properly. I mostly worked with couverture chocolate, which uses 100% cocoa butter and is considered an extremely good quality chocolate.
Removing cocoa butter affects the snap and sheen of the chocolate, so if you come across a chocolate that has a dull finish and bends easily, chances are, it has some other oils in it besides pure cocoa butter.
Q: What makes a good chocolate recipe?
A:There needs to be a balance of acid and liquid content. Some ganache is strictly cream based, but you can also make ganache with a mixture of hot cream and tea, fruit, or even just pure caramel. Once you have a basic understanding of the chemistry, you can get creative and adjust recipes you might find online or in books to transform them into your own creations.
It’s also important to consider the visual effect of your chocolate candy. Cocoa butter takes well to coloring, so if you spray a thin layer of colored cocoa butter onto your candy mold, you can achieve a bunch of different effects by mixing different colors and swirling them, or sometimes, we’d do a splatter effect—different things to make the presentation more impressive. But classic brown with just a lavender blossom or some kind of small seed on the corner is a very typical French look that’s beautiful in its own way.
Q: What kinds of businesses did you sell your chocolates to?
A: We had an online store where we did most of our wholesale business. Our customers included a lot of high-end hotels and small artisanal pastry shops all over the country.
We’d package about 50 pieces of one type of chocolate per box and often, customers would purchase as many as 12 different types that would each be packaged in separate boxes, all insulated with ice packs and shipped with quick 2-day shipping. Then, once the boxes reached their destination, the hotel staff could divide them into different assortments for their guests.
We didn’t do too much retail business, but occasionally, people would wander in and keep us in mind for events they were hosting or other small-scale sales.
Q: Do you have any stories that demonstrate the importance of candy making or the impact of the product on the customer?
A: Chocolate is a universal language. Nearly every nation in the world enjoys chocolate of some kind and different cultures put their own spin on it. Whether it’s French, Mexican, or Ghanaian, people put their own spin on the ingredients and make recipes to represent their culture.
The look on someone’s face when they taste a really good piece of chocolate communicates the appreciation that they have for that type of chocolate and that style. And that’s satisfying to see.
The word "mouthfeel" refers to the sensations that are experienced inside the mouth while eating or drinking. These can include textures that touch the tongue, roof of the mouth, teeth, throat, or it even can refer to an aftertaste. The term is believed to have originated in wine tastings, where tasters will articulate their experience as a means of sharing thoughts about a particular wine. For example, the way a particular wine coats the inside of the mouth is an indication of the viscosity of the product and is an important feature when considering the overall quality of the wine. Mouthfeel is also commonly discussed in coffee cuppings as well as tastings of other craft beverages such as whiskey or some types of beer.
Nowadays, mouthfeel terminology can refer to any number of foods and is often discussed among food critics. It can even be argued that mouthfeel has more impact than flavor in determining whether a person prefers one food over another. The silky texture of tofu or the crunch of crispy duck skin contributes to the overall experience of eating the dish.
For example, there are a wide variety of foods that some people shy away from, strictly due to their texture. Some people find okra too slimy, oysters too snotty… biting into a mushroom can evoke unpleasant mental images, and even the most delicious cherry tomatoes can turn people off when they pop under the pressure of teeth. Without a doubt, mouthfeel has a huge impact on the way we experience food.
It’s no accident that food textures can raise some red flags for us. Our natural response to mouthfeel while eating is an instinctual trigger that’s intended to serve as an indication of whether or not something is safe to eat. As foods lose freshness, their texture changes and (in most cases) becomes unappealing. If we experience an unexpected texture while eating, it can cause us to lose our appetite for fear of something being spoiled. In most cases, however, the textural experience can be analyzed objectively for the sake of critique.
With today’s modern technologies, there are endless possibilities when it comes to food. Many molecular gastronomists love to play around with texture to give their guests an entirely new experience. From flavored vapors to foam, there are so many techniques that can be used to impact the mouthfeel of a dish. But you don’t need to venture to a Michelin Star restaurant to find examples of manipulated mouthfeel. If you’ve ever eaten “astronaut ice cream,” you’ve experienced a textural play on a familiar food.
You may have heard about a recent trend called “dark dining” where the entire dining room is devoid of light and servers wear night vision goggles. Some dark dining restaurants will hire blind or visually impaired servers who can move about the space with little difficulty. Another rendition of the dark dining concept entails diners being blindfolded. The overall goal of this setup is that by removing the sense of sight, diners can be more fully immersed in their other senses to experience the act of eating in a new way. While the vast majority of restaurants put a lot of effort into their plating presentation, dark dining establishments focus more on the flavor, aroma, and texture of their foods to encourage their customers to focus on aspects of eating that they ordinarily might not notice… namely, mouthfeel.
As with most artistic critiques, there’s a vocabulary that aids in the sharing of thoughts and opinions. These descriptors can be categorized into two basic segments: drinks (for wine, coffee, tea, liquor, beer, and cocktails) and foods. Some common mouthfeel descriptor words include:
|Acidity||Metallic, citrusy, bright||The quality of the acid, whether balanced or astringent|
|Density||Close, airy||The compactness of the texture|
|Dryness||Arid, scorched||The degree to which moisture is removed from the mouth|
|Graininess||Particulate, powdery, dusty, grainy, chalky||The quality of small particles|
|Gumminess||Chewy, tough||The amount of energy needed to break up the food|
|Hardness||Crunchy, soft||The amount of force needed to take a bite|
|Harshness||Aggressive, delicate||The power over the palate|
|Heaviness||Full, weighty||The perceived weight of the food in the mouth|
|Irritation||Prickly, stinging||The amount of discomfort|
|Mouth Coating||Oily, buttery||The type and degree of the layer left in the mouth after eating|
|Roughness||Abrasive, textured||The degree of coarseness|
|Slipperiness||Slimy, stringy||The degree of sliding sensation|
|Smoothness||Satiny, velvety||The silkiness or fluidity|
|Uniformity||Even, uneven||The evenness of the texture|
|Viscosity||Full-bodied, light-bodied||The amount of force needed to move liquid|
|Wetness||Moist, sloppy||The amount of moisture|
To give an example of how one might use descriptor words to describe mouthfeel, let’s explore one common fruit that creates a unique mouthfeel. Peaches provide a variety of sensations: breaking through the skin to reach the flesh of the fruit, finding juiciness there as well as the fuzzy texture from the outside of the peach. We chew the fruit and then finally swallow it. And while most of us may not pay much attention to any specific sensations while we eat, these are all components of mouthfeel.
So, using the words from the table above, one could describe the hardness of the outer layer of the peach as soft, the wetness of the peach’s flesh as juicy, and the smoothness of the flesh as slightly stringy with a delicately chewy skin.
No matter if you’re a seasoned chef or new to the scene, you’ve likely encountered foods that stood out to you because of their mouthfeel. Whether you use the common vocabulary or not, mouthfeel is undoubtedly an important part of the overall eating experience and should be taken into account when developing new dishes.
Bitters are a classic cocktail ingredient, and they can be found in nearly every bar and nightclub around the world. People have been adding bitter ingredients and flavors to alcoholic beverages since the time of the ancient Egyptians, but our modern concept of bitters was invented in the early 1800s as medicine for relieving stomach pain.
Many bitters companies closed during the American Prohibition era and the ingredient was almost lost forever, but in recent years, mixologists and craft cocktail makers have brought bitters back to prominence. Due to the popularity and versatility of bitters, it is essential for bartenders to learn what they are, what types are available, and why to use them in drinks.
Bitters are a liquid ingredient with a bitter flavor that are primarily used in cocktails and alcoholic drinks. They are created by infusing bark, herbs, fruit peels, flowers, roots, and other ingredients in alcohol, and there are a variety of flavors that you can create. When added to cocktails, bitters are measured in "dashes," but the amount of a dash can differ depending on the bottle. Typically, a dash of bitters is 6-8 drops or 1/8th of a teaspoon.
There are many varieties of bitters, and the types of bitters have unique flavors and are used for different purposes. Before we get into the types of flavored bitters, you should first understand the two main categories of bitters and what they're used for.
Digestive bitters are popular in Europe but are not as prominent in the United States or Canada. Rather than being used as an ingredient, digestive bitters are drunk straight or on the rocks, and they are usually served after a meal has finished. The purpose of digestive bitters, also known as digestifs, is to help you digest your meal.
There is another variety of digestives, known as aperitifs, which come before a meal but serve the same purpose of helping digestion. There are a variety of popular digestive bitters, but some of the most famous are Amaro, Campari, Jaegermeister, and Unicum.
Most people in North America are more familiar with cocktail bitters. This type of bitters is much more concentrated and has a very strong bitter flavor. And, rather than being drunk straight, cocktail bitters are used as an ingredient in cocktails and mixed drinks, most famously in Manhattans and Sazeracs. Cocktail bitters are very versatile, and there are many different varieties and flavor profiles.
Among cocktail bitters, there are plenty of different flavors to choose from, and mixologists are constantly creating new and interesting options. Here are some of the most popular categories and flavors:
Bitters are a versatile ingredient that should be on the shelf in every bar and nightclub. But why should you use them in your cocktails? Here are a few reasons why bitters are essential for every bar:
Choosing a brand of bitters can be a difficult choice, and it depends mostly on what kind of cocktail you want to make because the different brands can have vastly different flavor profiles. And while there are now hundreds of brands and types of bitters to choose from, there are four major brands that you should be familiar with and have stocked in your bar or restaurant.
Bitters are a popular ingredient used in a variety of cocktails, and because of their popularity, it's important that bartenders and restaurant owners learn what they are, the different types, what they're used for, and why they should be used in recipes.
Consisting mainly of inexpensive ingredients (like eggs, potatoes, and toast), breakfast foods have a lot of potential for a high profit margin. And as “the most important meal of the day,” surely people are seeking breakfast options that are suitable for their lifestyle, right? While it may seem like a foolproof way to improve your business, offering breakfast doesn’t necessarily make sense for every restaurant. However, offering breakfast does make sense for a lot of restaurants as long as the following factors are considered before taking the leap.
As with any kind of business, a good first step is to find out what the competition is like. Are you situated in an area that’s already saturated with great breakfast spots? Do you get a lot of foot traffic in the morning as people are on their way to work? Really, the question you need to ask is: are people looking for breakfast in this location?
Do you have enough employees to cover the early morning shifts, or will you need to hire more people? Training and paying new staff can be a huge expense when launching breakfast for the first time.
What equipment will you need to buy? Most breakfast items are pretty simple to make, and turn out great with just a skillet or griddle. However, customers will expect coffee, which obviously requires a coffee maker. Will you need to purchase a waffle maker? The expense of these equipment pieces can add up, if you’re not careful.
Because most people have to get to work or get started with whatever else may be on their schedules for the day, they likely don’t want to spend a lot of time on breakfast. If your establishment is set up in a way that’s conducive to speedy execution, perhaps breakfast is a good idea for you. But if you have limited space and staff, long waits could cause frustration for diners.
The type of service you choose depends largely on the other factors in this list. But there are three common styles that most businesses choose from, mainly relating to their hours of operation.
Breakfast All Day - You’re probably pretty familiar with the idea of 24 hour diners that offer breakfast all the time. This is one of the most popular styles of breakfast restaurant and, of course, many popular chains have branded themselves as strictly making breakfast all day.
Open Early for Limited Time Service - It’s become pretty common for bars (that would ordinarily see most of their profits late at night) to open for Sunday brunch. You might even see Tex-Mex restaurants opening early to offer breakfast burritos for the morning hours of the day. If there’s a demand and you can provide a high-quality product, it doesn’t matter what type of food you serve the rest of the time.
Selection of To-Go Breakfast Items - Prepackaged grab-and-go breakfast foods are perfect for small cafes or bakeries that people might stop by on their way to work. Something that holds up well for a few hours in a bakery case, like a muffin or yogurt parfait, is a good choice.
Deciding whether or not it makes sense for your business to offer breakfast is no easy feat. From customer demographics to staff and kitchen resources, there are a lot of factors that should be considered before incorporating breakfast into your menu. While it may be the most important meal of the day and can be made with inexpensive ingredients, there’s no guarantee customers will think of your restaurant when breakfast time rolls around. But if you carefully think through the pros and cons before committing, breakfast can be a great addition to your regular service.