Archive for the 'Chocolate' Category

The Bourbon Candy Bar is Here plus Haiti Relief

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Below is the email that I sent out to my mailing list today.  I’m very excited about this candy bar.  Although I’d conceived of it as a lighter Valentine’s Day-like candy originally, it ended up taking up the tones of bbq — with salt, pepper, and corn.  Oh well… I think it works. :)

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Hello,

The Bourbon Candy Bar is here!  For its launch, we are honored to be using George T. Stagg Bourbon in this bar. This 141.8 proof bourbon is renowned for perfectly balancing intensity and finesse.  It is made in small batches that are released to the public only twice a year.  When our supply runs out, we will switch to another bourbon.  We have rounded out this bar with caramel, salt, black pepper, dark chocolate, and a corn wafer.

We are also using this opportunity to raise funds for Haiti relief.  10% of all product sales until Midnight on Sunday, January 31, will be donated to the American Red Cross for Haiti.  Advance Valentine’s Day orders placed during this time will also be included.

Thank you!
Nina
Founder & Chief Chocolatier, BonBonBar

MORE BONBONBAR NEWS

I am planning to conduct candymaking classes soon in Berkeley, possibly starting in March.

Season’s Greetings from BonBonBar

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

This is the text from the BonBonBar email newsletter that will go out tomorrow…  I’m not sure that I’ll have time to post again until after the holidays — so Happy Holidays everyone!

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Hello,

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season, perhaps enhanced by handmade candy bars, caramels, and marshmallows!

BonBonBar received its first online order two years and one day ago.  During all of the adventures and surprises that have unfolded since then, I’ve been consistently amazed by how lucky I am to have such fun and kind customers.  So, I also wanted to thank you for making this such an exciting and rewarding experience.  I have learned much and enjoyed much since Dec 2007, and I am looking forward to 2010!

Thank you!
Nina
Founder & Chief Chocolatier, BonBonBar


MORE BONBONBAR NEWS

Pumpkin Pie Candy Bars and Caramallows will be available into January.  I like having them around.

Due to popular demand, the Malt Bar will most likely return at some point in 2010.

BonBonBar will be on vacation during the last week of December 2009.  All orders placed during that time will ship upon our return.

A BonBonBar Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

I’m sending this message to my email list.  Thought I’d share on here, too… :)

Hello,

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for such an enthusiastic welcome back!  It’s been exciting to cook and enrobe in the kitchen again for BonBonBar, and the days are flying by once again.

This is just a quick reminder that orders for Thanksgiving should be placed as soon as possible.  I will be shipping out the last Thanksgiving orders Saturday & Monday to ensure that they arrive in time.

Our seasonal Pumpkin Pie Candy Bars and Pumpkin Pie Caramallow are perfect for the holidays!

Thank you!
Nina
Founder & Chief Chocolatier, BonBonBar

MORE BONBONBAR NEWS

We are now accepting holiday orders.  Please email nina@bonbonbar.com to discuss your needs.  Ordering early ensures a stress-free holiday gift season.

If you would like to place your orders in advance online, that would be fantastic to help me plan and prepare.  PLEASE just write in the comments when you would like them to be shipped.

Pumpkin Pie
Candy Bar

p

Pumpkin Pie Caramel &
Graham Cracker

Pumpkin Pie
Caramallow
logo

Pumpkin Pie Caramel
wrapped around
Vanilla Marshmallow

Single Malt
Scotch Bar

Chewy Caramel,
Malt Ganache, &
Maldon Salt.

Kitchen Space

Monday, November 9th, 2009

With the re-launch of BonBonBar, I am now working out of my fifth shared commercial kitchen since I started the company in December 2007.  Moving into a new kitchen is almost like moving into a new home, with all of the hopes and plans for organizing the soon-to-be-gone empty spaces, but a kitchen is also something like an instrument, whose nuances and tricks you have to learn to play along with.  From the beginning, everyone I rent from is very aware that I essentially have a pretty simple two track mind that revolves around considerations of temperature (68-72F, please) and odor (none… please? :) ).  I try not to be abrasive about it, but it’s pretty much all I talk about in a musing sort of way at first because it’s pretty much all I think about until I get comfortable with the space.  I’ve never worked out of a kitchen used only for candy or is continuously temp-controlled, so I’ve had to make my niche wherever I am.

I thought that I’d write a few thoughts and experiences about working in commercial kitchens.  I remember when I first starting working in commercial kitchens, everything seemed so heavy duty and intimidating.  Now, I’m used to it, and when I’m in a home kitchen, everything seems so small and cute!

SIZE

I’d say that I’ve rented one HUGE kitchen, two medium kitchens, and two small kitchens.  While the larger kitchens are impressive and great for setting up multiple stations, I’ve come to really respect the simple efficiency that I’ve felt in smaller kitchens.  There’s a lot to be said for being able to put ingredients directly onto the table from the fridge, to place them near the appropriate equipment after weighing them out, to cook at a stovetop, to turn around to pour out the result, and then to step a couple feet to the side to wash the dishes.  And repeat.  In the larger kitchens, you spend so much time traveling between the different areas that you lose time… and have time to think about losing time.

And as much as I try not to, I have a tenacious habit of spreading my stuff out when I work, and the larger kitchens act like enablers to that.  Though speed racks, which hold multiple sheet pans, are a great way to keep things condensed, and mobile, since they have wheels.

STORAGE

Some people assume that a candy company needs just a little space as if the making and distributing of candy has to be a sylph-like enterprise.  But stuff adds up — cases of chocolate, cambro containers of ingredients, pots, tools, chocolate melters, cutting boards, sheet pans, gift boxes, mailing boxes, candy pads, labels, molds, finished products, foil pouches, etc.  So, a decent amount of storage space is also necessary, usually under work tables, in metro racks, or in speed racks.

WINDOWS

Wonderful for getting a sense of the day and the neighborhood.

Bad for working at night and perhaps being watched.

TABLES

I love wood-topped tables.  They don’t warp from heat (important because I cook and pour out a lot of hot caramel; I put the pans on wooden cutting boards on stainless steel tables).  They’re not not as loud when you place things on them.  They feel good when touched. My current kitchen is my first that has one instead of all stainless steel.

OVENS & STOVES

I grew up using electric stovetops and used induction burners in culinary school, so it took a little while getting used to the powerful flames of commercial gas stovetops that have been in my kitchens.  My current kitchen only has a large stock pot burner, so I’ve been using induction again when I need to heat smaller pots and I think I’m falling in love all over again.  They’re so smooth and efficient, they’re like the silk of the kitchen burner options.  I’d only use induction burners if I could, but my biggest pot would need a more expensive burner with a larger heating surface, so now I’m using a combination of the stock pot burner and the induction burner.

Many commercial ovens are convection ovens, but I don’t use the convection setting.  I only use ovens for two things — to roast nuts (which I roast as low and slow as I can to get the best depth of flavor) and to bake cookies like shortbread and graham crackers, which I’m just used to baking without convection and don’t take a lot of time anyway.

EQUIPMENT

Cool, big toys are great unless they’re not being used.  Then they just take up space.

For my marshmallows, I recently bought my first hobart mixer, which is the standard for commercial mixers.  In my last kitchen, I used someone else’s hobart when they weren’t using it.  Like most commercial equipment, it’s heavy and powerful.

TEMPERATURE

Chocolate work and storage is best for me between 68-72F degrees.  To maintain that, it’s a matter of storage upstairs/downstairs or front/back depending on the time of day, or near a door or around a corner from the oven, or in a separate AC’ed conference room, or using gel paks and coolers.

Fans can help a lot to move heat, as well as a cross-breeze from having the front and back doors opened (if there are both), or the hood above the stove (if there is one).  Kitchens tend to stay fairly warm — if they’re on the smaller side, the heat generated from the multi-door refrigerators and freezers can be significant.  This can be a good thing in the winter, if it would otherwise be too cold.

ODOR

Chocolates, like many foods, can absorb odors from their environment.  Sweet or savory odors, I try to protect every component and confection with wrapping or moving to a different/protected space.  Garlic, salmon, peppers, etc, are obviously bad, but any strong odor is bad.  For instance, the other day, I knew that I had to make strawberry jam, which is like unleashing the loveliest, lushest strawberry patch in your kitchen, and that I had to dip Scotch and Coffee Candy Bars as well as cut marshmallows.  I made the strawberry jam last, after everything was packaged and stowed because I didn’t want the lingering odor to affect the candy that I’d work with in the open air.

On a related note, I especially take care to isolate the coffee for my Coffee Candy Bar so that it’s as far away from other ingredients as possible — it’s so potent!  This is also one reason why I’m reluctant to do anything with chilis.

Equipment and tools can also retain odors.  I smell every cutting board before use, whether they belong to me or not (I use them for cutting, but also as handy flat surfaces).

The ONE time I let my guard down, I wound up with a painfully large batch of Garlic Malt Bars due to a contaminated spatula that someone had borrowed without asking (this is also the ONE time that happened) and that I was so grateful to get back that I used it without smelling it.  I was working with someone on a diet that day, and I didn’t taste one until we were packing up.  Then I had to start over.

PEOPLE

In some kitchens, the space was only for my company during my time, and in others, there were others around.  In the beginning, I only worked at night and alone, but as things progressed, I sometimes have helpers or work at the same time as others from other companies.

As in many other aspect of the business, the people make all the difference — btw having fun or slogging through.  On good days, it’s almost festive to have a group of people in the kitchen skipping along with their work and it’s also instructive when you can compare notes or help each other out, but on bad days, a bad attitude or a complainer can bring everyone down.  And that’s when iPods are especially handy, though not foolproof…

The Single Malt Scotch Birthday Cake

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Single Malt Scotch Cake: Chocolate Chiffon Cake, Caramel Filling, Scotch Simple Syrup, Scotch Milk Chocolate-Caramel Frosting, Maldon Salt.

It’s hard to believe, but this is Chad’s 4th documented birthday on this blog.  One year ago, there was the Salted Chocolate Nut Cake.  Two years ago, there was the Blood Orange Creamsicle Cake.  Three years ago… I barely knew how to make cake… so we went to The French Laundry.

And now, it’s Chad’s 30th birthday, and here it is: the Single Malt Scotch Cake.

Chad had made a few reverential comments about the Salted Chocolate Nut Cake during the past few months, so I’d schemed to make it again, but with Scotch in the frosting for variation.  When asked directly about his choice of cake this year, he said he wanted a cake a modeled after the Scotch Bar.  My eyes lit up and I told him about my hybrid idea, but no, he wanted a straight translation of the Scotch Bar — nothing more and nothing less than Scotch, chocolate, caramel, and salt.

The structure of the cake is actually pretty similar to last year’s, and has the salient properties of the Scotch Bar to boot.  Chad even had the great idea of “enrobing” the cake with a dark chocolate shell, but I couldn’t get around to doing that, and I’m also not crazy about cutting chocolate-covered/wrapped cakes.

The cake is a Chocolate Chiffon baked in angel food cake form, and it included the Walnut Oil like last year, because I thought that it would add a subtle note of interest and is perhaps healthier than all Safflower. I was a little bummed because I overbaked the cake enough to make it a little dry (I baked it 15 mins longer than the prescribed 60 mins b/c it kept making a foamy sound whenever I pressed the top, and it didn’t really bounce back much).  Luckily, the moistness of the caramel and frosting made up for it, but still, I guess this is what happens when you’re a rare cake-maker.

I brushed a Scotch Simple Syrup to imbue the cake itself with flavor; ratio of sugar to water 1:1, with Scotch to taste (and taste!).  The kind people at Talisker sent me a selection of Single Malt Scotch when they found out that I use Talisker in my candy bar, so I decided to use the Caol Ila 18 year. It’s smoky, but oh so smooth.

For the Caramel Filling, I again used the caramel recipe that I make my Caramel Nut Bar with, but omitted the nuts. Just as I was about the make it, though, I realized that the nuts gave it structural support, and caramel fillings are usually in the form of a buttercream — not a straight caramel.  My CNB filling is basically a modified caramel sauce, and I decided to go for it to try it as a cake filling.  But I decreased the amount of cream in the recipe by 15% and increased the amount of butter by 15% (honestly, this wasn’t even planned, I just rounded up and rounded down, and just did the math now).  I reasoned that the standup quality and shortness-giving properties of the butter would make for a sliceable frosting-like caramel.   I also added 15% more glucose for a little bit of thickening.  It worked nicely, though it would have torn up the cake if I’d tried to spread it on; instead, with gloved hands, I flattened a bit of caramel at a time and put it on the cake. It was still quite soft when cut into with a knife or fork, though, so it was just the right consistency — not chewy or tough.

For the frosting, I made the same Caramel-Milk Chocolate Frosting.  I’d planned to decrease the amount of cream to compensate for the added alcohol, but completely forgot.  But I forged ahead, adding Scotch and tasting until it was potent enough… 1 Tbs… 2 Tbs… 3 Tbs… Then the idea of adding a 1/4 cup of Scotch somehow seemed like way too much extra liquid — let alone, Scotch — to add… So I added 1/2 Tbs more.  3-1/2 Tbs = Perfect.  The milk chocolate frosting alone tasted slightly peculiar with the Scotch, but the sweetness balanced out with the dark cake and caramel filling.

When I finished frosting the cake, I thought it looked fine in its homespun way, with its ebb and flow of spoon-backed frosting that I like.  But then I realized that it wasn’t done yet…. And so I finished the cake with Maldon Salt, which I now think of as “adult sprinkles.”

It’s best to sprinkle the salt on for each piece as it’s served, though, because  if left overnight, the smaller salt grains will absorb moisture and break down into salty little puddles.

I like these Candy Bar Cakes.  They remind me a little of Pierre Herme’s style (or maybe it’s not just him?) of having set flavor combinations that are translated into different forms under generally the same name.

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Here’s the recipe!

This is the Single Malt Scotch Candy Bar in cake form — with scotch ganache frosting, caramel filling, chocolate chiffon cake, and plenty of Maldon Salt.  For the tastiest cake, use an assertive Scotch, such as Talisker Caol Ila 18 yr.  The peatier and smokier, the better.

CHOCOLATE CHIFFON CAKE

1/2 cup + 1 Tbs (50g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
3/4 cup (6oz) boiling water
1 3/4 cup (175g) unbleached AP flour, such as King Arthur
1 3/4 cup (350g) sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup (3.75 oz) Safflower Oil, preferably organic
6 ea (120g) egg yolks, preferably organic
10 ea (300g) egg whites, preferably organic
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325F.

Whisk together cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth.  Let cool.

In a large bowl, combine flour, all but 2 Tbs of the sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk for 1 minute.  Add oil, egg yolks, cocoa powder mixture, and vanilla.  Whisk until smooth.

Using a stand mixer, whisk egg whites until frothy.  Add cream of tartar.  Beat until soft peaks form.  Slowly add rmg 2 Tbs sugar.  Beat until firm peaks.

Mix 1/3 of egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  Gently fold an additional 1/3 of the egg whites into batter.  Gently fold in rmg egg whites until just blended.

Pour batter into ungreased 10″ aluminum tube pan, preferably with feet.  Run a thin knife through batter to break any large air pockets.

Bake for 60-65 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Invert pan on feet (or over a glass bottle) until cool, about 2 hrs.

SCOTCH CHOCOLATE FROSTING

18 oz milk chocolate
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 3/4 cup whipping cream, preferably organic
1/4 - 1/2 cup Single Malt Scotch, or to taste

In a large bowl, combine milk and bittersweet chocolates.

In a small saucepan, bring cream to a simmer.  Keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, stir enough water into the sugar so that it looks like wet sand. Place over medium heat.  Brush sides with wet pastry brush to thoroughly dissolve any sugar crystals.  Boil without stirring until syrup turns an amber color, about 7-8 minutes; it may be necessary to swirl the pan to ensure even cooking without scorching.  Turn off heat.

Slowly add whipping cream while stirring slowly– being very careful of vigorous bubbles. Stir over medium heat until any hard caramel bits dissolve.

Pour caramel over chocolate.  Let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Stir in Scotch, tasting until preferred strength is reached.  Chill until completely cool, about 2 hours. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature before continuing.

SALTED CARAMEL FILLING

1 cup (200g) sugar
2/3 cup (5.25oz) cream
2 Tbs butter, very soft
1 tsp Maldon salt

In a medium pan, stir enough water into the sugar so that it looks like wet sand. Place over medium heat.  Brush sides with wet pastry brush to thoroughly dissolve any sugar crystals.  Boil without stirring until syrup turns an amber color; it may be necessary to swirl the pan to ensure even cooking without scorching.  Turn off heat.

Slowly add whipping cream while stirring slowly– being very careful of vigorous bubbles. Stir over medium heat until any hard caramel bits dissolve. Pour caramel into a bowl.  Stir in Maldon salt. Let cool.  Stir in butter.

SCOTCH SIMPLE SYRUP

1/3 cup (66g) sugar
1/3 cup water
1-3 tsp Single Malt Scotch

Boil sugar and water in small saucepan until clear.  Let cool.

Add single malt scotch to taste.

ASSEMBLY

Dislodge cake using a long thin knife around the sides and core, being careful to neither cut into the cake nor the pan.  Dislodge the bottom using the knife.

Place cake on a cake board or plate.  Cut cake in half horizontally using a long bread knife.  Place top half aside.

With a pastry brush, dab the top of the bottom half thoroughly with Scotch Simple Syrup.

Using a stand mixer, beat the frosting until it’s spreadable and the color of milk chocolate, about 15-30 seconds. If too thick to spread easily, add some additional cream and beat until integrated.

With a pastry bag (or ziploc bag trimmed at one corner), pipe a thick ring of frosting on the outer and inner perimeters of the cake.  This will be a barrier to prevent the Caramel Filling from oozing out of the cake.

Pour Caramel Filling onto the cake between the rings of frosting.  If Caramel Filling is too firm, carefully stir in more cream, a Tbs at a time.  Smooth with a small offset spatula.

Place the top layer of the cake on top.

Dab the top of the cake with Scotch Simple Syrup.

Make a crumb coat on the cake by spreading a thin layer of frosting all over the cake.  Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until frosting is set.

Beat frosting briefly again if necessary, to lighten consistency. Spread remaining frosting all over the cake.

If the whole cake will be eaten immediately, sprinkle generously with Maldon Salt.  Alternatively, sprinkle Maldon Salt individually over each slice.  If left salted overnight, the salt will dissolve into puddles on the frosting.