Monday, March 5, 2018

Easter Parade

Well, that time of year is rolling around.  The time when we get out all the Easter Molds and go to town.  Sin Confections has a fair amount of antique Easter Molds, made for molding chocolates, marzipan, and ice cream.

Going into the stash of molds that came from Belgium for the marzipan, a few Easter themed figures were made up in almond marzipan.  Since marzipan is so rich, the molds are small.  The exception to that was the nest, which is quite heavy.  No problem.  We all want to eat marzipan around here.

These little lambs are in bright pink and a luster pink for Easter.

These rabbits are about 2 1/2 inches high.

Here's a closer look.

These chicks just hatched!  About 2 inches high.

These singing birds are under an inch tall.

To be fair, the ice cream mold isn't specific for Easter, but it worked well as a nest for the little chicks molded up in the marzipan.  Next week we'll start posting some of the Easter chocolates.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Nuts about Marzipan

People ask "How do you stay so thin working with chocolate?"  Well, other than going to the pool and swimming laps most weekdays, I try to refrain from sampling what I make.  Actually it's easier than it sounds after a while.  That's not the case for me with marzipan.

Antique metal marzipan mold for walnuts

I'm nuts about marzipan.  Not the sickly sweet creamy smooth paste that can enrobe cakes or what you buy at the grocery.  No, I'm talking about homemade marzipan that I grind up myself, often to the consternation of the food processor that frequently smokes and shuts off.  I have to wait for it to cool down and then start grinding over again.  Someday I'll get a professional processor or in my dreams a melanger, but that day is not here yet.  Unless people start appreciating marzipan in this country and I start selling lots of it and have to make many batches.  I'm hoping!

The final walnut from mold above, once painted.

I like to make my own because I like it not to be too sweet.  It also has a little texture.  A processor will never get it perfectly smooth (that's where the melanger comes in).  But I'm OK with that.  And you should be too.  Why settle for mass produced commercial marzipan when you can have something better?  OK, I'll get off the soapbox now.

I lucked into some antique marzipan molds in Belgium, and am having a great time putting them to use.  I got about 40 of them, so you'll see them pop up from time to time.  Quite a few are Easter themed (a future post), a bunch are pigs (a future post and some shown in the 1/1/18 post).  But beyond the traditional fruits there are some that are rather eclectic (crayfish, feathers) and quite a few animals.  I molded up some animals this past weekend when I made the Easter selections.  So I thought I'd share them.

This little bear is just about 2 inches high.  Not so easy to mold, his little feet didn't want to release from the mold.  So I just made one.  All that fur, and the detailed pads on his paws are part of the mold, not just painted on.    I've named him Gary, in honor of my friend who has "Bear" as his nickname.

Here is another small mold, this time an owl.  Her name is Yvette.  She has a very nice backside, too. 

While she is modest, Yvette did agree to turn around so you can see the detail of her wings and feathers, again part of the mold, not just painted on.

Most folks that buy these little marzipan figures don't eat them.  They put them on the shelf!  While they do last a good long time, and I am happy to think of them as art, I certainly don't have the discipline to resist biting off their heads and munching down.  I can always make more...

I hope you give marzipan a try!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Handpainted Transfer Sheets

Port Ganache Praline with hand painted transfer sheet design

For those of you not familiar with the term "transfer sheet", it's nothing more than a piece of acetate that has pigmented cocoa butter covering one side of it.  I say "nothing more" but the transfer sheets one can buy vary in quality and colors and there are a multitude of designs for almost any idea, holiday or whim.  Check out Chef Rubber and Chocotransfersheets for two sources of beautiful sheets.  Basically, they make their sheets with a specialized silk screen process that uses pigmented cocoa butter as the "ink".

Custom Painted Transfer Sheet designed for Valentines Day

Some times I want a specific design that I can't get from either place, and I only want one or two sheets.  Since I'm a long way from being a big production house pumping out zillions of chocolates, I make my own.  I find painting a transfer sheet can be very meditative.  I guess we all have our thing.  Some days painting transfer sheets is mine.

These lemon-mint pralines used the transfer sheet shown in the  next two photos below.

Anyway.  Just how does a transfer sheet work, you ask?  Well, you place the acetate sheet paint side down on liquid chocolate.  And the heat of the liquid chocolate acts like a sort of solvent that melts the cocoa butter.  As the chocolate and the cocoa butter cool, they become one (see, that zen thing going on here?).  Once the chocolate has set, the acetate sheet is peeled off of the chocolate, and the cocoa butter design that was once on the acetate has now magically transferred to the chocolate.

Mold seen from Back with transfer sheet and magnets

There are some special mold that have a removable bottom into which one places the transfer sheet, and then places the bottom back into the mold.

Mold seen from Front with Cavities

The mold and the bottom have magnets that hold them fast together, and keep the transfer sheet in place.  If the sheet moved, then the transfer would get all muddy looking and of course you would have to feed all those chocolates to your partner and kids...

Filled Mold (can't see transfer sheet)

That's only one way to use transfer sheets.  You can also just cut pieces of the sheet and place it on top of liquid chocolate, and make sure it doesn't move.  That's the process used here.  I made some wasabi-lime truffles, and made up a transfer sheet in greens.  I wanted to give the impression of sushi.

It's also a great way for people to decorate their own chocolates.  My friend Judi, a beautiful fine arts painter, came over the other day and we played around in the studio.  She painted up her own transfer sheet, then we made up a box of chocolates with them for her to take home.  Edible art!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Playing with Tape

Instagram is great.  So much inspiration and great energy from people we might never get to know otherwise.  I discovered Hiba Chocolates  and in this post she really got me thinking about what I wanted to accomplish with my chocolates this year.  I've decided it was the year to experiment and perfect my craft.  So with a big thanks to Hiba, I've started working away at it.  My friends are thankful to her as well, they get to eat all the rejects as I experiment.

I started with something simple, playing with tape.  I used both vinyl and paper, and have had much cleaner edges with vinyl tape.  Some of the tape is very thin, about 1mm.  Here's the output from playing with tape a bit.

Tape down the middle, and a toothpick to scrape away the paint for X&O

Criss Cross Tape, two different widths, and three dots using different width "dotters".

Criss-Cross tape, same width.

Thank you Hiba!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Challenging Koi

I am a sucker for pretty molds, even though they are often way beyond my ability to use them properly.  Ignorance is bliss, I suppose.  I got the koi mold, and promptly set about to mold them.  And curse them.  And mold them.  And curse them.  And mold them.  And curse them.  You get the idea.

Besides having a ton of detail, the molds also have some very shallow spots and some very narrow deep spots.  This makes getting chocolate in them and paint in them very hard.  The paint stuck, the air bubbles got trapped no matter what, and the fins, whiskers and tails broke off.

I suppose that I could have gone the easier route and just made solid chocolate shapes that were not filled.  But what's the fun in that?  I put the mold away but didn't stop thinking about it.  I now saw this mold as a learning challenge.  If I could master this mold, the fussiest one in my collection (not extensive by any means, but I'm not suffering for lack of molds, either) then I figured that I'd be on my way to being a better chocolate maker.

This mold requires carefully painting with the finest brush, using toothpick and paintbrush, splattering well, and thinning down the chocolate with cocoa butter quite a bit for the shelling.  And very carefully unmold, using a backing sheet (piece of cardboard or the like) so that the pieces gently fall out of the mold, no smacking like we see in those fancy YouTube videos.  Otherwise the whiskers, fins and tail break.

So while I'm not quite there yet, I think I'm getting close.  White chocolate with orange butter ganache koi.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Rolla49 Potholders and Caramel Sauce

A while back I posted about the airbrush booth that my friend Jim made.  He is an uber talented carpenter, and it is thanks to him that I have a beautiful kitchen with hand carved teak counters and custom made cabinets to make my 1903 kitchen look original.  But lets face it.  Behind every talented person is an equally talented partner, and Jim's wife Maria is an inspiration beyond compare.  She is a woman after my own heart.  One day we were talking about "toys" that we wanted, and she wanted a plasma cutter to do metalwork with.  Gotta love her.  You can check out her work here.

Anyway, what does that have to do with chocolate?  Well, Jim came over to see about doing some custom repair work around the house (everything on this house is custom when it's over 100 years old, there's no running to a big box store).  While he was there I foisted some of my chocolates off on him, and he being the good husband that he is, saved some for Maria and shared them.

When we got back from Winter break there was a box from Maria waiting for us, and in it were (among other things) these beautiful potholders!  Maria knows we have a 1920's Magic Chef stove in our kitchen, but the potholders have wound up out in the carriage house so I can use them with the new induction plate when I make caramels.  Here was the maiden run for the induction plate and potholders.  I'm not sure what I liked better about making the caramel, the fact that it smelled so good, or that I got to use Maria's potholders.

This caramel is the more fluid kind that I use to fill molded shells.  It takes a day or so for it to form enough of a skin to cap the molds.  But the lovely, runny liquid sensation in the mouth is worth it.  This batch got flavored with rose oil.

I think the colors go well for Valentine's Day.  One thing's for sure.  Maria's creations and mine are both made with a lot of love.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Robot Chocolate Bars for Child Creativity Lab

You have to admire the energy and talent that the folks at Child Creativity Lab have.  They put their heart and soul into providing a safe and creative space for children of all ages to explore their talents. When I found out an acquaintance was involved, and they were hosting their first ever gala, I immediately signed up to make some chocolates they could hand out.

Robots seemed like the perfect theme for their venue.  But those Robots are tiny!  To make them stand out more, each Robot was glued onto a larger chocolate bar that was painted up to look like something a young child might have done (little do they know that I am an old adult...).  Here's how they got put together.

First, polish those molds, and clean them out really well.  I'd painted this mold up earlier in the week, and the cocoa butter was too hot when I painted it in the mold.  Needless to say, it stuck to the mold, not the chocolate.  It took over an hour to clean that mold out.  The upside was that my friends were pleased to eat the free rejects!

Next, the details were painted in by hand with toothpicks and tiny brushes.

The final painting step was to airbrush in the shoes and the body.

Once the Robots were done, they were glued with chocolate onto a bigger chocolate bar that had been splat painted and hand painted with the initials for the Child Creativity Lab.  The childlike paint and goofy robot seemed to echo their vision for the creative resources they provide to the greater community and our kids.

Easter Parade

Well, that time of year is rolling around.  The time when we get out all the Easter Molds and go to town.  Sin Confections has a fair amount...

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