We break this weaving adventure for a far more serious subject: chocolate!
Yes, it’s getting on towards November, aka chocolate season! And this year will be ambitious…over 60 boxes for my AIDS Ride sponsors plus probably another 10-15 for friends and family. That’s about 25% more than I did last year, and I was unemployed at the time!
Fortunately, help always seems to materialize when I need it most. This time, it’s materializing in the form of Michael, the fellow who bought my chocolate molds from me, back when I bought the chocolate tempering machine. He is a major chocolate enthusiast – as in, dreams of being a chocolatier and is renting space in a commercial kitchen to play around with chocolate – and is willing to help out in exchange for learning how I do chocolate. (You may recall that I spent one winter working weekends for Richard Donnelly of Donnelly Chocolates, who has been named in several lists as one of America’s top ten artisan chocolatiers. So I do know a little bit about chocolate – not in Donnelly’s class, perhaps, but I know all the basic techniques and can temper chocolate reliably.)
He’s also (possibly) able to get me space in the commercial kitchen, which apparently boasts such conveniences as a guitar (tool for cutting ganaches into pieces for dipping) and a vibrating table (to help get air bubbles out of chocolate molds when casting the chocolate shells). And lots of space, an item sorely lacking in my kitchen/apartment. Usually by the time I finish making chocolates every available flat space is festooned with trays of chocolate molds, boxes of finished chocolates, etc.
I am not certain we’ll be able to get space the week before Thanksgiving, or that I can afford to buy four days’ worth of space in a commercial kitchen, but I’m considering it. If it has a marble slab for working chocolate, that would be a major plus. My granite slab is the size of a decent sized table (about 2.5′ by 5′ if I recall correctly) and is not at all bad for chocolate work, but it’s only 5/8″ thick and warms up after about three or four 7-lb batches of chocolate. Then it can’t be used for several hours, unti it cools. Donnelly Chocolates’ slab of marble is 4″ thick and can do pretty much any amount of chocolate. If this place has thicker or larger marble slab, it may well be worth renting.
And I am preparing to put in my chocolate order. This is new for me. Usually I go down to my favorite French food importer during one of their warehouse sales, stroll down their chocolate aisle, say hello to the head of their pastry department (who knows me and has invited me to some of their Valrhona chocolate seminars), and then go down to the chocolate aisle and inhale the chocolate fumes. (OK, it doesn’t actually smell like chocolate, but with one giant warehouse aisle filled with all kinds of chocolate, it OUGHT to, dammit.) Then I buy about 40 lbs of Valrhona chocolate, schlep it up to the counter, and enjoy watching the expressions on people’s faces. (Usually, “Can I go home with you?? Please??”)
Alas, Made in France was purchased a few months ago by another food wholesaler, so their warehouse sales are no more. I have attempted to source bulk Valrhona locally, but have (essentially) failed. So now I’m having to mail-order the stuff from Oregon.
So I am looking at buying about 60 lbs of chocolate this year. Won’t that make a delectable package?
I’m already thinking of what flavors I want to try this year. Michael (the fellow who will be helping me this year) has been doing quite a bit of stuff with goat milk, so I will probably give that a whirl, in caramels and fudge. (Too bad I can’t get goat cream for use in bonbons.) I also have a list of other flavors about a yard long, but haven’t narrowed it down yet. But I will soon. Chocolate is serious stuff, and I usually start making the nonperishable ones about three weeks before the big chocolate orgy sets in. So I have about a month to prepare.
In weaving news, I am about 1/3 of the way through threading – making MUCH more rapid progress than I expected – and have dyed some cashmere black to use (possibly) as weft. This is the “cashmere” that I bought in a thrift shop for $0.83/lb (possibly the best deal I have gotten on anything EVER), and while I wasn’t 100% sure it was cashmere when I bought it, I am now. Washed and dyed, it has the softness of cashmere, the fibers are short and non-crimpy as in cashmere, and there are even a few guard hairs in it. So I am pleased. It is a bit thicker than the silk, though, and I am not sure whether the matte cashmere will detract from the smooth shine of the silk, so I’m not sure I’m going to use it yet. Weave up and wet-finish samples, and see what happens.