I spent most of this morning constructing a project plan for Chocopalooza (the big chocolate run, Nov 16-20). I am optimizing for two things:
First, the most efficient sequence of chocolate types. White chocolate comes first, then milk chocolate, then dark chocolate. This is because a little bit of dark chocolate in white chocolate will contaminate both flavor and color, but white chocolate in dark won’t be noticeable.
Second, food allergies. I’ve deliberately put the big allergy culprits (peanut butter and coconut) at the tail end of each round of production, so I can start fresh with a new batch of chocolate the following day.
Then I am putting each flavor combo in sequence, assigning it a day. From experience I know I can get 4-5 flavors (about 15 lbs of chocolates) done per day. So I divide up the sequence into 4-5 flavors a day.
Now I am putting together the plan for each day. Because some ingredients need to soak overnight, and butter must be brought to room temperature before using, etc. (lots of etc.!), I put together a plan for my “mise en place”. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the term:
Mise en place (pronounced [miz É‘Ìƒ plas], literally “putting in place”) is a French phrase defined by the Culinary Institute of America as “everything in place”, as in set up. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that he or she expects to prepare during his/her shift.
Recipes are reviewed to check for necessary ingredients and equipment. Ingredients are measured out, washed, chopped, and placed in individual bowls. Equipment, such as spatulas and blenders, are prepared for use, and ovens are preheated. Preparing the mise en place ahead of time allows the chef to cook without having to stop and assemble items, which is desirable in recipes with time constraints.
It also refers to the preparation and layouts that are set up and used by line cooks at their stations in a commercial or restaurant kitchen.
Basically it just means “make sure the kitchen is totally ready”. I could get by without this plan if I weren’t trying to make 15-20 lbs of candies per day, but that quantity is really stretching the boundaries of what one person can accomplish, so efficient prep work is needed. I’ve tried “winging it” in the past and it usually leads to unpleasant surprises. And I love analysis and pushing the boundaries of what is possible, so I enjoy the planning process! It lets me imagine that I’m already in the kitchen, elbow-deep in chocolate.
Tonight I plan to make fudge. I am debating whether to make chocolate Armagnac walnut fudge or plain chocolate walnut fudge. It would be a no-brainer (I love Armagnac in chocolate, and there are no other Armagnac bonbons in the box this year) except that Mike has made an impassioned and eloquent plea for a plain chocolate-with-nuts fudge! So I think I may skip the Armagnac and make just plain chocolate-walnut fudge. Love trumps artistic sensibilities (at least in this case!).
I have also now put away all the chocolates in containers. Current count is eleven kinds of candy, with twenty-three to go. (The astute will notice that this adds up to thirty-four, two or three more than will fit in the boxes. This will allow me to spontaneously eliminate a few flavors if they don’t meet my standards in production. Either that, or I’m simply indecisive. You decide! 😉 )
Off to plan my mise en place!