I realized yesterday that I may be able to fit more chocolates into a box than I had expected – 36 flavors instead of the 30-odd from previous years. This is the result of using better equipment. In prior years, I didn’t have the confectionery guitar, so the chocolates were cut by hand. As a result, the size varied wildly, so packing the boxes was always an adventure, and 30 flavors was all I could fit.
Last year was different. The confectionery guitar cuts the centers into squares precisely 7/8″ on a side, which meant that (after being dipped in chocolate and put in a candy cup) I could fit them three across the narrow side of the box. The part I can’t remember is how many fit into a box on the longer side. According to my calculations, though, it should be six chocolates. That would allow me to fit 36 flavors into a single box. Which is delightful, since it will allow me to include more flavors. Competition for a slot has gotten devilishly tight – there are a lot of flavors I’d like to include that I simply don’t have space for.
However, it also means that I need more designs with which to decorate the extra chocolates. So I have dug into my archive of Chinese papercut designs (thank you, Dover Publishing and iStockPhoto!) and chosen another twenty designs. Here they are, as they will appear on the chocolates:
The actual colors will be a bit more understated, as you can see in the flavor inserts from last year’s boxes:
I really like the look of the new set, especially the left-hand designs – looking forward to including them in the boxes.
Meanwhile, seven flavors have gone down to the starting-line for this week’s flavor trials. Here they are:
- Cranberry caramels with orange zest and vanilla
- Matcha and mint
- Juniper berries, balsamic vinegar, honey, bay leaf
- Angostura Orange aromatic bitters, honey
- “Margarita” – Grand marnier, tequila, honey, lime
- Cherry rum
- Mint Julep
The first five are flavor combinations from Jean-Pierre Wybauw’s Fine Chocolates 4, though I have made some serious edits to the recipes in some cases. (The cranberry-orange-vanilla, for example, started life as a ganache but I decided to re-interpret it as a caramel.) The last two are my own ideas – not terribly original, but potentially very tasty.
Anyway, I mixed them up yesterday, and will be dipping them today. Taste-testing will happen tomorrow morning. I’m really looking forward to trying them – judging from the scrapings in the bowl, all seven will be strong contenders. I anticipate happy coworkers on Monday, when I bring in the leftovers!
I haven’t decided yet whether to do a third round of taste testing. If I do, I will likely try Deanna’s suggestion of hazelnut and Chambord (which sounds divine), passion fruit habanero, and some other interesting combos. But honestly, the lineup is so strong already that I think I may be better off spending the time planning. I need to do an ingredients spreadsheet so I know what to buy, and I need to plot out my production schedule for maximum efficiency. I also need to go through my address list again.
Book-wise, I had a lovely (if brief) interview with Kaffe Fassett earlier this week, and am starting to schedule my next round of interviews. I have quite a bit of material already, but I’d like to talk to people in a few more crafts – glass artists, ceramics, and basketry, among others. I’m hoping to get those scheduled before the holidays.
I have been doing a great deal of shopping for the chocolates, of course, which has engendered intense curiosity from the feline residents of the house. In fact, in our house, the question isn’t “Who let the cat out of the bag?” but “Who let the cat into the bag?” As Tigress demonstrates, reusable shopping bags are simply irresistible.
(Fritz, of course, is helping. Or maybe he’s just waiting his turn.)