The Chocolate Life

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Refrigeration vs. non-refrigerated?

Hello everyone. My name is Amber and I've been surfing The Chocolate Life and gleaning all sorts of wisdom and for that I thank you. You are all very kind-hearted and helpful...not to mention extremely knowledgeable. I have three questions (actually hundreds, but 3 to start with):

I am trying to set up a retail shop on a shoestring budget as I've outgrown my "friends and family" circle.

1) I am wondering about bare-bones display cases. Do they have to be refrigerated if the commercial space has a window a/c? (I'll assume yes..and if so) can you use what they call a "deli case" vs. a bakery case (as they are MUCH less expensive.?

2) Can you really temper chocolate only by using a microwave then pouring mass into a chocolate warmer/melter and adding more seed chocolate to it (on a 2/1 ratio meaning 2 melted 1 seed)? I've heard that you can, but haven't found on the internet for sure if the melter will hold the temper for long periods of time? (I currently use a very small chocovision rev 2 machine for my hobby).

3) How can extend shelf life of my cream/butter truffles? Are you supposed to refrigerate or freeze them due to the moisture/condensation problem? Also them cracking when "re-entering" normal room temperatures?

Thank you for your patience and help with yet another newbie.

Tags: Display, cases?

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Hey Amber,
When I first opened my retail shop I used a non-refrigerated case. As you can imagine, it is fine if the room is a fairly constant temperature and it doesn't get above 70 degrees. We had a lot of unacceptable blooming. You won't get as much shelf life out of your product. For every one degree drop in temperature you extend your shelf life 7 days. ( I think that was the number I read.) If you're making truffles with fresh cream and butter it will be best to get a case made for chocolate as soon as possible.
Good luck with things.
Thank you very much Bud.

I can see that a refrigerated one is a must! Someone told me I can skimp by using a wine cooler or refrigerator. I don't know what the difference between a "cooler" and "refrigerator" are, but I'm trying to find out which one doesn't have humidity. If you know, please do tell.

Sincerely, Amber B.

PS. Thank you for your kindness.
I purchased my case from "Cold Core"
It has humidity control as well as being able to keep the case at the correct temperature for candy. This is a higher temp that a normal cooler which is usually 20 degrees cooler.
That being said, you do want to be careful that you can afford the expenses of opening and not making any money for a prolonged period of time. Make sure you spend some time thinking about what your up-front costs are as well as your ongoing expenses. It's a big step opening a business and not always a profitable one. I've been in business for 30 years with my natural foods store and the retail chocolate shop for 3 years. I also make the chocolate for the retail store. It not the easiest biz, but it sure is fun. I'll be happy to answer what questions I can about start up.

How long can I expect my truffles to last and remain "sell-able" in a refrigerated case?
Hey Amber,
It depends on your recipe. Does it have fresh cream and butter? if so and you don't add anything like Citric acid or potassium sorbate than according to Peter Greweling in his fabulous book, chocolate and confections, about 3 weeks. Some authors recommend freezing or refrigerating the truffles but Greweling says it effects the texture. I do not refrigerate mine for more than 5 minutes after I dip them. There is a thread on this site about freezing that I glanced at and should reread. I just know you have to be very careful to refrigerate after freezing to acclimate the truffle so it doesn't condense water and cause bloom. I don't have any issues with Citric acid but I won't use potassium sorbate. I haven't sent them out to be tested yet for shelf life. Instead I make small batches that I can sell through in about a 3 week period.
thank you....if you're not supposed to refrigerate, then how do you explain the refrigerated display cases?
A case made for chocolate keeps the chocolate at 65-68 degrees and 45% humidity. A refrigerator is usually high humidity and 40 degrees. I think a wine cooler keeps it at 55-57 degrees Fahrenheit and with an average of 60% relative humidity. If your confections are in a case that is not temperature controlled and the temperature in the room fluctuates, your confections could bloom long before the 4 weeks.

Can I use a "deli" case or "bakery" case? What should I avoid in refrigerated cases, or look for? Thank you.
I think humidity control is your biggest concern. If too much humidity enters the case then you're going to see some condensation over time.

We store our truffle ganache in freezers, made truffles in fridgerators, and then they get moved into retail positions which have varying cases. We've been in a deli case to very old candy cases. The older the case the more you have to worry about something failing and when it fails, be prepared to have your product go mutant on you ahah.

The fridge and freezer / texture argument I think is one based on the composition of your truffles. We use cream only and have never had a textural issue and texture is very important to us.

We're looking into our own cases now as well and my god they are so expensive for what you seemingly get. If you find any further information out there let us know. I had started a thread over in StartupCntrl:
As I read your other requests.. another thing that has worked well for us. You began as a hobby, and now are going directly to retail operation. If you need middle steps to prove your area and market has legs find your local farmers market communities and sell there. We've got two years of positive numbers and a loyal following. It has also given us time to find other retail positions to test out different sectors in our area. I've had enough failures in my life so far to know that I wanted to grow something that had roots and with this I think we've got it. Just a thought on growth patterns and some mitigation for feeling you may get in over your head.

Microwave tempering we've never tried. The microwave causes such a fast heating that getting it into that tempering zone.. One thing we do if the need requires it is microwave the chocolate to melted then transfer to a cooktop for getting it in the zone. Clay has some good ideas on using proofing ovens to fire and forget your temper too.
Having read your replies to Amber, you have good insight into this chocolate working business. I teach chocolate and candy making to professionals. I would like to give my thoughts on tempering in the microwave. I have done it for up to about 7-8 pounds at a time. It worked really well. I do it in small bursts, 30-45 seconds at a time on high power, stirring frequently and taking it's temp. When it starts to get close to the correct temp. I then use 1/2 power on the microwave. I can bring about 5 lbs of chopped 58% to 119d/f in about 7-8 minutes. I prefer tabling it to seeding it.

A proofing oven sounds great except that most of them require water or the element will eventually burn out.

Take care,

I think your advice about "middle steps" is very good.  I began as a hobby, and have been fortunate enough to have the middle step of renting space on an hourly basis at a local bakery/gift shop where i make and sell my chocolates.  it has been working well, but i am always looking for ways to grow the business and have thought about our local farmers markets.  But my big question is how to do you keep the chocolate from melting?  is it as simple as coolers?  what about display chocolate?  


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