I own a small chocolate company which has been slowly growing over the last 4 years. I mainly sell wholesale to small gourmet shops, and am really looking to expand out of my city and to a more national basis. With that in mind, I really need for this business to become profitable. My sales doubled in 2010 and I did see a profit (for the first time) but I have yet to pay myself (or any employees). In other words, I need to start making money.
My biggest selling item are my truffles- they make up about 25% of my total sales. I have been doing everything by hand- making the ganache (though I have started using a food processor to help with this), scooping (#100 ice cream type scoop), rolling, dipping, everything. I can personally scoop, roll & dip about 200 truffles/hour. However, I have problems with consistency of size, as well as shelf life (I typically get a very thing shell). I am considering using premade shells, but I have always been opposed to them in the past. They seem like a copout to me, a shortcut, etc.
I got some samples from my local distributor (who does sell the Valrhona shells, though these were not V's) and tried it with one ganache, and I don't really notice a difference. Obviously if the shells made a difference in taste or texture, I wouldn't consider them.
So my question is, does using premade shells make me a bad person? :) I've never been one to take the easy way out just to make a buck, but to be honest, if I don't start making money soon, I won't be making chocolates at all for much longer!
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Since your main concern is consistency in size, I'd suggest you buy a guitar. Different arms will produce different size squares, and from that point you only need to roll them into truffles. The end result will be size uniformity, you'll save yourself the cost of having to always purchase premade shells, and then in good conscience you can continue to say your truffles are handmade.
Premade truffle shells are the way to go, as you need to make extremely high volumes to justify doing it yourself.
And with truffles, the sweet, creamy center is what counts the most! :)
Thanks for the advice, everyone. It's hard for me to go from completely hand made EVERYTHING to using shells, but my research has shown they are extremely common. I even ordered some truffles from a French guy in the states, and he was using them. So I figure, if it's good enough for a French guy, it's good enough for me! :)
My next question is: what's the best way to fill/cap the shells? When I was making molded chocolates (where I made the shells myself) I would let the fillings set overnight before capping. Is this recommended for truffles too? I've read that people cap them right after filling, but my concern would be that the filling would contract as it sets, leaving a gap for air, which could result in mold.
ok, first of all: yes, fill the truffle shells almost to the top and let them rest over night before cap them.
by the next day they should have shrunk enough to leave enough space to close them.
Pre-made truffle shells are very expensive.
Now, here is a way to make truffles (shells) as cheap as it can be, without having to buy a spinner.
Chocolate World in Belgium are selling a filling machine called "Easy Fill" which I have used for many years.
Not cheap, but a far cry away from a one shot machine/spinner.
And now the trick:
they are selling a 2pc truffle mould (magnet/series 2000) which you can use to make either only truffle shells or in "2 shot" way, the entire truffle with filling.
I have the moulds, but still have to find the time to use them.
You can of course also fill the moulds by hand but the easy fill machine will make it much faster and more equal in weight.
Make sure to get the machine for truffles as there are 2 types.
Check-out their website.
Hi - I've purchased the 32 impression round truffle molds from JB Prince. They are about $50 each. It's a 2-piece magnetic mold. You fill the bottom sphere up, place the top part on (a half-sphere w/hole), and if you are doing it old school, hit the table a few times on each side of the mold to make sure it covers the whole thing, (but I would suggest the vibrating table), then place it upside down on a cooling rack so the extra chocolate drips out of the hole. Put parchment paper underneath to capture the extra chocolate to use again. With 10 molds I can make about 320 molds at a time. The investment is about $500.
The thing is this - I'm tired! And it is an investment of time. I have to use the same molds for my white, milk and dark chocolate, so it's kind of a 1-2 day investment if you need them ASAP.
I spoke with my chocolate distributor and he said he can get them pre-made for me from Callebaut, but he thinks they are made with "covering" chocolate, which I do not want to use. I'm waiting to hear back to confirm.
So my question is - would anyone know of a company that sells the pre-made shells made out of pure, good old fashioned, cocoa butter only, couverture chocolate?