Friday, August 29, 2008

Chocolate Monogram Favors

Be gentle with me folks. I am not very computer savvy. No really. I am bad. Ask my 2 friends Heather and Kim. I am sure those 2 poor girls wish my PC and I had never met.

Heather, who is my BFF (we live close by but we met on a cake message board many years ago), is awesome with graphic arts. She is our Webmaster, logo designer, and is creating the covers for the upcoming DVDs. Heck, I can't even log onto my own website to work on it. Sad, I know. She has to do it all. And all for very little pay. OK, OK, no pay.

Kim is a computer guru by profession, but an awesome caker as well. You may know her work. She calls herself a newbie, but we all think she is lying. Her cakes are too darn good. She helps me with all the technical/operational computer junk. Things like doing updates, backing up files, maneuvering windows, downloading, troubleshooting....all that kind of icky stuff.

Here is the lovely Kim (and me) at my Baton Rouge class I taught with Jen Dontz.

Not to mention that the SugarEd girls also listen to my non stop brainstorming, obscessing and generally constantly asking for advice. I honestly do not know what I would do without the help of my team. They are so good to me, and I do not deserve them. (You will meet more of them later.)

So, now that I am armed with the knowledge that these 2 wonderful women have imparted upon me, I am going to now dip my toes into the waters of blogging. Oooooooooooooh, it's cold!........ Deep breath. ..........Here I go:

A few weeks back, one of my all time best customers and ex-neighbor asked me to make a baby shower cake for her SIL. Well, turns out that MIL went and ordered a cake from somewhere else (GASP), so Tracy asked me to do the favors. She wanted me to make monogram favors out of chocolate to match the monogram on the invitation. (Not anticipating at the time that I would be blogging, I threw the invitation out, so I cannot show you how wonderfully I matched it . (Grin.)

I had no molds that would do for this job, so I decided to cut the candy discs with cookie cutters from poured out chocolate. I had never really done this before, so there was a little trial and error involved. I tried using parchment, plastic wrap, my silicone mat, and silpat under the chocolate but none worked well. I found that using plastic sheet protectors worked perfectly. Now, I cannot tell you if using those is food safe or not, so I am not telling you that it is. You will have to use your judgement on that one. You can however buy food grade acetate for chocolate work that would be fine. (I had none and no time to get any , so I decided to live dangerously this once.)

Here is a sheet protector on the counter with spacer strips on each side. These are called perfection strips and you can get them at Country Kitchen Sweet Art. They make sure you get the chocolate level all the way across your field. I placed them on the thinner sides and I think the chocolate was about 1/4 inch think, but do not quote me on that.

You melt your chocolate (I used candy coating cuz I am not about to temper anything in this life time) and pour it out on the sheet. Use a food grade ruler to spread the chocolate out, resting it on the spacer bars to make sure the chocolate is spread out evenly along the sheet. I could not take a picture of me doing this, because it took 2 hands to do it, and no one was here to take the pictures for me. Ah, such is the life of a lonely baker.....

Now go get a Diet Coke from the gas station soda fountain (because they have the perfect balance of carbonation and syrup), and wait for the chocolate to set up. You have to wait for the surface to turn dull and firm. If you tap it lightly with your finger you will not mark it, but if you press firmly you will. It will still be slightly warm to the touch. How long will this take? It depends upon how cool your room is, how hot the lights are, how fresh your chocolate is. I had my portable A/C on in my cake room (his name is Jack and I love him so) so it set up in probably 15-20 minutes.

Then take your cookie cutter (which I also failed to take a picture of) and cut into the chocolate. If it makes a nice clean cut, you are doing fine. If the edges of the cut are kind of squooshy, it is not ready yet. Press it hard so you cut all the way down to the bottom. If you are using crappy cheap chocolate like in this picture, it might be hard to get the cutter out. (Yes, I can say crappy . This is my blog and I can say it. Gotta love that. (Wink.) Hence all the fingerprints on the chocolate. I actually ended up doing these again a few days later when my good Merkens chocolate came in and it was clean and beautiful. The cutters came right out. No finger prints. It is amazing what a difference a good vs bad product can make. Again, I was only taking these pics to send to Kim (she is so needy, sheesh), and not expecting to use them on a blog tutorial, so I did not take pics with the good chocolate. Let's just pretend this one looks pretty, kay?

Now, go to the gas station and get a refill on your Diet Coke. Yes, I drink that much Diet Coke. Doesn't everyone? Then get on the computer and IM with your buddies for a while until the chocolate sets up nice and firm and is totally cooled off. I guess you could do other things like clean the kitchen or help your kid with homework, if you are into that sort of thing. (J/K, I do those things too.)

Then take the cutters and go back in again, into the same cuts, to make sure the bottom is cut all the way through. I found that if I did not do this, the underneath side had kind of melded back together and the pieces would not break off clean. Now transfer the sheet to a cardboard and score the chocolate around the blossoms with a sharp knife. Pop that in the freezer for 6-9 minutes until set up totally. The blossoms will just pop right out perfectly clean with beautiful edges. Do not touch the tops or you will get finger marks. Let them sit at room temp, and all condensation must dry before you work with them again.

I did the exact same thing with the white chocolate to make the circle discs. Merkens, not the crappy stuff. Attach the 2 pieces together with some chocolate and pipe the monogram with royal icing. I used a clay gun to make the pink string border. The party theme was pink, brown and white, so I wanted to get all 3 colors in there. So here is the finished product. They were about 3.5 inches in diameter.

And just for fun, here is a pic of the coordinating cookie favors. Sugar cookies with textured fondant, candy pearls and luster dust. Tracy loved them. Hmm, I wonder if their cake was dry.

OK class, your homework assignment is to go make some cute chocolate cut out thingies. Email me the pictures of your creations and I will post them here.

Happy Caking!

or should I say Happy Chocolating

or Happy Chocolatiering

Happy Messing with Chocolate

Whatever..........get going!!


SugarEd Productions

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

SugarEd Has a Blog!


Those of you that have our DVDs know what lagniappe is! (pronounced lan-yap). It is a French creole word used down here in Louisiana that means "something extra." We think you guys deserve a little lagniappe, so we hope to use this blog to give you updates and a behind the scenes glimpse of what is happening here at SugarEd Productions. We will also throw in some freebie how to's and helpful tid bits. Email us cake decorating questions and we will answer them here on the blog.

We will add a little fun personal info too, so you can get to know your SugarEd staff a little bit. ( If they let me take their pics that is!)

Thank you to all of our loyal customers for your continued support. And welcome to our new customers too; please let us know what you think! We are always eager to hear your comments and suggestions.

Please check back often and happy caking!

Sharon Zambito