Le Fleur

Le Fleur

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Busy Busy Little Bee

Lately, in addition to working on my tempering skills and white chocolate ganache making, I've been trying to reach more people.  I'm hoping to have a space to assemble my truffles sometime this month, and I've ordered business cards.  Overton High School is also having its Arts Fair this year (we did not last year, tragic), and I'm going to try to rent a booth for my truffles. I'm trying to get in contact with someone who says he can help me with some networking as well. And, as always, I'm working on new flavors. So I'm always doing something lately.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

About the Logo

Le Fleur's logo was designed by Nichole Reed, and a big thanks to her for it. I love the finished result for a few reasons.

The reason I chose a plant for the logo (and the reason I chose the name, for that matter) is that most of my artistic creativity goes into the flavor of the candy. Instead of just focusing on the flavor of the chocolate itself, I add various plant flavorings, from hibiscus to tea to fruity-tasting oils. The different combinations of taste are what make each recipe unique.

It's easy to appreciate the beauty of a flower. However, a plant is nothing without its roots. A flower grows two ways, stretching out its roots as well as reaching upward.  The roots of chocolate stretch very far back; as far as we know, the Olmecs of the Mexican Gulf lowlands were the first to cultivate cacao about three thousand years ago. Later, among the Mayans and Aztecs, chocolate was almost never consumed plain, instead, it was a drink that was flavored with various plants including chilli, vanilla, and other regional plants like "ear flower." I like to think I, too, am reaching both directions, both tapping into the tradition of flavoring chocolate as well as branching out into my own creations of flavored chocolate.

The lotus flower, pictured in the logo, is recognized as a symbolic plant because it grows from the muddy bottom of a body of water to a very beautiful flower the rests just above the water's surface. It is known as a symbol of overcoming struggle and hard times.

I did not wake up one morning and decide to create Le Fleur. I needed the help of a friend to get me out of the internal struggle that came with trying to choose between doing what I wanted and doing what I was expected to do with my life. And even after deciding that I would make chocolate, I was met with opposition and disappointment from teachers I had looked up to as mentors, among other older people. Over time, I had to learn on my own that only I have the right to say what I should do and what I should care about. I could not live my life giving in to pressure from people trying to shape me and my goals.

So this is more that just candy. It's Le Fleur Chocolat.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You're in for a Treat

Now, normally, I don't give away my secrets when it comes to my truffles, but in the spirit of competition, I will release my new recipe, Riceball!

What competition, you ask? Well, the monthly We Should Cocoa chocolate challenge, hosted this month by Choclette, of course! Really, it's not a competition, but I tend to make these kinds of things competitive because that's how I am with my chocolate.

About the recipe.  You may recognize rice balls, or onigiri, as a Japanese dish.  And while the recipe tastes nothing like onigiri, I'm sure, it does have a very Japanese ingredient. This truffle features crisped rice in the shell and genmaicha-infused ganache. Genmaicha is green tea mixed with toasted brown rice for a nutty-tasting tea, and can be found at health food stores or, less expensively, at your nearby Asian market. The following recipe is for milk-free dark chocolate, so the proportions may vary slightly depending on the chocolate you use.

Dark Riceball Truffles (Vegan)

12 fl. oz. (1 1/2 cup) dark chocolate chips
2 bags of genmaicha
100 mL almond or soy milk
1 tbsp. margarine
At least 2 additional cups of tempered chocolate for dipping
About 1/2 cup crisped rice (Rice Krispies cereal works fine)

In a double boiler/bain marie, melt the first cup and a half of chocolate. While it is melting, steep the two bags of genmaicha in the milk, stirring or moving the bags often to keep a skin from forming over the milk as the tea steeps. After all the chocolate is melted, pour 50 mL of the infused milk into it, straining out tea leaves if necessary. Remove from the heat and mix; I get the best results using a spoon to mix it a little, then a whisk to incorporate it thoroughly. Once the mixture is smooth, add the margarine. Be sure to mix this thoroughly as well, or you may end up with a chunk of margarine in your ganache.

Cover the ganache and chill in the refrigerator for two to three hours.once it's firm, take it out of the refrigerator. In your double boiler, melt the rest of the chocolate.  While it's melting, spoon out your ganache and roll into balls with about a nickel's diameter. Temper the chocolate and stir in the crisped rice. Dip each ganache ball into the chocolate, making sure you get plenty of rice lumps over it, scrape the excess chocolate, and drop onto a cookie sheet. Allow the truffles to harden on their own; putting them in the refrigerator could basically undo all your hard work at tempering!

If you'venever made truffles, I'd recommend you practice making ganache first, then get good at tempering. The best way to learn how to make truffles is by experience.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jumping Hurdles

Here is what my dark chocolate usually looks like:

 And here is a box I made today:
And true, I will admit that part of this lovely box of truffles is partially made of couverture chocolate. Still, I'd say no more than a third of it is couverture. Besides, the top picture contains it too. I did this box without using a thermometer, so if I did this well without it, I think I'll be ready to take off my couverture training wheels soon.

In addition to getting better at tempering, I'm also getting better at making white chocolate ganache. At first, whenever I made it it would come out like pudding or would not mix. Now, I'm getting it right on the first try. I'm pretty comfortable with white chocolate at this point.

So you may be asking what's next on my hit list.  Well, I'd like to keep refining my tempering, for one. I want to be sure that second picture wasn't just a mistake, so I'll keep on working with dark chocolate. Also, currently, I do not make milk chocolate ganache; I'd like to change that very soon. One more is that I need to find out how to keep rice crisp crunchy when I put it in truffles. And of course, I have those new recipes to work on. So while I am very proud of the progress I'm making, one mustn't get complacent from one little success.

For now, here's a nice cross-section of some of the truffles I make:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sneak Peek

Here are some names of some works in progress, try and see if you can figure out what it might be made of!

Cherry Bomb


Tropic Rum


Just some ideas I'm tossing around right now. ^.^

I Can Has Skewlz?

So... I'm puzzling over whether or not I should seek an education in chocolate-making. I'm self-taught in everything I know about confectionery, so I can't really see myself actually needing to attend a candy-making or pastry art program when I could easily develop my skills on my own in the four years I'll be attending college. I'm proficient at making dark chocolate truffles and I'm covering ground learning how to make good white and milk chocolate ganache. I will admit that I'm horrible at tempering, as I can temper so that I get a hard chocolate shell but can't get a shiny, even color to save my life. But even that, I could probably fix if I had a thermometer. I'm proficient at making caramel and pretty good with pralines and toffee. All I really have left to do is develop more different candy fillings aside from ganache.

The main issue I have with these schools is the emphasis they tend to place on the appearance of the food. I know it's called pastry "art" for a reason, but what I mostly care about it how to make candies taste as best as they can, be they shiny and well-tempered or discolored and bloomed.

At the same time, I feel like I should have some kind of formal training. I think. I actually don't feel too strongly about it as long as I'm making my customers happy. I don't know. For now, I don't plan on attending any pastry art or confectionery school after college.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Little About Me and Le Fleur

I have some milk chocolate melting on the stove as I type this, so it may or may not be brief.  I'm Kimberly, an aspiring chocolatier/confectioner and business proprietor, but currently, the only business I run is a cottage industry.  My brand is called Le Fleur, and while it isn't quite an official business yet, I would like to build upon it.  In case it wasn't obvious, I focus my chocolate work on candy and I focus my candy work on chocolate. Specifically, I am most creative with flavored chocolate truffles because, honestly, plain chocolate is plain boring.

I made a decision to create at least six new original truffle recipes by the end of this year. My two fully-developed recipes at the beginning of the year were Maestretto a spicy hibiscus truffle and Soda Cracker, made with soda and crackers. This January I created Love Drunk, and berry-chmpagne mix and I plan to start working on one or two more very soon.

But yeah, I'll be using this blog I guess just to keep people posted about what's going on with me, what to expect, and about new flavors and promotions.