Tuesday, September 15, 2020

5 Tricks to Transform Your Existing Treats for Halloween

 

Halloween is expected to look a little different for many communities in 2020. Families may be looking for different ways to treat their kids and close friends this year.

If you already make chocolate-covered pretzels, truffles or marshmallow pops, the following ideas will require very little, if any, additional ingredients and minimal effort. Keep reading for five quick and easy tricks to dress up your existing treats for Halloween.

Credit (left to right):RCI member Apple Tree Chocolate and Desserts Now Dinner Later

Ghostly Pretzels

Your fans will scream with delight over these ghostly pretzels. To accomplish this look, cover bowtie pretzels with white chocolate, then pipe white chocolate into top two holes and embellish with candy eyeballs.

Credit: The Suburban Soapbox

Truffle Eyeballs

Transform your white chocolate truffles into eye-catching treats. Use a red edible marker to create veins all over the white truffle. Pipe a dot of colored chocolate or coating for the iris and top with a black M&M or other candy-coated chocolate as the pupil.

Witchy Fingers

It’s the details that transform ordinary pretzel rods into shockingly convincing witch’s fingers. As pictured, blanched almonds were painted with black gel food coloring to achieve this look (dark-chocolate-covered almonds would work too). A toothpick or wooden skewer may be used to imitate the wrinkles of the top and bottom knuckle. Click here to view a step-by-step tutorial.

Credit: Garnish & Glaze

Pumpkin Pretzels

If you’re looking for something less spooky, these cute pumpkin pretzels are as easy as they are cute. Embellish orange coated pretzels with sprinkles and a green M&M or candy-coated sunflower seed as the finishing touch. Click here to see how Simply As That blog, gave their pumpkin pretzels personality by adding faces.


Spooky Sweet Marshmallow Pops

With this spooky sweet display of chocolate-covered marshmallow pops decorated as jack-o-lanterns, googly candy corn and skeletons from RCI member Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, how could you choose just one? Plus, we love how these marshmallow pops are packaged in folded acetate boxes and tied up with festive ribbons.

Even if Halloween hasn’t traditionally been a big holiday for your business, this year may be the exception. Make sure to share photos of your Halloween treats on social media and on your e-commerce site for greater exposure and sales potential.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Pro Tips for Effective Equipment Maintenance and Cleaning

COVID-19 is a reminder of how quickly pathogens can spread and the importance of good manufacturing practices to protect your customers and your employees. RCI member, Jim Bourne with Hilliard’s Chocolate Systems shares pro tips for maintaining and cleaning your chocolate equipment.

Today’s food safety regulations regarding sanitation, allergens and labeling are being aggressively enforced at the local, state and federal levels. Keep good records of what cleaning is performed and when it’s done. Inspectors like to see this information recorded.

Equipment Maintenance

By having the chocolate equipment in good operating condition, it will help avoid possible contamination from the equipment and avoid down time. Talk with the machine manufacturer to discuss maintenance, such as lubrication with a food-grade lubricant, replacement of worn parts and wear items such as belt drives.

Create a chart to detail periodic inspections and repairs to the machinery. When a machine is not operating properly or making a new noise, investigate and repair the problem to avoid down time. Developing problems rarely get better on their own. Since cleaning is a big part of maintenance, do periodic break downs of equipment to inspect, clean and locate any issues.

Equipment Cleaning

Scheduling a few minutes each day for daily and periodic cleaning will help equipment run more efficiently and reduce the risk of contaminated product. As a fat-based food, chocolate can be easily compromised by heat, strong odors, allergens and moisture. Fortunately, chocolate has a very low moisture content and low water activity, so it is less likely to support pathogens on its own. The low moisture also means chocolate equipment does not need a complete breakdown and cleaning daily as other equipment does, such as ice cream equipment.

Cleaning methods for eliminating allergens and pathogens in chocolate equipment can be divided into two categories; dry cleaning and wet cleaning. Dry cleaning does not use water, so cleaning is done by scraping chocolate out, vacuuming out solid chocolate bits and wiping down equipment with alcohol wipes. This method is best for machine parts that can be disassembled.

Larger machines are often cleaned intact by flushing the system with melted cocoa butter to access pipes, pumps and hard-to-reach areas. Wet cleaning involves the use of warm to hot water and liquid sanitizers. The water and sanitizer will introduce moisture, so each component being wet cleaned must be completely dry before reassembly. Be sure to use sanitizers that do not have a strong fragrance, otherwise the fragrance can be picked up by the chocolate.

Wet cleaning pipes, pumps and other restricted areas can also be problematic if moisture is introduced in the cleaning process, but not removed. Introducing moisture presents a higher risk of pathogen and mold growth, so it is important that all surfaces that are wet cleaned are completely dry.

Daily Cleaning

At the end of the day, raise the chocolate temperature to break the temper. Run the untempered chocolate through the pumping system and the wire belt, because untempered chocolate is less likely to crystalize overnight. The cooling belts can be cleaned and dried while they are running. Avoid using excessive water and use only damp cleaning cloths, drying afterwards. If the equipment has screens to filter out debris, clean them at least daily. Drain chocolate from the curtain hopper and wire mesh belt into the tank to prevent the chocolate from setting up and causing problems on start up. Clean any non-chocolate materials such as nuts, sea salt and toppings from the machine. Also, clean floors and walls around and under the equipment daily.

Periodic Full Cleaning

Periodic full cleanings are a necessity. You should assess your own situation and risk to determine how frequently to perform a full cleaning. Are you more likely, in your operation, to introduce moisture, allergens or contaminants to the equipment and the chocolate? The more likely you are to be compromised, the more often you should do a complete breakdown, cleaning and drying.

Be aware that moisture or other contaminants can also be introduced by other means. Excessive moisture from centers or toppings can cause issues. HVAC in the plant can poorly filter dust or dehumidify the air. Clean and check the cooling tunnels and air blowers to eliminate condensation and dust problems.

There are operations that do a full break down quarterly, monthly and even weekly, depending on their own situation. Operations that perform very few full cleanings put themselves at the greatest risk. Following good manufacturing processes will help you protect your customers, your employees and your business.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

5 Must-Try Fall Flavors…that don’t involve Pumpkin Spice

It's back! Starbucks officially launched their coveted Pumpkin Spice Lattes (aka PSL) earlier than ever—August 25. By some standards, the return of PSL is the signal that fall is around the corner. If you choose to go by the “more official” calendar date to mark the first day of fall, you’ve got until September 22 [insert sigh of relief here].


Regardless of when you choose to acknowledge the true arrival of fall, it won’t be long before it’s time to say “goodbye” to cool and refreshing flavors like watermelon and citrus, and “hello” to warm and cozy fall flavors like, well, pumpkin spice. Thanks to Starbucks, you can expect to find pumpkin spice in everything from coffees to cookies, candles to skin care, and, yes, even deodorant. Click here to check out some of RCI’s favorite pumpkin spice ideas.  

Even if you draw the line at trading in your favorite deodorant for the seasonal variety, there’s something comforting about fall flavors, but you don’t have to limit yourself to pumpkin. Keep reading for a list of equally craveable flavors to fall in love with this fall.

Apples

Apple Pecan Caramel Bark, by Hilliard's Chocolates
Pumpkin may reign king of fall, but one might say the apple is queen. This certainly isn’t a surprise if you already make caramel apples, but you may consider different ways to incorporate the unofficial fruit of fall, by mimicking the flavors in apple cider or warm apple pie.

RCI member, Hilliard’s Chocolates, evokes all the fall feels with their Apple Pecan Caramel Bark. Presented at a past Candy Clinic, the bark combines white chocolate, cinnamon oil, dried apples, caramel and cinnamon sugar for a welcome fall treat. RCI members: Login at retailconfectioners.org/candyclinic to view past presentations like this one.

Brown Butter

Land O'Lakes
Take your rich and buttery confections to the next level with brown butter, which is essentially a magical transformation that happens moments before it becomes burnt butter—naturally Martha Stewart has a solution for fixing burnt butter, click here for video. The nutty and complex flavor of brown butter will elevate any recipe. Check out this recipe for Browned Butter Salted Caramel Sauce by TheChunkyChef.com.

Chai Tea
Real Simple
Quite possibly a distant relative to the pumpkin spice latte, chai tea is a strong-flavored tea with a hint of sweetness. Ginger and pepper add a kick of spice, which is evened out with earthy notes from cardamom and cloves, plus a dash of cinnamon. Why not try this Food Network recipe for Chai Chocolate Truffles, which Giada De Laurentiis compares to a “giant warm hug.”

Dark Beer
CraftBeer.com
Beer is a great addition to any caramel and brittle recipe, but if you’re already incorporating beer into your confections try experimenting with the darker beers of the season. Take note of seasonal beer varieties like porter and stout, which will soon replace the lighter ales of summer.

RCI member, Joy Lyn’s Candies partners with a local brewery to create a peanut brittle made with Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale. Coined as “Beer Brittle,” this popular confection is made in small batches and offers a subtle hint of hops and malt.

Pears
The Kitchen McCabe
If your customers love your caramel apples, get ready to knock their wooly socks off this fall with caramel-dipped pears. Experts agree pears that are not quite ripe with long stems for dipping are best--the most popular varieties being Bosc, Anjou, Comice and Seckel pears. Unlike apples, most pears (Seckel being an exception) don’t take well to having sticks inserted into them, which is why a sturdy stem is important. Check out this recipe for Caramel Dipped Pears from TheKitchenMcCabe.com.

It’s undeniable, the pumpkin spice trend isn’t going anywhere…at least until Starbucks launches their holiday-themed drink menu (enter: Peppermint Mocha), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other great fall flavors to peak shoppers’ interest. We want to know, what’s your favorite fall confection? Please share in the comments below.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

5 Family-Friendly Ways to Generate Sales for Fall 2020

There’s little doubt this fall season is going to look very different for many families and individuals. Thanks to COVID-19, many of our favorite traditional fall events will be canceled or, if not, done very differently.

Here’s five ideas from RCI members for generating sales by creating memorable experiences for families this fall.

Candy-Making Classes: Two Ways

Hosting virtual candy-making classes is a great way to engage with consumers. RCI member, Yelibelly Chocolates, has developed a series of at-home candy-making classes which can be experienced as a prerecorded video or live Zoom call. Further direction can be shared with customers after purchasing a supply kit containing the needed ingredients and supplies.

Known for their in-person candy-making classes for kids, RCI member, PeterbrookeChocolatier, has been able to continue in-person classes by offering small groups of families and/or close friends to take private classes together after local mandates allowed. This approach limits potential exposure to participants by individuals outside their inner circle and creates a more comfortable environment for local patrons to do something fun outside their homes.

Socially Distant Outdoor Events

Is your annual fall festival cancelled this year? Use your creativity to dream up a socially distant outdoor event to generate foot traffic at your store. RCI member Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum & Candy Emporium plans to host their annual outdoor pumpkin painting party (albeit practicing social distancing) and treat kids dressed in their Halloween costumes with a complimentary goodie bag.

Another idea could include hosting a family movie night in the parking lot by hanging a white sheet on the side of your building and setting up a projector. RCI member, MarshmallowMBA plans to partner with local churches to gain exposure during Trunk-or-Treat events in their community.

DIY Take-Home Kits

Make it easy for shoppers to create special memories for their families. RCI member Stever’s Candies had success over the summer by selling s’mores and ice cream sundae take-home kits, each packed with all the sweet ingredients needed and bundled together for a quick, grab-and-go treat or an easy, yet thoughtful, gift.

Themed Virtual Tastings

Hosting a virtual chocolate tasting may be just the ticket for safely connecting with chocolate lovers near and far. Incorporating themes will make the experience more memorable and potentially lead to customers ordering multiple tastings. RCI member, Blommer Chocolate Company, suggests themes that hypothetically whisk participants away to a virtual vacation destination or even highlight your home base. Check out this video from Blommer Chocolate's Rose Potts for more inspiration on creating a successful virtual chocolate tasting.

For a more local vibe, source local fall produce to highlight as part of your virtual tasting. We think this recipe for apple cider caramels from King Arthur Baking Company would be the perfect addition to a fall harvest themed tasting.

Virtual Factory Tour

Pique the curiosities of children and parents alike by sharing virtual tours of your candy kitchen. After closing their factory to tours, RCI member SnowflakeChocolates has posted a virtual tour of their facility on social media as well as behind-the-scenes videos of how they make chocolate-covered Oreos and maple fudge. After seeing all the yummy confections in the making, invite followers to get it fresh by placing orders online or in-store. 

After a popular children’s YouTube sensation toured their facility, RCI member Boehm’sCandies created an Eat-Along Kit including the confections featured in the tour. If you’re looking to take your virtual tour to the next level, feature your signature confections in the video tour and sell them as a bundle for consumers to purchase and enjoy while they watch your virtual tour.

Businesses that thrive this fall will be the ones that are intentional about creating a safe and comfortable environment for consumers and their families to not only enjoy their products, but create memorable experiences their patrons won’t soon forget. Here's wishing you a sweet and successful fall season!

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Sweet Ways to Celebrate National Peach Month

August is National Peach Month. Did you know the peach is actually a member of the rose family and originated in China? The two main varieties of peaches are (1) clingstone, which are characterized by flesh that sticks to the stone and (2) freestone know by flesh that is easily separated from the stone.

When picking up peaches from the grocery store or farmers’ market, it’s safe to say green is definitely unripe, however, that rosy red color isn’t always an indicator of a peach’s ripeness. Different peach varieties have different amounts of red blush to their skin. According to the Illinois Farm Bureau, “the skin of yellow-fleshed varieties ripens to an orange tint, while the skin of white-fleshed varieties changes from greenish- to yellow-white.” Peaches with a slight give when pressed gently are ready to be used in the kitchen. Like many fruits, under-ripe peaches can be placed in a paper bag for two to three days to speed up the ripening process.

Peaches are at their peak from June to the end of August, so if you’re looking for fresh ways to incorporate local peaches into your confections now is the time.

Peach Pâte de Fruit
Pâte de fruit, French for “fruit paste,” is a great vehicle for highlighting fresh fruits of any variety. Interested in making your own peach pâte de fruit? Click here for the recipe from The Spruce Eats.

Peaches and Cream Fudge
It’s creamy, it’s peachy and that’s something we can sink our teeth into. Make separate batches of peach and vanilla to create a beautiful swirl with the two colors. Click here for the recipe.

Peach Pie Fudge
A white chocolate fudge as the base, freeze-dried peaches and peach pie flavoring--topped with a buttery crumble topping stirs enough curiosity to think this just might be even better than the real thing. Check out this recipe from Sweet Recipeas.

Here’s wishing your summer kitchen adventures are just peachy!

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Trend Alert: Create Craveable Confections Inspired by Churros

Looking for ideas to inspire your latest and greatest new product? Churros are a popular street food in Spanish and Latin American cultures, which have been gaining in popularity across America over the past decade. Not only are these sweet treats popping up in food trucks and high-end restaurants, various applications can be found in the confectionery industry. 

Although these crispy and chewy fried pastries, often topped with cinnamon and sugar, aren’t a new development, they are expected to “dominate 2020’s dessert scene,” according to Webstaurant Store’s food trends report earlier this year.

Compartes Churros & Horchata white chocolate bar, Smash Mallow
cinnamon churro marshmallows
, and Candy Club churro bites
 

Commonly characterized by a very generous coating of cinnamon sugar, you can transform just about any of your favorite confections into a churro-inspired treat. Tip: Add the extra element of crunch by incorporating Cinnamon Toast CrunchTM Churros cereal.

 Churro Toffee

Abdallah Candies envelopes their buttery toffee in white chocolate before coating it in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. It’s almost too pretty to eat, but we wouldn’t let that stop us!

 

Churro Popcorn

White-chocolate covered popcorn sprinkled with the churro’s signature cinnamon sugar combo, may be just what you need to recreate the crispy, chewy texture that the churro is known for. For extra cinnamon flavor, this recipe coats popcorn in melted cinnamon chips.

Churro Truffles

Nothing quite beats rolling all the goodness that makes a churro into a decadent truffle. Check out this recipe for churro truffles from Peter’s Chocolate.

Here’s just a few ideas to put your own spin on churros as part of your confectionery line-up, but don’t stop here! Imagine how you could transform your signature caramel recipe or scratch-made marshmallows to capture the flavors and textures of the churro? Tell us all about your ideas in the comments below.

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Tips for Making the Best-Ever Batch of Caramel Popcorn

August may have just begun, but when you see school supplies fill the store aisles, you know fall is just around the corner.

There's something warm and comforting about caramel corn in the fall--but sticky, clumpy caramel corn is no fun at all! After reading this week's quick tip, you will never want to make caramel corn without this ingredient!

If your caramel corn sticks together and becomes difficult to separate, adding lecithin will help. Randy Hofberger of R&D Consultants advises mixing lecithin with a little oil and adding this mixture at the end of your caramel corn recipe. This will help the caramel spread apart easier and save you the hassle of manually pulling it apart. 

Allergy Alert! 

It is advised that individuals with soy allergies do not consume products that contain lecithin. Although lecithin is a byproduct of soy, there is always a chance soy protein will find its way into lecithin. Lecithin derived from sunflower or canola are more allergy-friendly alternatives to soy. 

Don’t cry over spilled lecithin.

Resist the urge to clean spilled lecithin with a damp cloth or spray cleaner, which will cause it to gum-up and make it worse. Instead, cover the spill with sugar and it will clean right up without a sweat.

New Flavor Inspiration

Once you’ve perfected your caramel popcorn recipe, consider experimenting with different flavors and ingredients to take your corn to the next level. Here’s some inspiration for the upcoming fall season.

Bourbon Caramel

Equally suited as a tailgate party snack or a jolly holiday treat, bourbon caramel corn will keep ‘em coming back for more.

Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche is a South American delicacy made with slow-cooked milk and sugar. A natural fit for caramel corn, it offers a rich, creamy and more complex flavor for your caramel popcorn.

Pumpkin Spice

Is it even fall without pumpkin spice? We don’t think so!

In the past, Starbucks has released their pumpkin spice latte as early as the end of August. Get ready for the craze by introducing pumpkin spice caramel corn for this fall season.

Here’s to making your best batches of caramel corn ever and to a sweet fall season!

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the 

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

10 Foods to Try Covered in Chocolate

They say everything is better with chocolate, but is it?

We’ve uncovered some oddly popular and some surprisingly tasty pairings. We’ll leave it up to you to determine if they really are better with chocolate.

Beef Jerky

This salty, sweet and chewy combination is sure to stir some excitement among jerky fans. Plus, with so many varieties of jerky available the options are seemingly endless. We suggest adding another element of texture by topping the chocolate coating with crushed nuts, candy pieces, drizzled caramel, dried fruit or savory spices like smoked paprika or red pepper flakes.

Cheetos®

If your customers love your chocolate-covered potato chips, this seems like a natural next step. As an added bonus, coating Cheetos in chocolate will help to avoid the dreaded orange Cheeto fingers.


Chickpeas

Packed with protein and fiber, chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are super popular right now—see for yourself with a quick internet search. When chickpeas are roasted, they take on a crunchy snack-like quality. Try coating them in chocolate and sprinkling them with a little sea salt and you are bound to catch the attention of chickpea enthusiasts with this nutritious sweet treat.

Chili Peppers
Chocolate-covered chili peppers—perhaps with a dash of sea salt fall right in line with one of the biggest flavor trends of 2020; spicy-salty-sweet. From habaneros to jalapenos to sweet peppers and everything in between, there’s so many varieties of peppers you decide how daring you want to be. **Bonus points if you stuff peppers with peanut butter.

Corn Nuts

We first learned about this addictive combo while touring the R&D department at The Blommer Chocolate Company in 2017. We give this sweet and savory mix of chocolate and toasted corn kernels two thumbs up. Try it for yourself and tell us what you think.

Onions

Chocolate-covered onions? It sounds like an April Fools’ Day joke. As the story goes, the idea started as a prank. Today Mueller Chocolate Co.’s chocolate-covered onion has developed into a “cult favorite” for tourists and food bloggers visiting Philadelphia. For the record, it is unanimous that the chocolate-covered onion is as disgusting as it sounds.

Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels

Sometimes kids have the greatest ideas. This idea came from the son/grandson of the family business, JoyLyn’s Candies as a sweet snack idea and it was a hit. If you have combined chocolate with peanut butter and chocolate with pretzels, but you’ve never tried the three together, you’re in for a treat.

Pickles

It’s an annual tradition for Malley’s Chocolates of Cleveland to drench dill pickles in chocolate for St. Patrick’s Day—some could say this is the ultimate salty, sweet combination. Unlike the chocolate-covered onion, people seem to really enjoy this wacky combination.

Quinoa

The ancient grain, quinoa, brings along with it a healthy halo. Combine it with dark chocolate and dried superfoods like blueberries—this treat is not only packed with nutrients but it tastes good too. Rather than working with raw quinoa (which might chip a tooth), puffed quinoa is a better medium for coating in chocolate. Puffed quinoa is easy to make yourself (a lot like stovetop popcorn—check out this recipe) or you can buy puffed quinoa (see here).

Wasabi Peas

If you like the crunch of chocolate-covered Cheetos and the heat of chocolate chili peppers, these little spheres of goodness are the best of both worlds.

Creativity doesn’t have to stop here. You never know where your next creative culinary confection will come from. So, keep experimenting and have fun! And don’t forget to tell people about your next wacky combination on social media, in-store and even through a press release. Creative, out-of-the-box thinking may be just what you need to create buzz and get people to visit your store or website so they don’t miss out on all the fun!

Crave more? If you like what you read here, look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox. RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.