Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tip #167: Maximize Flavors with Umami

‘Tis the season for experimenting with flavors. Research has shown consumers are more open to trying new products and flavors seasonally. Familiarize yourself with this secret flavor weapon to ensure your flavors offer maximum impact that customers won’t soon forget!

Dating as far back to 350 BC, Aristotle first identified the two most basic tastes, sweet and bitter. Thanks to Aristotle and other inquisitive minds, most of us are familiar with the four basic tastes identified by the human palette; salty, sweet, bitter and sour. It’s only been since 2002 that umami has been identified as the fifth taste.

Umami makes a great partner with chocolate because it can balance the bitterness of cocoa and enhance sweetness. Often described as “savory,” “delicious,” “dimensional” and “mouthwatering,” the characteristics of umami are difficult for most of us to discern and even describe. However understanding how to harness the fifth flavor could unleash a secret weapon for chocolatiers.

At the very basic level, umami shares similar characteristics to salty and savory flavors, which can be found in hard cheeses, pickled vegetables and cured meats. Although even the most daring chocolatiers would have a difficult time incorporating many umami ingredients into a truffle, some ingredients are more versatile than others.

Tiramisu and cheesecake are popular desserts made with fresh cheeses, however chocolate and parmesan are not unheard of. Take it from these daring cheese lovers for inspiration on how to make taste buds melt with desire for this flavor combination.
Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles with Parmesan, Wisconsin Cheese

Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps with Chocolate and Sea Salt, Whole Foods Market

Black Truffles
The more obscure of the two “truffles” in the confectionery industry, the earthy flavor of a black truffle marries quite well with chocolate and nuts. The Mast Brothers of Brooklyn create their own blend of 74% cacao with Oregon black truffles and sea salt for their seasonal Black Truffle Chocolate Bar, available October through May.
Mast Brothers Black Truffle Chocolate Bar

Gearharts Fine Chocolates takes salted caramels to the next level by adding Japanese Miso and toasted sesame seeds to their caramels.

Miso Caramels, Gearharts Fine Chocolates
The coveted bacon may already be gracing your shelves, but Sir Francis Bacon’s play on sweet and salty peanut brittle with umami-rich bacon is sure to leave bacon lovers drooling for more.
Sir Francis Bacon Chocolate Peanut Brittle

Sake is another source for umami flavor. It has been said that sake accentuates the taste of chocolate more so than fine wine. Xocolatti incorporates sake distilled from Thai-style rice into their ganache as a pleasantly surprising complement to the dark chocolate.

Xocolatti Sake Truffles

If incorporating these umami flavors into your product line puts you well beyond your comfort zone, start by simply adding a pinch of kosher salt to one of your current pieces for a little added umami zing. Note how it changes the flavor and share your experience.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tip #166: Candy Hack: Using Lecithin in Caramel Corn

Image Credit: Dan's Homemade Candies

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 only gump up and make it worse. Instead, cover the spill with sugar and it will clean right up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rewind to Tip #141: Get Smashing with Smash Pumpkins

Photo credit: Stever's Candies, Inc.

Looking for a new idea for your fall product lineup? How about a Smash Pumpkin?

Smash Pumpkins are simple hollow pumpkin or jack o’lantern moulds that are filled with goodies of your choice. Hence the name, customers get to “smash” the pumpkin open after purchase to see what’s inside.

Package your pumpkins in cellophane with beautiful bows and, perhaps, a small wooden mallet tied with a coordinating ribbon. Smash pumpkins can be a fun activity for parties or a welcome holiday gift.

At a glance, it may not be obvious that the pumpkins are filled with candy. For this reason, it is important to clearly communicate what’s inside the pumpkins, so the customer understands what they’re purchasing. Consider displaying packaged smash pumpkins around an over-sized, pre-smashed pumpkin with candy flowing out of the cracks and onto the table along. A small to mid-sized chalkboard with a brief product description should get the message across and create a fun display leading up to Halloween.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tip #165: Celebrate Sweetest Day

Photo credit: (from left to right) Cristopher Rodriguez, Alex Yosifov, Patrick Doheny, Flickr
Sweetest Day takes place on the third Saturday in October. While the holiday is more significant for candy makers in the Great Lakes region (Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit being the biggest Sweetest Day cities), the holiday is gaining in popularity throughout the country every year. Some RCI members even report sales from Sweetest Day exceeding Mothers Day!

The history dates back to 1922 when Herbert Birch Kingston, a candy maker from Cleveland, decided to give candy and small gifts to the city’s orphans and people confined to their homes, all who are often forgotten and neglected. With the help of his friends and neighbors, he distributed these small remembrances on a Saturday in October. For years to follow, other Clevelanders began to participate in the tradition, which came to be known as "Sweetest Day.”

In time, the idea of spreading cheer to the underprivileged broadened to include everyone from family and significant others to coworkers and acquaintances with a kind act or a small remembrance. With a little help from movie stars in the 1930s, the idea quickly spread to other cities all over the country.

Sweetest Day is not based on any single group’s religious sentiment or on a family relationship. It is a reminder that a thoughtful word or deed enriches life and gives it meaning.

For many people, remembering takes the form of gift-giving. For this reason, Sweetest Day offers an unique opportunity to offer all kinds of gift items. Falling midway between Father's Day in June and Christmas in December, Sweetest Day provides an occasion for the opening of fall merchandising programs and the promotion of various products, not the least of which is candy and boxed chocolate.
Bon Bon Bon of Hamtramck, Michigan to build
World's Longest Box of Chocolates for Sweetest Day.

Bon Bon Bon of Hamtramck, Michigan created buzz by announcing plans to build the World’s Longest Box of Chocolate in celebration of Sweetest Day. Click here to read article covered by MLive Media Group.

Other Ideas to Promote Sweetest Day 
  • Remind customers when talking with them of the coming of Sweetest Day.
  • Let your local newspaper know about Sweetest Day and what preparations your business has made to help customers celebrate it.
  • Be prepared to explain Sweetest Day and to make suggestions regarding appropriate gifts, keeping in mind that the possibilities are limitless.
  • Create a prominent display of merchandise for Sweetest Day.