Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sourcing: Transparency


One of the reasons I started this business was about control. Sure, I am a control freak, I'll totally admit to that, I want to make what I want to make, and how I want to make it.  But I also really want to be conscientious about my product, and in doing so I'm incredibly picky about my ingredients. I've decided to be completely open and transparent about my ingredients, where they come from and why I chose them. This is up-to-date as of today, but in the future it may change.

My almonds come from the Californian supplier Mandelin who use almonds supplied by Vetsch Farms of California. They are not organic, but they use a method of pest control called "Integrated Pest Management" or IPM. It's not the greatest method, but it is a environmentally sensitive approach to pest management (see more about IPM at: http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/factsheets/ipm.htm). 

My powdered sugar comes from "Wholesome Sweeteners". It is both organic and fair trade, and I buy it because of this and the fact that the type I use doesn't use the typical corn starch, but uses tapioca starch. 

My sugar, I use conventional sugar, C&H to be precise. I have used organic and fair trade sugar before, I just find that when I make caramel that the added color (slightly brown) confuses my sense of caramel! It also has a molasses taste that I don't want in the macarons. 

My egg whites come from two places, Wilcox farms, and Organic Valley. Wilcox is a transition farm, meaning that it is on it's way to becoming certified organic (cage free). It is also Salmon Safe and certified Humane, and it is local they are located in Roy, WA.  Organic Valley is a large supplier of egg whites, they are certified Organic by Oregon Tilth. 

Food coloring, I know this is a quite a contentious issue at the moment. I use conventional food coloring, not natural at all. The reason for this is unfortunate. I would love to use all natural food coloring, I really would and have experimented with it. Unfortunately, there is a reaction between the food coloring and the  egg whites. This reaction means that when I go to whisk my egg whites, the food coloring makes them collapse, and not whisk to the meringue consistency. So, at this point in time I use conventional food coloring. 

Butter, I use Wholefoods 365 Organic butter in my butter creams. However, I do use different butter as well, it depends on price and convenience.

My cream comes from Organic Valley.  It is certified Organic, part of a food co-op and last but not least it tastes good, and is widely available.  

I have so many other ingredients, that change all the time. My chocolate however mostly comes from the Swiss chocolate maker "Felchlin". They pay more than fair trade prices to farmers, they know where their cocoa beans originate, they also disassociate themselves from those farms that use child labour (they only purchase from farms that comply with the International Labor Standards in regards to child labor. They also produce awesome chocolate and cocoa powder, so I'm very happy using their products. 

As for other ingredients, I have no issue discussing where they come from, or how they were produced. I think it is incredibly important to be aware of where things come from, and that price not just be the bottom line, but to make conscientious decisions based on facts, as far as I can know them. 

Menu for the week:
-Orange and Rhubarb (Rhubarb from Five Acre Farms). It's a rhubarb jam cooked with orange zest and fresh orange juice. It has a dollop of orange buttercream in the center.
(Almonds, organic fair trade powdered sugar (cane sugar, tapioca starch), sugar, egg whites, food coloring, rhubarb, orange zest, orange juice, organic butter, organic cream, orange oil).

-Chocolate Ganache (a 65% 'Better than Fair Trade' chocolate from the Swiss Chocolate maker Felchlin). Rich and lovely.
(Almonds, organic fair trade powdered sugar (cane sugar, tapioca starch), sugar, egg whites, food coloring, cocoa powder, 65% bittersweet chocolate (contains soy lecithin), organic cream, organic butter, salt).

-Lemon and Rosemary. A rich lemon buttercream, with fresh rosemary integrated into the shell.
(Almonds, organic fair trade powdered sugar (cane sugar, tapioca starch), sugar, egg whites, food coloring, organic lemon, organic cream, organic rosemary, organic butter, lemon oil).

-Mocha Ganache (coffee is the Organic Santa Teresa Estate Pacamara from Perkins Roasting Company)
A complex combination of bittersweet chocolate and freshly roasted coffee. Not too bitter, a good balance with a nice kick!
(Almonds, organic fair trade powdered sugar (cane sugar, tapioca starch), sugar, egg whites, dehydrated coffee, cocoa powder, 65% bittersweet chocolate (contains soy lecithin), organic cream, organic butter, salt).

6 comments:

Preeti said...

The term Child Labor is used for employment of children below a certain age, which is considered illegal by law and custom. It is seen that children are found working more in the informal sectors compared to factories and commercial registered organizations. In many developed countries, it is considered inappropriate or exploitative if a child below a certain age works. Child labor is still common in some parts of the world.

Documentary - "The Dark Side of Chocolate" explores the actual fact behind the sweetness of the chocolate. We eat chocolates almost everyday but we never realize that what is the actual face of these delicious chocolates. We never bother to think that behind this delicious taste of cocoa there is another taste altogether: the taste of child abusers and child slavery. So next time think once before eating chocolate.

To watch please visit - http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/4809

MJC said...

Rhi,
Great write up :) Thanks for all that info. Although a proponent for organic living and eating, I don't limit myself or my family to it. Catch you at the market soon!

Jocel

rhid said...

Thanks Jocel - It's hard to just be organic - but harder still to really know the sources. Is it enough just to buy organic, I'm not sure it is. Is it better to choose organic over local for instance? I'm not sure that's ok. It's a tough place to be. But I figure trying to be aware is the best place to be.

rhid said...

Preeti - yes child labour and the chocolate industry is horrific. That's why I but Felchlin, because I believe that the child labour practices they adhere to are the best that can be had considering I aren't able to go to the cocoa plantations and check them out for myself. I also believe that having a good price paid for the cocoa beans produced means that child labour is less likely to occur as people have enough money to take care of their families. Thanks for your comment!

Karla - Pitchers said...

Sounds delicious! Can't wait to try it myself.

Unknown said...

I ate my first Lilli-Pilli Lemon/Raspberry treat. Oh my gosh awesome!!!!!!!
The flavors were delightful and in each bite.