Getting More Into Candy Making, What I Did for Easter!

Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful Easter.  I spent time away from the internet, and spent it with family.  I do that a lot sans the internet unjacking, so it was honestly nice to not be on the internet a ton today, really need to do that more.  But this weekend, I’ve been doing more experimenting with candy making in general, and have been having a blast, so I wanted to talk about that!

So the two things I wanted to make for Easter were chocolate covered caramels, and cheesecake truffles.  The caramels turned out great, but cheesecake/cream cheese fillings need some work.  The caramels were a two day process:  I made caramel chews first, like think of the taffy caramels you can get form teh store, and let them set over night.  It was pretty easy to do those, because the process was the same as making caramel sauce, only substituting 1/4 of a cup of water for 1/4 of a cup corn syrup.  But I was really happy with myself:  I could figure out when to take the sugar off of the burner with smell, and the other two times I had my Mom look at the consistancy of the color of the sugar before taking it off the burner because I didn’t want to mess it up.  But I’ve been looking up a lot of tricks on how to tell sugar is done with other senses:  like smell, taste (have to do this one really carefully) and feel (also, be very careful with this).  I also found a cool trick with a glass of cold water, too.  Take some of the syrup on a spoon, dip it in the water, and see what consistancy it is when the sugar is cool to see if it’s how you want it.  But the major sense I use is smell:  If it smells like it’s kind of bitter, on the verge of smelling a little burnt, it’s pretty good to go.  After that, I taste it to see if I want the caramel a little darker, or liek it the way it is, and then if I liek it pull it off and add the rest of the ingredients.  Though I cannot stress how cautious you have to be!  Like I’m all for independance in the kitchen as a blind baker, but some things I know not to test my limits with:  I make sure the sugar is cool enough to touch, and when it’s time to pour the caramel chews into the pan to set, I let my Mom do it because I know I wasn’t comfortable spreading it out on the prepared cooking sheet.  One time I tried pouring caramel sauce in a container and got burnt by sugar, and it’s not an experience I really want to repeat.  Honestly it’s a big step for me baking-wise, because before hand I would have wanted to do everything myself, because in my head not doing eeeeverything means I didn’t make it myself which is silly because pouring caramel into a pan is not even remotely a cooking step haha.  But nice to see I’ve grown up a bit in the year of baking I’ve been doing, for sURE!

 

After waiting over night for my caramels to set (you can wait a few hours, but I wanted to do the dipping the next day – making the centers for the chocolates was exhausting).  I cut the caramels into pieces to pull a part…only to realize I was going to roll them into balls to dip in chocolate anyways, and didn’t have to do that step at all lol.  It was nice to see cutting the caramels wasn’t as sticky as I thought it would be though, and rolling the caramels for dipping even less so:  It was a lot of fun pulling apart the chews like taffy, rolling them and dipping in melted chocolate, and the end result was divine!  I got 20 chocolate covered caramels out of them, and still have about four left because my family has been eating them up, they’re so tasty!  I had a really funny accident in picking what chocolate to dip in, because there were two packages of chocolate chips on the counter and I thought they were the same chocolate.  After my Mom had one and said “These are really good, what chocolate did you use?” I went “…there was more than one chocolate?”  XD turned out we had both milk and dark chocolate, and I used dark for the caramels.  I would normally have used milk if I knew, and honestly the dark is so much better for these caramels because the bitter flavor of the dark chocolate offsets the caramel for this really rich, decadent candy, so woo for happy accidents!  I’ll definitely try using dark chocolate from now on, I usually don’t care for it but really like the richness it adds to home made treats.
So the caramels were a success, but the cheesecake truffles…well, I won’t say they weren’t a success, but I’m still working on the basic recipe for the fillings.  I realized I like working with firmer filings and won’t be trying to do any soft ones without some sort of binding agent involved, because just using cheesecake wasn’t working.  I saw some recipes that had half a cup of melted chocolate and half the cream cheese, so I may try that next time I do these.  This recipe I tried said it needed cookies crushed up in it and I wen “Pshaw! it will be fine” but I seriously think softer fillings need some sort of binding agent in them to make them more pliable, otherwise they just stick to your hands and make a mess while dipping.  I tried using Wiltins Candy Melts for the outer coating as well, and as much as I like them as fillings, they just are too thick, and over powering for my taste as an outer core.  I also tried just keeping cream cheese at a cold temperature, rolling in sugar, and dipping in milk chocolate, but that came out rahter soft and just…tasting like cream cheese balls lol.  Tasted kind of like chocolate cheesecake, but I’m not a huge fan of that, so I really think that doing the 1/2 cup cream cheese + 1/2 cup some chocolate (I’m thinking white, or the vanilla flavored candy melts so it tases liek a cheesecake cuz that’s what I was going for) or just using the cookie crumbs like the recipe said.  I really need to try that and see how much easier it will make working with softer fillings, but as usual, I’m chocolated out for the time being.  I’ll work on it next time I do chocolates, which will probably be for Mother’s Day.

 

I’m really, really enjoying candy making though!  It pairs well with baking, and you can get a bit more creative with it form the getgo, as opposed to straight up following a recipe with baking.  And, I’m super excited to combine it with baking!  Me and my brother already thought of adding caramel chews to brownies, or chocolate covered caramels to the middle of a cookie.  The possibilities are endless!!!  Today I had a cadberry bunny egg which is my favorite candy fro Easter, and it reminded me that I love nougat and really want to try and make tha tnext for candy fillings.  I hope they’re easy to work with though haha.

 

So far my favorite methods are the caramel chews and firmer candy fillings, like a firm chocolate ganache.  Anything softer hasn’t worked for me, but like I said neeed to experiment with adding something firmer into the mix to see if that makes them easier to  manage.  OVerall, enjoying my candy making progress, can’t wait to try more!
I hope yu all had a wonderufl Easter, would love to hear of any goodies you ate or made for the holiday!

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My First Production Diary on Patreon is Up!

In my bid to make more content for backers on my Patreon Page, I’ve started one of a few behind the scenes features over there.  A production diary, which is more or less a blog post about working on specific songs, and on my production process in general.  It’s pretty much a more in depth version of my Behind the Scenes Patreon Podcast (also available exclusively on Patreon) but as I’m working on stuff as opposed to a after the track is finished retrospective.  Because of this feature, my specific song writing posts are going to move over there, instead of me posting on this blog – I’ll post about generalized stuff over here still, but if you liked reading about more in depth things as far as my music making goes, then over on patreon is going to be where you’ll want to go.  It’s available to all reward tiers, so you can give as little as 1 dollar to gain access to it.  When you think about it, that’s less than a cup of coffee nowadays, so a pretty good deal if I do say so myself!

 

Hope everyone has a great Good Friday, and a wonderful Easter!  I’ve been working on making candies for the weekend these past few days, and am going to be dipping my caramel chews in chocolate to finish them off today.  Then I can relax and enjoy them with my cheesecake truffles!  A more in depth post will be coming on those next week, so until then, Happy Easter!

I’ve Updated my Patreon Rewards!

The past few days have been pretty productive for me, and I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.  I’ve updated my Patreon Rewards, so the page in general is a lot more manageable  for me, and a lot more content for patrons.  So if you haven’t had a chance to check out my patreon page and would like to, now’s a great time to.  You can give as little as a dollar, and sharing the page would be majorly appreciated!

 

Patreon Page Can Be Found Here!

Manually Adding Drums in Reaper, a Blessing and a Curse

I realized something guys.

 

I can’t deal with playing drums on a keyboard, both piano and computer.  Any time I tried to add drums with my VST through playing, it was such a headache to line things up.  Eventually, I just gave up on adding any drums to stuff.  That is, until I watched this video series on how to write a song in Reaper with midi, live instruments, and all that jazz.  The first step that the person took in the video, was opening up the piano roll and clicking in the notes with the mouse.

 

And that’s when it clicked!  No pun intended~

 

I can manually add things in with the keyboard and keystrokes.  So I started doing that, and boy what a difference!  It takes up more time of course, but for the most part for drums it’s more manageable for me.  It’s still a headache regardless, but it’s better than not using them at all.  I know it’s something I’ll get the hang of – have only been doing this method for a few days – and two major problems are having the notes completely line up with the time signature, and figuring out where the notes fall when you add new ones.  I’d love to be able to just add a ton of notes and then go across the timeline and add the midi information on blank notes in each bar.  Now keep in mind this may be highly possible, but as far as using it with the scripts I need to use Reaper I haven’t seen a way.  It’s just the learning curve thoUGH:  I just add one note to the next bar and then move said note around, kind of have to figure out how it works because right now new notes I add always wind up on beat 4 lol.

 

But it’s been nice!  I have just been making simple drum loops, and due to the nature of the original music I write, I copy and paste the loops.  Have to get the hang of that now too, but it’s a new method I’ve been doing after learning how and it saves a lot of time.  I don’t have to play and play and play the same thing over and over again, can just play one verse worth of chords then copy paste to the next verse, saves lots of time.  I’m a little nervous to record vocals to my new tracks for a number of reasons – one of them being I’m afraid it just will be a garbled mess of drums and strings and I have never done a non acappella original track with lyrics, so a bit of stage fright there.  It’s a little irrational,  I know, but just something I have to do and hope for the best lol.  Can always add more to it later!

 

I’m working on doing originals right now, and doing originals with lyrics and vocals, and VSTs is new territory for me.  That’s another reason I’m getting recording cold feet:  will my old originals sound as good the way they are now?  Is it all garbage?  Should I just suck it up and record (yes) it’s just one of those internal things I have to work through, and will.  I like to have all the music done first though, and still have one original to finish the instrumental for.  I’m like half excited half nervous about it, so yeah!

 

And that’s been my midi experiences as of late.  Music, and midi actually haha.  Fingers crossed I get all of these tracks done by the middle of April!

Ambient Fantasy is Available in Stores!

My newest EP, Ambient Fantasy is now available on all music platforms!  This ep is a 3 track cover album where I take 3 tracks from the Final Fantasy series and spin them to sound more atmospheric, and ambient (obviously).  If you’d like to stream or purchase it, links are below!  Doing either goes miles in regards to supporting me, and helping me be able to release more music in the future.  It’s not cheap to get these things out I tell ya what~

 

Streaming:

 

Spotify

Apple Music

Deezer

 

Purchase:

 

iTunes

Google Play

Amazon Music

 

Hope you enjoy the album.  Up next, I’m going to be working on an EP of originals, so be on the look out for that!

EPs, Original Music, and an Overall Musical Update

If that title doesn’t say it all, read on for more of a break down!
I’m currently in the process of uploading one of the Final Fantasy EPs I’ve been working on for the past few months to online music distributers, and can honestly say I’m very excited to be done with it’s production.  I love Final Fantasy music, but working on copious amounts of it for as many months as I did took a bit of a toll on me.  It won’t be the last Final Fantasy EP of mine this year, but I have to wait for another album I’m contributing to to drop before I can release that one (a track on the EP has to be released on said album first before I can do what I want with it).  I’m really happy I pushed myself to make these EPs though, because they gave me the confidence, and format of how I want to do the rest of my EPs this year.

 

While working on my ambient Final Fantasy EP, I kept on trying to add a fourth track to an EP that already had 3 tracks.  For some reason, in my head, the EP just had to have four tracks:  probably because that’s how I always see EPs formatted.  But no matter how hard I tried, going through at least six, if not more attempts at arranging a fourth track, nothing was working.  I got frustrated, and almost gave up…until I thought back to an article I read from a DIY musicians blog that had talked about doing what they called a 3p – you guessed it, an EP with three tracks, instead of four.  Their reasoning was, because you can work on 3 tracks fairly quickly, experiment with genres, song writing, etc etc, and not be fully committed to making a full album.  You can then release that content, have things for people to stream and purchase, and in the mean time work on another project of yours.

 

And that’s when my arranging slump had ended.  Because I already had a third track recorded, and just had to add vocals to it.  But re-reading that article gave me the confidence to just go and make a 3p:  which, according to soundrop, is still an EP.  A single is 1 to 2 tracks, an EP is 3 to 4, and an LP is 5 tracks or more, aka a full album.  So that was even more perfect!  Now I have a huge weight off my shoulders, and am just waiting for the tracks to get on stores.  And, with that creative hurdle done with, I have so many other ideas for 3Ps, including originals I can group together in that format that I already have recorded, ideas for EPs that I didn’t have before because doing 3 tracks at a time seems to be the magic number for me, and is a really manageable  amount for me to work on at any given time.  I can do 3 tracks in a month, and have consistent content coming out, and keep my creative juices flowing.  All win-win scenarios for me!

 

Another awesome thing I can do now, is hire my friend to do art for me!  I am beyond excited to have the budget to be able to do that, and to have someone reliable  to hire for said art on an ongoing basis.  Getting art done is my least favorite part of the process, because I don’t like having to hunt an artist down, if I’m being completely honest, so just having an awesome friend that I’m glad to hire for stuff is a good thing 🙂

 

My next musical projects are a little up in the air.  I’m deciding between doing a spiritual hymns EP, or re-recording originals of mine and releasing them as an EP:  I wrote them back in 2015 when I had no virtual instruments, not nearly as much  composing knowledge as I have now, and my voice has definitely gotten better, along with my mixing and production quality.  So I would really like to revamp, revisit, and release those tracks.  I’ll wind up doing both eventually, but I’m just deciding which project to do first.  I’m leaning more towards the original redos, because that’s what I’m inspired to do right now (and I have album art done for it already I got done waaay back when I wanted to release the acappella version of one of the tracks  and chickened out lol).  I’m debating recording a third track with lyrics I’ve had written for years for that, or just writing an entirely new song for it.  The EP would be based on different stories about different warriors, is the idea I’m having so we’ll see if I wind up writing something new for it or just redoing stuff.

 

I really want to get back into writing original singer/songwriter songs with lyrics too.  I love my covers, but I also love writing originals, and I haven’t written a non VGM based orig in foreeeeever.  So I really need to get my writing chops back up to par so I can get back to that, I miss it tons – luckily, I came up with a chorus as I was listening to music tonight, so fingers crossed I can get that turned into a nice song!

 

A rather big post, but I’ve been busy music-wise.  I’ll post again when Ambient Fantasy is available to stream/in stores!  I hope all of you are doing well, and having a great year so far!

I found my favorite way to make Truffles!

So after the last time I did truffles, I’ve been looking lots into making chocolates.  I’ve learned a lot and am excited to try making a ton of fillings and different chocolates, even if I do think the difference between bon bons, and truffles is silly (I’ll still just make the filling and dip it in chocolate, if it has a different filling I’ll call it a bon bon lol).  But I saw on Wiltins website a recipe to do the truffle fillings with candy melts, and just had to try it no matter how chocolated out I was.

 

So today, since I also had some caramel sauce, I decided to use some of my candy melts and make that into a filling.  I have vanilla candy melts around the house, so the filling wound up being a vanilla caramel mix – which I also like better.  Chocolate on chocolate, the flavor doesn’t do much for me.  But the filling turned out perfectly rollable, and melting the chocolates was a breeze!  All of my video watching paid off 🙂

 

The last time I made truffles, rolling them in cocoa powder only was a bust, they melted because there was no coating to keep the soft fillings protected, and had to stay in teh freezer.  This time, I decided to roll in melted chocolate chips, and I’m happy to say after a few hours of being out of the fridge, they kept their shape!  And they’re so delicious – a milk chocolate outside, witha  vanilla caramel filling, yum!  I think vanilla brings out the flavors I prefer to be in fillings – like fruit, caramel, etc etc, so my go to filling is more than likely going to be vanilla flavored candy melts for both that reason, and they’re easy rollability.  I also like using candy syrups to make the ganache instead of heavy cream, for the same reason:  makes the mix thicker, and more rollable, and also adds a lot more flavor than just plain heavy cream.  When I did just heavy cream, honestly didn’t like how it just tasted like plain chocolate – so I guess I’m more of a bon bon person than truffle, since I read that’s really the only difference between the two (even though you can technically do the same technique for making both, as long as the filling is rollable).  Alternatively, If I wanted to do a chocolate center, I’d probably roll in vanilla flavored candy melts instead of chocolate, or butterscotch chips or something because I like the contrast of flavors.  But that general setup is going to be how I make truffles/bon bons.

 

Really excited I got making these down though!  In a way I like to make them.  It took a few times experimenting, but I think I have the way I’m going to make chocolates from now on set – can’t wait to do different flavors, I really want to try making a fruit syrup and combining it for the ganache!