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BUSINESS CONNECTIONS (The Jeffersonian)
Sweeter work for chocolatier
By Reed Hellman
April 10, 2003

Albert Kirchmayr’s chocolate truffles are so good they should carry a warning label. The Timonium chocolatier has been making fine chocolates for more than 15 years.

Born and educated in Germany and trained as a chef, he studied chocolate making in Munich and Switzerland, and came to Baltimore County to bring European-style chocolates to the mid-Atlantic. His goal is to compete with Godiva and other quality imports.

A. Kirchmayr Chocolatier regularly produces more than 20 types of chocolates and an array of novelty and seasonal items. He uses only top quality Lubeca chocolate, about 25,000 pounds annually, and the best available fillings.

He carefully plans his confections around contrasting flavors and textures: a sweet chocolate wrapped around a heady liqueur filling of chocolate vermicelli ---jimmies --- pin-cushioning a smooth cream center. Though much of the work is done by hand, Kirchmayr uses a commercial kitchen full of specialized equipment to produce marketable quantities. “It’s helping us to make it all more efficient.”

Much of the chocolate-making equipment produced in the last five years uses digital technology and, in many instances, is programmable. Many of Kirchmayr’s more esoteric machines are made in Denmark by ChocoMa, a company specializing in chocolate tempering, enrobing and cooling equipment. Maintaining the molten chocolate at a precise temperature and applying it accurately and consistently requires both experience and sophisticated technology.

“Temperature is a very important thing for us,” says Kirchmayr. “If this chocolate is not right, you’re doomed.” To properly use it, the Lubeca chocolate must be held at 31 to 33 degrees C.   “Each new shipment will react differently,” says Kirchmayr. He uses electric tempering machines with internal stirrers to keep the chocolate at the right temperature and viscosity. A few degrees too cool and the chocolate will not flow; too hot and it will crystallize and eventually burn.

Kirchmayr’s truffles begin in a mold or as a sheet of precisely cut centers. After cooling the centers are placed by hand onto a moving belt that leads into the enrobing machine.

The open moving grate carries the centers into a Plexiglas box that houses a constant cascade of molten chocolate. This is coated ---enrobed --- with an even layer of liquid chocolate. The excess flows down through the moving grate to be recycled. The enrobing machine also has a heater to precisely control the temperature of the chocolate and the atmosphere inside the machine.

Exiting the enrobing machine, the candies reach a decorating area where they can be striped with contrasting colored chocolate or topped with coffee beans or other treats. The moving grate can also feed the coated chocolates into bins of vermicelli or directly into a 7-meter long cooling tunnel. The tunnel has a thermostatically controlled cooling unit, zone cooling and a variable-speed belt drive the ranges from 0.7 to 1.4 meters/minute.

Making the full sweep of Kirchmayr’s inventory requires more than just the temperers and enrober. He needs specialized mixers, coaters and injection units; each designed to perform a specific step in the chocolate making process. A massive spinner keeps molds in constant motion to produce the hollow chocolate figures favored for holidays. Even a household hair dryer gets pressed into duty for warming the molds and trays.

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