Recipe: Chocolate Ganache
A Pastry Recipe Everyone Should Know
In some ways, posting a recipe for Chocolate Ganache seems about as silly as posting a recipe for toast (although if you need one, i'm sure they're out there).
Why is that? It's because a Ganache has just two ingredients: Chocolate and Cream. It's how you combine those two ingredients that is important. When you're unfamiliar with the process, you can easily end up with a lumpy, curdled mess (I've been there). But with a little technique, you can turn out different Ganaches to serve as everything from fillings, frosting and glazes.
In a nut shell (or Cocoa Pod), a Ganache is made by melting Chocolate with warm Cream and then stirring the mixture until it comes together into a smooth emulsion. The final consistency can be adjusted based on the ratio of Chocolate to Cream. The more Cream that is used, the thinner the Ganache.
... it sounds simple enough, but there are a number of important considerations along the way.
Select your Chocolate:
For a high-quality Ganache, you'll want to use high-quality Chocolate. For the best results, use Couverture Chocolate, which contains a higher proportion of Cocoa Butter resulting in a more stable, better textured Ganache. Avoid baking Chocolates including Chocolate Chips. These products may contain additives that will prevent the Chocolate from melting smoothly and, as advertised, should be reserved for baking.
Finely Chop the Chocolate:
A key step in making a Ganache is melting the Chocolate in warm Cream. By chopping the Chocolate into smaller pieces, the Chocolate will melt more quickly and evenly.
Heat the Cream to a Gentle Simmer:
As anyone who has opened a candy bar on a summer day knows all too well, it doesn't take much heat to melt Chocolate. The Cream used for a Ganache only needs to be warm enough to melt the Chocolate (I recommend heating the Cream to no hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit). By using warm, but not hot, Cream, you will ultimately preserve more of the good Beta Crystals in the Chocolate (a key consideration when tempering Chocolate). This will cause the Ganache to set better.
Pour the warm Cream over the Chocolate:
Let the finely chopped Chocolate melt in the warm Cream for several minutes before stirring.
Stir the Chocolate and Cream to form an Emulsion:
Using a wooden spoon or spatula, gently stir the Cream and melted Chocolate. You can also use a whisk, but you must be particularly careful not to beat in too much air or your Ganache will have bubbles.
Start by stirring in the center of the bowl and slowly work outwards. The mixture will initially appear loose and broken, but it will quickly come together into a smooth Ganache.
Allow the Ganache to Cool and Set to the Desired Consistency:
Once the Chocolate and Cream are combined, stop stirring and let the Ganache cool at room temperature. The Ganache will thicken as it cools. Gently stir the Ganache from time to time to redistribute the heat, but do not over-mix. Over-mixing can cool the Ganache too quickly and result in a grainy texture.
Keep a close eye on the consistency of the Ganache as it cools. Depending on your desired use (e.g. as a filling, frosting or glaze), the Ganache will be ready at different times. For instance, if the Ganache is being used as a glaze, it must be cool enough so that it holds to a product, but warm enough so that it is still pourable. Don't miss your window of opportunity!
Types of Ganache
The consistency of a Ganache is primarily a function of the ratio of Chocolate to Cream.
- Basic Chocolate Ganache: Use a 1:1 ratio of Chocolate to Cream for a thick glaze or layer cake filling.
- Chocolate Ganache Glaze: Use a 1:2 ratio of Chocolate to Cream for a pourable Ganache glaze.
- Ganache Truffle Filling: Use a 2:1 ratio of Chocolate to Cream for a thick filling for Chocolate Truffles.
Flavoring a Ganache
Plain Chocolate Ganache is delicious, but why not improve upon near perfection by adding a little flavor?
The easiest way to flavor a Ganache is to infuse the Cream used to melt the Chocolate. Fats carry flavors very well, and Cream is loaded with fat.
To make an infusion, add the desired flavors (e.g. Cinnamon Sticks, Lemon Zest, Espresso Beans, etc.) to the Cream and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to steep, covered, for 30 minutes. When the infusion is done steeping, strain the Cream and set it aside for your Ganache.
When making an infusion, always start with more Cream than you need for the Ganache. Some flavoring agents, such as Espresso Beans, will absorb a lot of moisture from the Cream during the steeping process. Boiling the Cream also results in some evaporation. Re-scale the infused Cream before using it for a Ganache recipe.
Alcohols, Oils and Extracts:
Given their intense flavoring capabilities in small quantities, Alcohols, Oils and Extracts can be added to a final Ganache to bring flavor without altering the consistency. They are best incorporated when the Ganache is fully emulsified and still somewhat warm (approximately 86-90 degrees Fahrenheit).
- The type of Chocolate (i.e. Dark, Semi-Sweet, Milk or White) used for a Ganache will affect the final consistency. As with tempering Chocolate, Dark Chocolate is the easiest to work with given the higher proportion of Cocoa Butter, which helps to set a stable structure. If you made two 1:1 ratio Ganaches, one with Dark Chocolate and one with Milk Chocolate, the Dark Chocolate Ganache will be thicker. As a result, consider using less Cream when using Milk or White Chocolate for a Ganache.
- Adding Butter to a Ganache is a quick way to make an already decadent product even richer. After the emulsion is formed and as the Ganache in cooling (around 86-90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the holding temperature when tempering Chocolate), stir in small diced pieces of Butter until smooth. The additional Butter will also make the Ganache softer.
- Invert Sugars like Corn Syrup, Glucose, and Trimoline can both improve the shelf life and the mouth feel of a Ganache. Add them after the emulsion is formed, as you would if adding Butter.