In baking, one good recipe can work very hard for you. Take cake, for instance. You don’t need to learn a new cake recipe for every dessert you want to make; sometimes you need to learn only one. Ganache is another such recipe workhorse. A classic French combination of melted chocolate and heavy cream, ganache is simple to make and can be used in many ways: to make icings and glazes for cakes or as an ingredient in anything from fudge sauce to truffles and tortes.
One ganache, many desserts
With one ganache recipe, you can create a surprising variety of chocolate desserts. Whisk in some milk and a pinch of salt and you’ve got rich, thick hot chocolate—far richer than traditional cocoa-based hot chocolates. Add some butter and corn syrup and you have a gooey, stick-to-your-spoon hot fudge sauce that will please both kids and grown-ups. Add eggs and flour for a delicious mousse-like chocolate torte that’s light and moist. Or chill, roll, coat, and dust with cocoa and you’ve got incredible homemade truffles that are guaranteed to impress your loved ones (Valentine’s Day, anyone?). And to make truffles even more interesting, you can flavor your ganache with liqueurs like amaretto or Kahlúa, or with mint extract or espresso. With all these possibilities, it’s no wonder ganache is a staple in every pastry chef’s kitchen—and we hope it’ll be a part of yours, too.
Three Steps to Great Ganache
Our ganache method is a breeze. Though it may sound complex, ganache is actually very easy to make. And we make it even easier by using a food processor. Simply grind chopped semisweet chocolate in the processor, add hot heavy cream, and process until smooth. That’s it. You don’t have to temper the chocolate—which involves bringing it to specific temperatures to stabilize it and give it a uniform sheen—or even use a thermometer. The only cooking you have to do is boiling the cream. It’s that easy. But there is one small thing you need to be careful of: Make sure you don’t overwork the ganache after you add the cream. You want to run the processor just until the mixture is smooth; otherwise, the cream will whip and the ganache will become too thick.
Choosing chocolate for ganache
People say that for cooking, you should use only a wine you would drink. We think the same holds true for chocolate: Use only a chocolate you would eat straight from the package. Since chocolate is one of only two ingredients in ganache, the flavor of the ganache will depend largely on the flavor of the chocolate.
Our ganache is made with semisweet chocolate, which is loosely defined by the Food and Drug Administration as having at least 35% total cacao bean content. Most semisweet chocolates, however, have anywhere from 55% to 70% cacao, and some go even higher. But higher cacao content doesn’t necessarily mean better chocolate. The best way to learn what type of chocolate you prefer is to try several kinds. Expensive, high-percentage brands tend to be bitter and complex, traits that are appealing to some people. Chocolates with lower cacao content tend to be sweeter. So if you like the taste of milk chocolate, you might like these chocolates better. We prefer a chocolate that’s between 55% and 60% because it’s rich and moderately sweet without a strong bitter edge, and it produces consistent results when making ganache. Ganache made with higher-percentage chocolate may be less stable and prone to seizing.
Don’t cut corners by using chocolate chips. They usually contain added ingredients that help them hold their shape when baked but can translate into an overly thick, viscous ganache.