Simple and Flexible Chocolate Ganache

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Ganache is one of those simple staples that I think every baker should know how to make, how to adjust, and how to use. It’s more than just melting some chocolate; it’s about the ratio of chocolate to cream, to make a flexible chocolate confection you can use as a filling, an icing, or even a sauce.

I use it in a lot of recipes. I usually just write it as part of the recipe, but I figured that something so important to so many things deserves its own post. So, here we are!

A ganache is really simple. You take equal parts chocolate and cream, heat the cream, melt the chocolate with it, and blend it together until it’s smooth.

Picking the Chocolate

For chocolate, you generally want to pick a decent quality base, usually a little darker than you would normally prefer. Because you’re adding cream to it, you’re going to sweeten and smooth it out a bit, so keep that in mind.

Make sure to use a high quality chocolate with as few added ingredients as possible. The more that’s already in the chocolate, the more chance you have of something causing the chocolate to seize, crystallize into something grainy, or just not turn out right.

Picking a Cream

Traditionally, you’ll want to use heavy whipping cream. It’s thick, rich, and creamy, and it goes a long way towards smoothing out the flavors of a rich dark chocolate without making it taste too thin.

I’ve used whole milk before in a pinch. It makes for a thinner ganache, but it’s still fine in a pinch. You can also add butter; this will help keep the ganache smooth and shiny.

If you’re using whipping cream and dark chocolate, you might find your ganache isn’t sweet enough; adding some corn syrup will sweeten it up without crystalizing it the way granulated sugar would.

Adding Flavors

Ganache can be flavored when you mix it up. I find it’s very pleasant to add a few drops of mint extract or orange extract to flavor a batch. Vanilla can also help make your chocolate taste a little richer. Liqueurs are also common, though I don’t use them much myself.

Making Ganache

The traditional way to make ganache is this:

  • Heat your cream until it’s quite warm and steamy.
  • Pour your heated cream over the chocolate and let it sit for several minutes. This will infuse the chocolate and mixing bowl with heat.
  • Stir to finish any melting and mix it all until it’s smooth. Add any flavorings and use.

I find that to be a little slow, and often unnecessary. Instead, I do this:

  • Heat the cream in a sauce pan until it’s warm.
  • Add the chocolate and stir constantly until it’s smooth.

If you aren’t confident with your temperature control, you can use a double boiler rather than a sauce pan directly.

Adjusting Ganache

There are a lot of ways you can adjust ganache to make it suitable for your purposes.

  • Adjust the ratio. More cream will make it thinner and runnier, more like a sauce. It will also be less chocolatey and sweeter, to a point. You may need extra sweetener if you use a dark chocolate and heavy cream.
  • Use a different chocolate. White chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate all make ganaches of different flavors and consistencies.
  • Whip it! Giving a ganache a whirl with a whisk can whip it up into something a lot creamer that you can pipe on as a frosting or use as a filling for a doughnut or other confection.

So, what do you like most? Ganache is such an easy, all-purpose recipe, I think it deserves its time to shine. Stay tuned next week for another recipe where I use it!

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