All About Ganache
Some of you may not be that familiar with "ganache." I knew I wasn't until I became friends with Pastry Chef Jenni Field and she started teaching me about various baking techniques and how some of my recipes call for ganache and I didn't even know it. See Chocolate Pudding Recipe Italian Style
What is Ganache?
It is a very smooth mixture consisting of chocolate and cream. It comes from the French word for "jowl," and I'm not sure how that relates to what it refers to in baking, a type of icing for the cake.
When you add hot cream to pieces of chocolate and stir over heat until smooth, you have ganache. This rich sweet liquid is poured over cake or cookies to give them an excellent smooth, glaze finish. It can also be refrigerated and used to form chocolate truffles or whipped for fillings or frostings.
Ganache is prepared using different proportions depending on what type of chocolate you are using, milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white and what the ganache is used for - glaze, truffle center or filling. Sometimes bakers add extracts or liqueurs to flavor the ganache differently.
For more about ganache and how to make it at home, check out Jenni's granache page here.
Rita's Ganache Question
I received this question from Rita, who had trouble with her Callebaut bittersweet chocolate ganache. Here is what she said,
I have a question for the pastry chef about my "tried and true" recipe for chocolate ganache that I've made more times than I can count. It starts out with 2 cups of whipping cream that I bring to a rapid boil, and adds one full pound of Callebaut bittersweet chocolate. Does anyone know what could have caused that to happen? I'd hate to toss out another pound of the Callebaut, but I can't use it for a ganache in that condition Thank you so much for your time. Never had any problem until the time before last and again today. On both these occasions' upon adding just the chopped chocolate to the boiled cream and stirring (until melted), the mixture separated rather than blended.
Pastry Chef Jenni to the Rescue
I hate it when a tried and true recipe turns around and refuses to behave itself! It has happened to me before, too. I hope I can help you so you don't waste any more Callebaut - that is some good stuff!
My first thought is that bringing the cream to a rapid boil is not your best bet. The cream is an emulsion of milk fat, milk solids, and water. You risk breaking the emulsion if you bring it to a rapid boil. And with unbound water sloshing around, the risk of seizing the chocolate is very real.
Chocolate is another emulsion - of cocoa solids, which are dry-suspended in cocoa butter and sugar. Chocolate seizes (turns grainy and firms up) when a small amount of water interferes with the melting chocolate, making the cocoa solids "clump up." The only way to prevent this is to use enough liquid to ensure that all the cocoa solids get wet enough so they don't clump.
I'm not sure of your exact method, but if you add the chocolate directly to the pan in which you boiled the cream, you could have ended up burning any of the chocolate that hit the very hot bottom of the pan. Burned chocolate gets all grainy and stupid and doesn't taste good.
You can solve this problem in one of two ways.
1) Bring the dairy to just below a boil. It will be steaming and frothy-looking but won't be bubbling rapidly. Pour the scalded cream into a metal bowl and pour in the chocolate. Let sit, and then whisk/stir to make the emulsion.
2) Make the ganache in a double boiler, and mix the cream and chocolate, whisking/stirring to make the emulsion.
This is what I love about posting The Reluctant Gourmet, comments like this from Rita. I am thrilled my website can help home cooks just like I figure out how to improve their cooking. Rita replied,
"Dear Reluctant Gourmet and Jenni,
Thank you both so much for your time and thoughtfulness in solving my problem.
The temperature was indeed the issue. I didn't know how it affected the outcome until I read your explanation. (I am no stranger to chocolate seizing.) The two times my recipe failed, I had put the Callebaut through the processor rather than leaving it in the cut chunks I usually had. I thought it would melt faster.
I hadn't realized (and what your explanation supported) that when the cool chocolate chunks hit the boiling cream, it mitigated the temperature, allowing the chocolate to melt and the cream to cool. And yes, I do pour it into the same pan even though the recipe tells me to pour the cream into a medium bowl. (See what happens when you try to take shortcuts!)
After reading your explanation, I now understand that the cream was too hot and the ground chocolate couldn't handle it. I returned to my old method of leaving the chocolate in chunks, which was fine. But it's nice to know that if I add ground chocolate to heated cream, I don't have to bring it to a full boil. Yes, that Callebaut is precious!
Thanks so much!! I'm going to tell all my cooking friends about you!! Rita"