Some of you may not be that familiar with "ganache". I know 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?
Basically it is a very smooth mixture consisting of chocolate and cream. It comes from the French word for "jowl" and I'm not at all sure how that relates to what it refers to in baking which is a type of icing for cake.
Basically, when you add hot cream to pieces of chocolate and stir over heat until smooth, you have ganache. This rich sweet liquid is then poured over cake or cookies to give them a wonderful smooth, glaze finish. It can also be refrigerated and be 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 being used for - glaze, truffle center or filling. Sometimes bakers will add extracts or even liqueurs to give the ganache a different flavor.
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 was having 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 add 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 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 just 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. Cream is an emulsion of milk-fat, milk solids and water. If you bring it to a rapid boil, you run the risk of breaking the emulsion. 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 and essentially makes the cocoa solids "clump up." The only way to prevent this is to use enough liquid to make sure that all the cocoa solids get wet enough so that they don't clump.
I'm not sure of your exact method, but if you are adding the chocolate directly to the pan that you boiled the cream in, 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 just doesn't taste good, either.
I think 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 melt the cream and chocolate together, 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 web site can help home cooks just like me 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 just didn't know how it was affecting the outcome until I read your explanation. (I am no stranger to chocolate seizing.) The two times that my recipe failed I had put the Callebaut through the processor rather than leaving it in the cut chunks as I usually had. I thought it would melt faster.
What I hadn't realized (and what your explanation supported) was 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 went back to my old method of leaving the chocolate in chunks and it was fine. But it's nice to know that if I add ground chocolate to heated cream I don't have to bring the cream to a full boil. Yes, that Callebaut is precious!
Thanks so much!! I'm going to tell all my cooking friends about you!! Rita"
I made ganache for the first time yesterday and was confused by two things: some recipes gently melted the chocolate then added cream, but others boiled the cream then added chocolate to melt. My mom taught me not to boil cream for the reason you mentioned. Why would cream be boiled?
Hi Mary, great question and one I know Chef Jenni can respond to. Thanks - RG
Hi, Mary. As with most pastry-type items, look up ten recipes, and you'll see at least seven different methods for making it! It can be confusing. The beauty, though, is that when you understand *how* recipes work and which techniques yield which specific results, you can apply the correct technique every time.
The trick with making ganache is that you're trying to force an emulsion between two emulsions. Cream is an emulsion of fat and water (with a little bit of milk solids, etc). Chocolate is an emulsion of what is basically powder (the cocoa solids) and fat (cocoa butter). Introducing even just a drop of water to a melted chocolate emulsion can cause the solids to clump together, leaving the cocoa butter just sort of swimming around. That's what happens when chocolate seizes.
So, when combining chocolate and cream, the goal is to combine without making the chocolate seize. The techniques you describe in your question both attempt to do just that. Most classic techniques for making ganache involve heating cream to just below a boil and then pouring it over chopped chocolate. The issue here is that, as the first bit of cream is introduced to the chocolate, some seizing can occur before all the cream is added, and this can result in a ganache that, while tasty, may have a couple of small lumps in it.
This is probably not an issue for most of us, but if you wanted to use it to pour over a cake and it needed to be perfect, those couple of wee lumps might mar your beautiful cake. For that reason, more and more pastry chefs now like to heat the cream to just-below-a-boil and then introduce the chopped chocolate to the cream while whisking steadily.
Having said all of that (and I admit it's quite a lot!), I don't find that there is any reason to bring cream to a rapid boil. A simmer, yes. A very gentle boil for a brief period of time, fine. But to bring it to a rolling boil seems like overkill to me.
So, how did the ganache turn out? I hope it was smooth and creamy. Welcome to the wonderful world of ganache, Mary!
Thanks Jenni for your great response. - RG
Maria Liza Gascon
Hi Reluctant Gourmet and Chef Jenni! Am I soooo lucky to have stumbled in your website! It was my first time to put ganache in my cake as a crumbcoating before covering it with fondant for a friend`s friend son`s 2nd birthday. It was an egg shaped Kinder Surprise Chocolate Cake. I used 1 lb of Callebaut Bittersweet Courverture Chocolates in chips bought at Bulk Barn here in Calgary, 400 grams of Whipping Cream. I scalded the cream in medium heated (removed from heat when I saw tiny bubbles around the sides), poured the cream in the chocolates (in a stainless steel bowl), and covered the bowl with kitchen paper towel and parchment paper. I let it rest for about 5 minutes, then mixed it gently with a rubber scraper. But, alas, there were still many unmelted chocolate chips. Still not panicky though, I placed the ganache in a double boiler in simmering water (just like you said) and gently stirring with my scraper. This time, I am now smiling really wide! Thanks a mil for your help in making my ganache a success! More power to you both!
The Reluctant Gourmet
Hi Maria, thanks for contacting me and letting us know about your Ganache experience. I'll let Chef Jenni know too. Best to you.