"Life happens. Chocolate helps."
When Grace (our French-trained Master Chocolatier, and more importantly, my wife) first started training to be a chocolatier almost ten years ago, she told me about “The Ganache.” It came out in her voice in exactly that way - capitalized. For chocolatiers, aside from knowing how to temper, creating that perfect creamy ganache is paramount. A ganache is defined as a mixture of tempered chocolate with something that has a lot of milk fat – usually heavy cream, but it can be butter and even non-cow milk sources. It is important, hence the capitalization, because chocolate hates most liquids. If any of you have added even a few drops of water, or wine, or almost any other liquid to melted chocolate you have seen the strange unappetizing paste that forms. Including heavy cream or butter into your chocolate eliminates this problem – it allows the resulting ganache to be flavored with any kind of liquid desired.
I was immediately interested in what the term “ganache” meant. I figured as a French word, it had to have a translation. Quickly pulling up a dictionary, I found that from the French, “ganache” translated into English as… ganache. Not being able to leave it there, I started looking up old French texts (thank you Google), and came across this apocryphal, but partly verified story. Apparently, sometime around 1850 in France, an apprentice chocolatier mistakenly added heavy cream to a bowl of tempered chocolate and started stirring. The master chocolatier of course saw this immediately after the addition of the cream and exclaimed to the apprentice, “You imbecile! You moron! You ganache!” Ganache meant "blockhead" or "fool" through Napoleonic times - and I found a reference to Napoleon using it to describe the Holy Roman Emperor around 1810 (reference here). Although we do not know the name of the apprentice who actually invented the ganache, we apparently know that he was considered a fool - this perhaps says something about how great inventors are often viewed.
Making a basic ganache is relatively easy. You just need the following:
Deciding to use butter or heavy cream is somewhat of a personal choice, and somewhat defined by what you are trying to do. We find that butter based ganaches tend to delay some of the flavors, while heavy cream ganaches tend to be flavor forward. In either option you can add liquid flavors (wine, liquors, extracts) and dry flavors (spices) after the ganache is mixed to come up with your flavored ganache concoction. Any dry ground spice will work well, and you can be creative with the liquids now as well - the milk fat will protect the chocolate from the effects of liquids once the ganache is mixed.
The source of some flavors you may not want to leave in the final ganache. For instance, lavender can add a great taste to chocolate, but those little crunchy buds do not do much for mouth feel. Likewise with tea, chile pods, cardamom pods and other "hard" spices. To use these, pick heavy cream as your milk fat source. Place the spice you want to use in a loose-leaf tea bag, put this in your heavy cream in a small pot. Heat the entire thing together just until when the cream starts to bubble, then take off the heat and set aside for it to cool back down to room temperature. Remove and discard the tea bag once the cream is at room temperature. You have now "infused" the cream with the desired flavor, and this will be translated to the ganache when you add your chocolate to the cream.
Hopefully this basic ganache description helps you make some phenomenal creations at home. As always, you can also join our Truffle Making class to get hands on experience with us, as well as get some high-end chocolate by the pound for your use at our chocolate lounge.
Hello all! We often get requests in our chocolate making workshops to provide some written info on how to temper chocolate at home. This is the post that will give you those step-by-step instructions.
In our chocolate making workshops in Albuquerque, our participants often get a chance to use the classic tabliering method of chocolate tempering. The tabliering method dates back to the earliest uses of chocolate in Europe around the 1840's and 1850's (even before the super creamy modern version of chocolate bars was created in the 1870's). Pouring some molten chocolate on a stone slab or countertop to temper it is highly impressive - especially when you haven't told your family why you are doing it, but also a tad bit messy.
The "seeding" method is ideal for the neat freaks among us (which Grace is, and Troy is not). This consists of melting part of your chocolate, and reserving a part unmelted for tempering - this unmelted chocolate acts as the "seed" that introduces the right kind of crystals into the chocolate. Here is what you will need:
Cocoa butter hardens at room temperature, and it can form six different types of crystals. It is similar in concept to the difference between fine granulated sugar or rock candy - sugar can form different crystals, and cocoa butter can as well. One of these types (Form V to be exact), is when all of the cocoa butter molecules line up in a grid. This forces all of the ingredients in chocolate to be equally distributed throughout the chocolate, giving the best taste and aroma. Moreover, it gives the chocolate its famous gloss and makes it "sharp" and hard (not mushy). Tempering chocolate is the process of making sure your chocolate has these Form V crystals, and tempered chocolate is chocolate with these crystals predominately present. For those of you scientifically inclined, click here for an interesting graphic of the different crystal forms.
We temper chocolate because it gives the best taste, the best aroma, the best mouth feel, and the most beautiful sheen. From a practical standpoint, tempered chocolate also contracts as it cools. This means if we are using molds, it is a lot easier to get our chocolate creations to release.
Now that you understand (hopefully) why we temper, let's get to it. Here are the steps:
1) Separate out our seed. If you are working with dark chocolate, set aside about 1/4th of the chocolate by weight to the side. If you are working with white or milk chocolate, I like to set aside about 1/3rd. The part we separate out is "the seed." Make sure this set aside chocolate is not in one big block, but broken down into smaller pieces. You can use a food processor, but be careful - the food processor will introduce heat which can melt the crystals we want - so pulse it only. You want pieces ideally that are no larger than two or three traditional chocolate bar squares.
2) Melt the remaining chocolate. There are two ways to do this - either with a double-boiler with the water barely simmering, or in the microwave. At home, I actually prefer the microwave. This is because water and chocolate do not mix - if you get a little water in your chocolate, the chocolate hardens up to a nasty paste that you really can't use in confection making. To use the microwave, set the microwave for one minute at half power. Run it, then stir your chocolate. It will take 4 or 5 minute increments at half power (MAKE SURE YOU USE HALF POWER), stirring in between each minute, to get your chocolate melted. Regardless of which method you use, you want to take your chocolate to about 120 degrees F.
3) Add your seed chocolate to the melted chocolate and stir it in. It will reduce the temperature of your melted chocolate, and introduce the right kind of crystals into the mixture. You know you are ready to go when all of your chocolate is integrated (liquid), and you have hit about 88-90 degrees F for dark chocolate, 84-86 degrees F for milk, or 82-84 for white. Your chocolate is in temper!
For those of you wondering about the hair dryer and kitchen towel - this is the bonus. To keep your chocolate in temper and still liquid so you can use it, make sure you put the kitchen towel between your bowl and the counter-top. This will slow the heat loss. If your chocolate starts getting thick, you can heat it up a tad with the hairdryer while stirring. As long as you do not heat it above about 93-94 degrees, you should keep your chocolate in temper.
We will be adding a tabliering method post soon for those of you who want to confound your family by throwing melted chocolate right on your stone counter.
Ah, Chocolate – the mere sound of it simply brings about sensuality and delight. A thousand and one stories have been told about this so-called food of the gods. To me, chocolate is the perfect food. As a child, it was my favorite treat and I would be filled with anticipation of having chocolate. It is known as tsokolate, in my native language Tagalog – and is first and foremost a fruit. (Theobroma cacao).
I’ve been lucky to have grown in a tropical country that has the perfect climate for cacao trees (Theobroma cacao). The Philippine Islands being near the equator can grow a variety of cacao whether Criollo, Trinitario, Forastero or Calabacillo. On a visit to small cacao plantation in Cavite in Luzon, I saw how cacao trees were living harmoniously side by side with other agricultural crops like coffee, banana trees and coconut.
Cacao made its way to the Philippines (being a Spanish colony) starting from the 16th century. The Manila-Acapulco galleon trade route is primarily responsible for strengthening cacao’s presence in the islands. As William Lyon writes in his essay dated 1902 “…much of the cacao grown here is of such excellent quality as to induce keen rivalry among buyers to procure it at an advance of quite 50 per cent over the common export grades of the Java bean…”
Once cacao pods mature (becoming red or yellow in skin color), they are harvested, fermented, dried, roasted and farmers take it to the market to sell or have it ground to make their homemade tableya (chocolate discs) for use in sweet and savory cooking. As Fedor Jagor et al observes: “The pulp of the fruit is white, tender, and of an agreeable acid taste, and contains from eighteen to twenty-four kernels, arranged in five rows. These kernels are as large as almonds, and, like them, consist of a couple of husks and a small core. This is the cacao bean; which, roasted and finely ground, produces cacao, and with the addition of sugar, and generally of spice, makes chocolate. Till the last few years, every household in the Philippines made its own chocolate, of nothing but cacao and sugar.” Already, chocolate’s roots are very artisanal, and may very well be suitably called the “food of the masses” (Presilla).
Gourmet chocolate, distinguished from "normal" chocolate, has a higher cocoa content and is made from premium cocoa beans. It is often made in small batches without preservatives or artificial flavors. Gourmet, or "fine," chocolate should have up to five ingredients only - cocoa solids, pure cane sugar, natural vanilla, pure cocoa butter and in some cases soy lecithin. It contains no preservatives, but rather relies upon the natural resistance of well-made chocolate to contaminants that can maintain freshness for up to six weeks. Most mass-produced chocolate brands contain fillers, preservatives and synthetic flavors. Growing up with the real thing, usually just harvested a few weeks before, I was spoiled on fine chocolate early.
Once you’ve tasted fine chocolates – there’s no looking back.
Sources: Lyon, William S. (Scrugham) (2011-03-24). Cacao Culture in the Philippines (Kindle Locations 21-22). Kindle Edition.
Jagor et al, Fedor. “The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes”
Presilla, Maricel E. “The New Taste of Chocolate” (Revised)
Troy & Grace Lapsys, Chocolatiers in Albuquerque, NM. We strive to bring a combination of French Chocolate traditions and New Mexico flavors together at our shop in Albuquerque, NM. Chile, lavender, pecans - all local ingredients we merge with the finest chocolate from around the world.