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:
- Tempered liquid chocolate (see our post on Tempering)
- Room temperature butter or room temperature heavy cream (you do not want it cold - this will cause the chocolate to immediately harden up and you will end up with crunchy ganache - not a desired effect)
- A bowl to mix it all in
- A spatula
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.