Perfect Chocolate Ganache
Ah yes, the delicious, smooth, creamy chocolate naughtiness that is chocolate ganache.
It's everywhere. I don't mean literally, although in my kitchen I certainly seems that way at times. I mean cake-wise. It's in cakes, on cakes, dripping down the sides of them and if by some weird set of circumstances you have some left, you can chill it, roll it into balls, dust in a cocoa and you have yourself some pretty posh looking homemade truffles.
I use chocolate ganache with almost every cake I make. Sometimes as a filling, but more often than not as a coating. Applied well it can look (and taste) wonderful as a finish all on its own but, when left to set, it's what allows you to create those beautifully smooth sides and sharp edges that are the modern holy grail of sugarpaste covered cakes.
I promise I will do a post on the actual 'ganaching' of cakes but success it that hinges, at least in part, on a well made ganache. It's not rocket science but there are a few problems that seem to crop up time and time again. Most commonly the ganache splits, seizes or just wont set so here's my fail safe guide to making the perfect chocolate ganache.
Dark, milk and white chocolate are all quite different creatures it terms of melting and tempering points and even solidity (is that a word?) at room temperature and depending on what you're using you'll need different proportions. Regardless of dark, milk or white, quality is everything. You won't make a good chocolate ganache using cheap or baking chocolate. Look for a high percentage of cocoa solids and most importantly, cocoa butter not vegetable fats. I use Callebaut Belgian Chocolate, partly because I can buy it in bags big enough to swim in, but a decent supermarket chocolate such as Green & Blacks will still give you a great ganache.
Everyone varies slightly in the ratios of cream to chocolate they use, but this is what works for me:
Dark chocolate ganache: 300ml whipping cream to 600g dark chocolate
Milk chocolate ganache: 300ml whipping cream to 750g milk chocolate
White chocolate ganache: 300ml whipping cream to 850g white chocolate
There's more than one way to make ganache, some people put the chocolate in the cream and just heat in a pan until its melted or heat them both in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Sometimes that works just fine and if it does for you then great but for others it can give unpredictable results. Heat the mixture on too high a heat and the chocolate can burn or the fat in the cream and chocolate can separate giving that horrible oily layer on top. If you don't get the cream hot enough then the ganache will have a much reduced shelf-life. Not so bad if the cake is to be eaten straight away but certainly not ideal for a cake that will be decorated over several days.
So here we go...
Firstly measure the cream into a non stick milk pan or saucepan and the chocolate into a heatproof bowl. I use Belgian chocolate chips which melt and combine more easily due to their small size but if you're using a block of chocolate its worth taking the time to chop it nice and small.
Turn your oven on to it's lowest setting (on mine that's around 50 degrees C ) and pop the bowl of chocolate into the oven on a low shelf. Once the chocolate is in the oven, put the pan of cream on the hob over a medium heat.
Keep a close eye on the cream. You want it to just boil, not bubble crazily and flow over the pan. As soon as you see the surface rippling and start to froth and the sides looking as though they're starting to rise, turn off the heat and remove the pan and place on a heat proof surface.
Take the chocolate out of the oven. It should have been in there long enough to have a sheen and the chocolate be quite soft to touch. I know you've poked it, so you can lick your fingers here... just make sure you wash them afterwards!
Poor the cream over the semi-melted chocolate and allow it to sit for a few minutes. The residual heat in the chocolate combined with the just boiled cream should be enough to do most of the work for you and melt the chocolate beautifully.
After a few minutes you can give the mixture a gentle stir. It might look a little bitty at first but if you continue to stir steadily working from the middle of the bowl outwards it with gradually come together.
Once you are happy the ganache is smooth and all the chocolate has melted then stop stirring, you don't want to over mix if you can help it. Cover the bowl with clingfim or a lid to stop it from crusting and leave to cool.
The ganache needs to be left to set at room temperature before use, ideally over night. Don't be tempted to put it in the fridge to speed the process.
The next day it should be nicely solid but not rock hard. When you're ready to use it gently warm it for a few seconds at a time in the microwave and give it a stir until its a nice and thick but spreadable consistency.
Just try not to eat too much!!!