- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

soft ganache (two weights of cream and one weight of chocolate), medium ganache (equal weights of cream and chocolate), and firm ganache (one weight of cream and two weights of chocolate).

SOFT GANACHE

Soft ganache can be chilled and whipped like whipped cream to create fabulous chocolate mousses (see the simple chocolate mousse recipe below) - elegant, luscious desserts. Soft ganache mousses can be used as cake fillings or as parts of impressive creations. You can make “chocolate whipped cream” mousses with bittersweet, semisweet or white chocolate ganache.

MEDIUM AND FIRM

Both medium and firm ganaches can be used as icings for cakes. In my favorite ganache icing, satin-smooth, shiny ganache glaze (recipe below), I use a ratio of cream to chocolate that is halfway between medium and firm ganache.

Firm ganache can become truffles or a torte with the addition of eggs. Sherry Yard has a wonderful recipe for baked whisky tortes using a firm ganache in “The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts” (Houghton Mifflin).

Other ingredients, such as corn syrup, also go into ganache creations. Any time that you want a soft shine - for example, in a ganache icing - think corn syrup. As my friend Harold McGee puts it, “Corn syrup is a liquid that attracts water and fills in spaces between fine sugar particles to produce a glass-smooth surface.” The corn syrup in the satin-smooth, shiny ganache gives a deep shine to the dark surface.

I used to think that ganache icings had to be nothing but cream and chocolate, but then I read Miss Yard’s work. (She is the executive pastry chef at Spago.) In her ganache glaze, she adds apricot jelly, which sweetens, adds subtle flavors and adds a little pectin to slightly firm the glaze. What a great idea!

GANACHE TECHNIQUES

The classic method of preparing ganache is to place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl, bring the heavy cream to a boil, pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and stir rapidly together until it is smooth. I know that this method has been passed down for generations, but it can have problems.

If the cream and chocolate are not successfully combined, the ganache can separate with an oily, shiny glaze on top, or it can contain little hard, undissolved chocolate specks. These are two separate problems. The oil on top occurs when the emulsion (a blending of two liquids that ordinarily do not go together, such as fat and water) breaks and the liquids start to separate. The undissolved chocolate specks are what chefs call “seizing.” It is this seizing that I think can be a problem when pouring the hot cream over the chocolate.

Young pastry chefs are taught to approach ganache worrying about the emulsion, but it is the seizing that I am always concerned about. If even for a split second there is too little water-type liquid and too many cocoa particles in the mixture, it can result in little hard chocolate specks.

In seizing, beautiful, satiny, flowing melted chocolate can suddenly become a rock-hard, grainy mass. Chocolate is composed of fine, dry particles (cocoa and sugar) in rich fat (cocoa butter). With melted chocolate, a few drops of water, or even steam, can cause these dry particles to glue together.

An example of this is your sugar bowl. When you dip the spoon that you used to stir your coffee back into the sugar bowl several times, you have dry particles and a small amount of moisture and you get clumps of dried sugar particles stuck together. But if you pour a cup of boiling water into the sugar bowl, you’ll get no clumps. There is plenty of water to dissolve all of the sugar.

There is plenty of water-type liquid in the cream to prevent the cocoa particles from gluing together (seizing) but, if the liquid is added to the chocolate, there can be a split second when there are many dry cocoa particles and too little liquid so that tiny stuck-together particles can form. I feel that it is much safer to add the chocolate to the cream, as I do in both recipes below.

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