- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Robert Steinberg has ganache on his mind. What chocolate lover wouldn’t?

Ganache, a silken combination of melted chocolate and cream, is both an ingredient and an indulgence. The recipe can be used in its rich, thick, liquid state or allowed to firm up to a soft, fudgelike consistency. Bakers use ganache as a filling or frosting for cakes. Or you can pair it with fresh strawberries for dipping, spoon it over ice cream or simply lick it up.

Mr. Steinberg isn’t your average chocoholic. As a co-founder of Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker in Berkeley, Calif., he’s on a mission to spread chocolate nirvana. Creating the perfect ganache is one way to do it.

Although combining hot cream with chocolate seems like a no-fail concept, a lot can go wrong. That concerns Mr. Steinberg, who encourages home cooks to use high-quality chocolate in cooking and baking. Yet the more intense the chocolate, the more challenging it is to make a ganache, he says.

A little explanation is in order. Many quality chocolate bars, such as Scharffen Berger, are labeled according to the percentage of the bar that comes from the cacao bean. The higher the percentage, the more chocolate, Mr. Steinberg says.

Scharffen Berger’s newest chocolate bar, which is labeled 82 percent, may be the most powerful chocolate hit you can get from an American-made product. The company also manufactures 62 percent and 70 percent bars, but the higher the percentage of cacao bean, the lower the percentage of sweetener. An 82 percent chocolate doesn’t taste as sweet as, say, a 62 percent. It also doesn’t react the same way when cooked into a ganache.

“If you have a chocolate with more sugar, it’s more forgiving and less likely to break during cooking,” Mr. Steinberg says. “Making ganache with 82 percent will be trickier than using a 62 percent,” he says.

“If you’re not experienced in chocolate making, use a chocolate with less cacao,” Mr. Steinberg says. While that may sound like a letdown, it’s the best way to assure a successful ganache.

To get started, here are two fail-proof versions of the recipe. For strawberry dipping, I recommend a combination of heavy whipping cream and 62 percent chocolate. Pour the cream into a heavy-bottom pot and heat just until bubbles form around the edges.

Remove cream from heat, then stir in the broken chocolate. You’ll notice the mixture has chocolate flecks. Keep stirring until all the chocolate melts and the ganache is the color of milk chocolate.

Serve immediately, while it is still liquid enough to pour.

For an ice cream sauce, I prefer a higher-percentage chocolate so I can really taste the contrast between vanilla and chocolate. But I add a dash of sugar to the recipe. Again, serve it while still liquid.

Ganache for strawberries

cup heavy whipping cream

1 3-ounce or 3-ounce bar 62 percent bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

Pour cream into a heavy-bottom saucepan. Heat to a simmer. Stir in chocolate. Remove from heat and stir slowly and constantly until chocolate melts. Makes about 1 cup.

Ganache for hot fudge sundae

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons sugar

1 3-ounce bar 70 percent bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

1 pint vanilla ice cream

Pour cream and sugar into a heavy-bottom saucepan. Heat to a simmer. Stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in chocolate.

Remove from heat; stir slowly and constantly until chocolate melts. For sundae, scoop 1 cup ice cream into each of 2 bowls.

Smother with ganache. Serve immediately to 2.


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