In nearly six years of studying cooking in France, my most exciting dessert discovery was chocolate Ganache. My first encounter with this sensational preparation was in a class with master chef Albert Jorant. He poured hot cream over bits of chopped chocolate and they were immediately, almost miraculously, transformed into a shiny, luscious sauce.
As the sauce cooled and thickened, Jorant spooned some of it over a cake as a shiny glaze. He then chilled the rest of the creamy chocolate mixture, shaped it into little balls and rolled some of them in chopped nuts and some in cocoa. The result was the ultimate confection--ultra-rich dark chocolate truffles, the most delectable candies I had ever tasted.
The beauty of Ganache is not just its wonderful flavor but its amazing ease of preparation. The blending of the cream and the chocolate into smooth Ganache seems like magic, but no tricks are involved here--this wonderful mixture is practically child's play to prepare. The heat of the cream does all the work. And this culinary marvel is made of only two ingredients.
You can also make Ganache into a scrumptious version of butter-cream frosting by simply beating it into creamed butter. The frosting is perfect for spreading on cake layers and is easy to pipe into rosettes or other decorations. Unlike other types of butter cream, this one makes no special demands--no sugar syrup to boil and no eggs to beat. And it is so delicious that it has become my favorite chocolate frosting.
Whether formed into truffles or used as a glaze for cakes, brownies or cupcakes, Ganache has a rich, fudgy texture. Unlike fudge, Ganache does not contain sugar; its sweetness comes entirely from the chocolate. With its intense chocolate flavor, Ganache typifies the modern taste for pure flavors and for desserts that are not overly sweet.
Since no sugar is added to Ganache, choose chocolate that is of the sweetness you like for eating on its own. If the chocolate tastes too bitter to you, the Ganache will too; the cream softens its character only slightly. Although chocolate connoisseurs generally prefer truffles made from semisweet or bittersweet chocolates, Ganache can be made from white and milk chocolates as well. Other dessert flavorings, such as cinnamon, grated orange zest or chopped candied ginger, can be stirred in to accent the chocolate.
With chocolate's dominant role in Ganache, the flavor of the chocolate really comes through in the frosting or candies you make. In fact, this is the ideal recipe for using the best chocolate you can buy, especially when you are making treats for the holidays. Any chocolate can be used, but fine chocolates from Belgium, Switzerland or France will produce the most luxurious truffles and frostings. High-quality chocolate is available at specialty and gourmet stores and in well-stocked supermarkets and is sometimes sold as "eating chocolate" rather than "cooking chocolate."
1/2 pound fine-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
3/4 cup whipping cream
Place chocolate in heat-proof medium bowl. Heat whipping cream in small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring with whisk, until it comes to full boil. Pour cream over chocolate all at once and stir with whisk until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature, occasionally stirring gently.
Makes 1 generous cup, enough to frost 8-inch cake or to fill 9-inch 2-layer cake, or to fill and frost 8-inch 2-layer cake in thin layer, or to frost 20 to 24 small or medium brownies or petits fours.
Note: Ganache can be prepared 3 days ahead and refrigerated, covered. Before using as frosting or filling, set bowl of Ganache above pan of hot water over low heat to soften, stirring often, then cool to desired consistency for spreading. For quicker method, chop chocolate in food processor, then pour hot cream into processor and process until blended.
Milk Chocolate Ganache:
Use 9 ounces fine-quality milk chocolate.
White Chocolate Ganache:
Use 10 ounces fine-quality white chocolate.
* If milk chocolate or white chocolate does not melt completely or is not uniform in color, set bowl of Ganache above pan of hot water over low heat and stir gently with whisk until smooth.
* Before spreading Ganache, cool until thick enough to spread. Semisweet or bittersweet Ganache can be cooled at room temperature or in refrigerator. Gently stir often as it cools. Milk chocolate and white chocolate Ganache should be refrigerated to thicken. If Ganache becomes too thick to spread, set bowl of mixture briefly above saucepan of hot water to soften it.