What is Ganache?
Ganache is one of the best kept secrets in the dessert world. Rich, versatile, and surprisingly easy to make, it can serve as a dessert sauce, glaze, filling, frosting, truffle center, and even be combined with whipped cream to make an easy mousse. Basic ganache is made from two ingredients: whipping cream and chocolate. Some recipes include a splash of corn syrup (shiny & inverted sugar) and flavorings such as extracts. The proportion of ingredients is dependent upon the intended outcome, but all ganaches start with some very warm cream and some chopped chocolate pieces.
Basic ganache is made when heavy cream is heated and poured over chopped chocolate pieces. It can be made using a microwave or stovetop. The most basic recipe requires an equal amount of chocolate to cream, but some recipes will call for a higher percentage of chocolate. It is possible to make a flavored ganache such as one made from peanut butter chips or white chocolate.
Ganache has many uses. One popular use is pouring it over a cake, such as a Boston cream pie. Recently it has become trendy to use vibrant colored ganache that is poured near the edge of cake tops to create a “poured” cake. Specific uses, formulas, and ingredients will be introduced in this article to help you plan the best consistency, flavor profile, and method for your project.
As a culinary instructor, I sometimes hesitate to share how easy it is to make ganache as if keeping the secret will somehow identify me as a chocolate goddess. But in the end, I feel like a magician when I reveal all the things ganache can do in the pastry world. I use ganache on a regular basis. A simple melted chocolate bar can go a long way in embellishing a cookie, but ganache has so many more applications in the area of baked goods and confections. Over time, I have learned how to adapt a ganache formula for various uses and occasions such as candy fillings or cake fillings.
How Do You Make Ganache?
The most basic ganache formula involves heavy cream (cream with a fat content of at least 33%) and small pieces of chocolate. The most common chocolate used is semi-sweet/bittersweet. Most home cooks actually use chocolate chips as they are readily available and there is no need to chop a large block of chocolate into the required small pieces. Assuming you are intending to use the ganache in a pourable form (as in over a cake or as a fondue), then the amount of chocolate is generally twice that of the cream. So, if you are using 1 cup of cream, you would use 2 cups of chocolate pieces. The cream is heated on the stovetop just until it is about to boil. The best way to determine that is to look for tiny bubbles to form near the edge of the pan. The hot cream is then poured over the chocolate and left for a few moments to steep. Approximately five minutes later, you can use a spoon to stir the ingredients to make a smooth, silky sauce. Your cream can also be heated in the microwave if you have a careful eye, being sure that your cream does not erupt if overheated. In most cases, you will want your ganache to cool slightly before using it. However, if you wish to make it ahead of time, or have some leftover in the refrigerator, you can always warm it up on half power in the microwave to return to a pourable consistency.
How Do You Store Ganache?
Ganache has a typical shelf life of 1-2 days on the counter, two weeks in the refrigerator, or several months in the freezer. You can increase the shelf life by adding an inverted sugar, such as honey to your recipe. Once ganache cools, it thickens and is no longer pourable, but can be warmed again. Likewise, when it is frozen, it will need to be warmed before usage. Rather than going straight from the freezer to the microwave, place the frozen container in the refrigerator overnight. When placing in the refrigerator or freezer for later use, use a tight-lidded container to prevent the chocolate from absorbing flavors and smells from other ingredients stored in your icebox.
How Can I Use Ganache?
When in a pourable form, ganache resembles a chocolate or hot fudge sauce and is most commonly found atop a cake, éclair, or ice cream. In the instance of a cake, icing or stabilized whipped cream is generally on the cake before the ganache is poured. Pourable ganache can be used as a dipping sauce. Though chocolate fountains have waned in popularity, fondue has made a reappearance. Whether you have a fondue pot, or just use a bowl, ganache makes a perfect dip for fruits, marshmallows, and pretzels.
Lastly, there are several ways to make a rich chocolate mousse. One of my favorites is to fold room temperature pourable ganache into freshly whipped cream. The proportion is dependent upon how chocolaty you want to make your mousse. The mousse can be eaten directly or used as a filling for cakes.
Ganache that is cooled, thickens to a paste consistency. This can happen on the countertop or in the refrigerator. At this point, the ganache is quite malleable and somewhat soft. This is the consistency that you can expect to find in the inside of a chocolate shelled truffle, or as a filling in a chocolate based tart. The tart often includes other flavors and ingredients such as fruit and nuts, can be easily sliced. In this form, it can be piped into a cupcake, or spread atop a cookie, or as a filling in a layer cake. By increasing the chocolate to cream ratio, the paste can be rolled into a ball and coated with cocoa, sprinkles, crushed nuts, or coconut for a soft truffle.
Whipped ganache is yet another useful culinary secret. Ganache that is room temperature can be whipped with an electric beater into something resembling frosting. It can then be piped as typical frosting would. By incorporating air, the ganache increases in volume and lightens in color. The taste is nowhere as sweet as a traditional frosting and thus makes for a good balance paired with a sweet cake. This too can be used as a filling in a layer cake or piped into the center of a cupcake.
Can I Use White or Milk Chocolate to Make Ganache?
Ganache is typically made with chocolates that have a relatively high content of cacao, like semi-sweet or bittersweet. The chocolate seems to behave better with the higher cacao content. That said, with a few modifications, ganache can be made with other chocolate. In general, the lower the cacao content, the higher the ratio of chocolate to cream. For instance, if you normally make a ganache with a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream, you would use a 3:1 or higher ratio when working with white chocolate. Flavored chocolate such as peanut butter chips can be used as well and should be treated as white chocolate. A quality chocolate works best but even crafting chocolate wafers can be used. Flavored and colored wafers are often the choice for making a drip cake. White chocolate is softer than dark chocolate and the ganache tends to be softer as well.
There is no exact recipe for ganache as it is dependent not only on your intended use, but also on the type and brand of chocolate and cream that you use. The weather, as well as the temperature in your kitchen can influence the outcome of your ganache. Take note of the brand of chocolate that you use, and any other relevant data that will help you to tweak and replicate your recipe.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore