STOP RIGHT THERE! YES! I’M YELLING!
Don’t throw that broken ganache in the bin! You can save it (most likely, so long as it’s truly broken and not burnt) and I’m gonna show you how… And you’re gonna love me forever and ever and ever! I just know it 🙂
I originally posted this a few years back as a little comment about fixing broken ganache on my Facebook page a holy heck did everyone love it! A few years lapse and I refine pictures, add to the dialogue and just plain make things prettier.
So let’s get down to brass tacks… what you read next may sound familiar if you’re an avid reader of American Cake Decorating Magazine. I’m The Cakeologist there and I covered ganache and all it’s quirks in a piece deep divin into ganache…
WARNING: Ganache was harmed in the making of this column. I’ll be rescuing it, though. So no worries.
Ganache is both a well-loved and fiercely loathed part of our cake world. Those who have conquered it swear by it – the perfect undercoating for fondant, and a delicious addition to the cake eating experience. Those who loathe it cite dull, grainy, broken ganache’s and plenty of wasted dollars and hours on this cake world “unicorn”.
What kind of chocolate should I use? What brand? What shape? Yes! These are all valid questions that need answering! Here’s the answer: any one you want.
Oh, so unhelpful, Kara. I know.
I simply want you to understand that you have options, and what works for one person may not work for another. You may prefer different qualities, or your cream might behave better with one chocolate than another. This is ok. And this is where a bit of artistry needs to be emulsified with science in your kitchen (ganache pun intended!). So pick your favorite good or better quality chocolate chip, bar, pistols or wafers and get melting!
This is all far easier than it seems.
So I’m here for you and I hear you, loathers of ganache. And we’re going to tackle this issue once and for all and send you off on a path to happier, chocolatey pastures!
Let’s start with the cream.
Cream, also known as heavy cream, light cream, light whipping cream, half cream, extra light, thickened cream, single cream, double cream, table cream, or creamer, is a pretty loosely defined word depending on where you exist in the world. But let’s refer to the heavy cream (as we know it in the U.S. which is at least 36% milk fat.
Cream is going to contribute to two parts of this emulsion. Oh, wait! Let’s talk about “emulsion” first for a sec! This is a fat-in-water emulsion, like salad dressing or hollandaise sauce. You whisk them together fast and they become one beautiful consistency rather than separate water and fat components. Likewise, with ganache we’ll stir the chocolate, cream, and liquid flavorings (optional) to bring it all together.
This emulsion can be a pain in the cakey bottom. It is a fussy thing that requires proper temperature, tempered chocolate, careful agitation, and no exposure to outside moisture. These are the most common reasons for ganache-tastrophies. Let’s have a look.
There are more reasons for ganache fails, but these are the most common in cake decorating. But as you can see, it can so easily be fixed with two simple techniques! The first, warming to only 92°F is the most commonly known (though the temperature may not be as well understood – it’s important people!).
The second technique, adding a warm liquid other than cream to the warmed ganache, is the one I unleashed on the cake world a while ago and it has helped to save hundreds of pounds of chocolate, quite a bit of money, and HUGE amounts of sanity. It’s so simple!
My go-to fix, because yes, it still happens to me once in a while, is to warm some regular low-fat milk in the microwave, about 3 tablespoons worth, and slowly stir it into my ganache. Works like a charm every time!
Ok. So now that we have covered fixing you ganache, we can concentrate on making it awesomer! Let’s start with a basic set of failproof ratios for caking.
White is a very soft chocolate (and yes, it classifies as chocolate because of the cocoa butter present even though it lacks chocolate liquor). It’s necessary to use a higher ratio of chocolate to cream to create a firmer set. Of course, you should be one with your favorite brand of chocolate and know it’s properties, loves, wants, and desires. Get close. Learn it’s habits. Your brand may do well at only 3:1. Know your chocolate, friends.
These standard ratios have served me well. And it’s good to note that if you need white or milk chocolate in hot weather, up the ratio of chocolate to cream.
Now, I love my chocolate but I need to add some extra pizzazz to the batch with some flavorings and infusions! Adding a liquid flavoring like Cointreau (orange liqueur) will require a bit of alteration, but easy enough. If you plan to use 3 ounces of Cointreau in your batch, add 3 additional ounces of chocolate to offset it. For extracts I rarely add extra chocolate as they are mostly pure alcohol. Amoretti’s Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Extract has been my favorite as of late.
If you want to get really crazy, let your cream sit mixed with coffee beans or toasted nuts over night and then strain them before making your ganache. The possibilities are endless! Just be sure to re-weigh your cream before adding it to your chocolate to be sure you still have the correct ratio. Coffee grounds like to suck up cream, greedy little things. Just add enough fresh cream to replace what was lost.
Try spices, aromatics like lavender, or even a nostalgic cereal like Trix. Just be sure to strain out any solids that may be in the cream. Let your imagination run wild! These can be steeped in warm cream as well but some of the stronger flavors and volatile oils (depending on ingredient) can lend off flavors. For me? Stick with the cold overnight infusion process.
Here is my standard method to make the BEST chocolate ganache ever:
Weigh out your ingredients: chocolate, cream, and flavoring
- Chop your chocolate to small pieces like chips, unless you’re already using chips
- Place in a microwave safe bowl
- Cover with heavy cream so that chocolate and cream are as level as possible
- Heat in for 1 minute, then stir just to move chocolate down into the cream
- Heat for 45 seconds, then spin the bowl rapidly back and forth on the counter to loosen any chocolate from the bottom – do not stir
- Heat for 30 seconds, then stir gently
- Heat in 30 second increments until the chocolate is almost fully melted. Leave just a few pieces unmelted.
- Allow chocolate and cream to stand in the microwave for 3 minutes to allow even distribution of heat. Then remove and begin emulsifying by stirring circles in the center. (Keeping your spatula against the bottom of the bowl and not lifting it when you stir will prevent incorporating air bubbles that masquerade as unmelted bits)
- Add flavoring liquids while stirring.
- Allow to cool to room temperature uncovered, then wrap with plastic and place in refrigeration overnight.
- Allow to come to room temperature the next morning, and stir to spreading consistency. You may need to warm it very slightly in the microwave to bring it to spreading consistency. Be careful to not over heat the ganache or it may break.
*You can also bring your cream to boil on a stove top and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes before stirring. I don’t prefer this method as I never pay enough attention to my cream and it boils over and causes a huge mess that I pout about cleaning up.
Common mistakes to avoid:
- Do not stir your ganache once it is below 86°F. To be safe, leave it alone once it’s at 89°F.
- The best temperature for ganache to properly emulsify and prevent breaking is between 90°F and 93°F.
- Beginning with untampered chocolate. If your bag of chocolate is 8 years old, or has clearly melted and solidified again or seems oddly brittle, ditch it. Successful ganaches start with perfect chocolate. And the higher the quality, the better.
- Not planning ahead enough to allow ganache to do its thing. Ganache is like a baby. It’s GOTTA be left alone to mature and grow important parts before you can take it out and play with it. Babies grow arms and legs, ganache grows beta crystals from the cocoa butter.
Lastly, I was debating whether to weigh in on water ganache which is coming back into style: water ganache. Yes, you can make ganache with water, but my question is WHY?!? Saves money? What’s $5 on a beautiful cake that you charged properly for? Tastes yummy? Well, yeah – it’s just chocolate and who doesn’t love chocolate. However you’re sacrificing the richness and creaminess added by the fat and milk solids. And before someone says it, no water is not more shelf stable than cream. Water has microbes. And fluoride. And chlorine. And minerals. And bottled waters are not well regulated. Keep it classic, rich, delicious, and high quality.
Ganache doesn’t have to be scary. Even if it breaks, you now have the tools to conquer it, save it, and move along your caking journey quickly. Go forth with confidence, cakey friends!