Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.
Today: Don't let grainy ganache sink you. Get Alice Medrich's 3 tips on choosing the right chocolate, the right recipe, and the best tool for the job.
Ganache would appear to be the easiest recipe in the world. It's just chocolate and cream, right? But when ganache goes wrong it separates or curdles, or it results in truffles that sag or that are too stiff and or have a grainy texture. Success with ganache is all about ratios and cacao percentages. Here’s what you need to know.
1. The ratio of chocolate to cream determines how stiff or soft the ganache will be: a sauce or glaze takes more cream (or liquid) than a truffle center. Sauces and glazes are easier to make than truffle centers because the ratio can be less precise and because the ganache can be adjusted by eye at any time by adding more liquid until the mixture is smooth.
2. Ganache for truffle centers is more finicky because you need just the right amount of liquid to form a perfect emulsion with the chocolate so that the truffle is smooth and creamy yet firm enough to hold a shape after it's cool. The correct ratio of liquid to chocolate depends on the cacao % of the chocolate you are using. A higher percentage chocolate requires more liquid and it is trickier to emulsify: it’s easier to make a perfect truffle ganache with a 60% to 62% chocolate than a 70% percent chocolate because the extra sugar in sweeter chocolate aids emulsification.
3. Either way, a perfect emulsion for truffles is easiest to get with an immersion blender. A food processor is next best and a hand held whisk is possible but not advisable unless you have expert whisking skills and are making a small batch using chocolate that does not exceed 62% cacao. In other words, go for the immersion blender. For sauce or pouring ganache, a blender is not necessary or even appropriate; those can be made with a whisk or in some cases even a spatula!
Bottom line: The ratio of chocolate to cream for any type of ganache depends on the cacao percentage of the chocolate. You need a good specific recipe that calls for chocolate of a precise percentage or range of percentages. Beware of recipes that simply call for bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate and that do not specify cacao percentage. If you use bittersweet chocolate with 70% cacao in a recipe that was created for bittersweet chocolate with 60% cacao, your ganache may fail. Always use a recipe that specifies the cacao percentage of the chocolate and choose chocolate with that percentage.
Alice's new book Seriously Bitter Sweet is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet.
Photo by James Ransom