What Is Ganache?

Oh, chocolate ganache. This wondrous glaze has our taste buds quivering with excitement, our arteries tremoring in anxiety, and our teeth gnashing in anticipation. Terrible pun intended.

Velvety and rich with a silky texture and an incredible taste, chocolate and cream ganache is the most aesthetically elegant topping you will ever use for your chocolate truffles, puddings, chocolate cake, and pastries. The chocolatey-creamy taste brings a sweet, rich energy to almost any dessert dish and is almost guaranteed to satisfy.

If done correctly and without error, chocolate ganache is a thing of sheer beauty that will gracefully enhance even the most disastrous desert, putrid pudding, or catastrophic cake.

In terms of looks, chocolate ganache performs well when it is haphazardly smothered, free to drip and ooze, creating satisfying, mouthwatering, highly inviting lava flows of cocoa over straightforward cakes. If your cake tastes great but looks rather uninspiring, ganache will make a performance of your efforts by bringing a stunning visual effect to the plate.

Even the worst homemade cake will profit from a chocolate ganache topping, transforming it into something special, instantly. In that sense, ganache is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card for baking mishaps. If your cake looks like it was made in a tumble dryer, then served with a construction worker’s trowel before firing chocolate chips at it with a catapult, ganache will gracefully redeem your bake by bringing an instant visual appeal.

Simple to Make?

chocolate ganache

With only two components (as standard), ganache is as simple as it comes, but don’t be fooled by the modicum of ingredients because there is a wizard-like knack to it. The general opinion on various cooking blogs and discussion boards is that ganache is a pretty straightforward, easy thing to make. But it isn’t, at least in our opinion. Well, it is, and it isn’t.

Really, this is all about technique. It can be difficult to get right at first, but we implore you to persevere. Because as soon as you accomplish the perfect Ganesh – even if it takes multiple attempts – you will be rewarded with a lifelong knack for making an incredible velvety glaze that will never abandon you.

We hate to use such a cliched reference, but on this occasion, there is no better analogy than riding a bike for the first time. Frequent failure is not uncommon at first, almost expected. Lots of falling down and subsequent bruised egos is a very common outcome for your first few attempts.

But when you find that sweet spot and produce the perfect Ganesh, it stays with you. So, patience is a virtue here, safe in the knowledge that it might take a few disasters, but eventually, you will get there. It feels really easy when you finally produce a perfect ganache.

What is it Made Of?

The good news is that the ingredients are simple. Ganache comprises two components combined in equal measure: melted chocolate and hot cream. There are variations, but the original French recipe consists of those two ingredients, supported by deft technique.

What is Ganache Used For, Exactly?

Ganache is commonly used as a topping, or sometimes a frosting, for cakes, buns, pastries, and sometimes even cookies. Also used as a filling for pastries and cakes, ganache also serves as a base or beautiful finish for small treats, like cupcakes. Think of ganache as the confident, rather sophisticated cousin of buttercream frosting.

Artisan bakeries and pastry shops often rely heavily on ganache to magnetize hungry shoppers to their windows, with ganache-glazed treats all laid out neatly like expensive jewels, giving the window display a visually beautiful look. Ganache frosting and glaze are as much a decorative touch as it is a flavor booster.

Variations

brownie covered with melted dark chocolate

There are a truckload of recipes on the internet, with a dizzying amount of different methods. For now, let’s just focus on preparing and creating the original tried and trusted French version of ganache. Get it right, and feel free to experiment with different methods and ingredients later.

Our advice would be to stick to the original and arguably the best version of ganache, so that is what we are going to cover in this post. Before that, let’s take a quick look at the different types of ganache.

Four Main Types of Ganache

Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate are the three main types. Dark chocolate for richness, white chocolate for semi-sweet chocolate ganache.

Milk Chocolate Ganache:

Milk chocolate is usually the go-to for ganache because of its distinct, semi sweet chocolate taste. Usually made for cakes and truffles, and sometimes used as a glaze.

Dark Chocolate Ganache:

Less of semi-sweet chocolate and with more of a punch, dark chocolate is an option for something with a bittersweet chocolate aftertaste. This is the default ganache for something like a chocolate sponge cake.

White Chocolate Ganache:

White chocolate ganache has an easy, subdued, semi sweet chocolate taste, and visual appeal. It is not uncommon to add a little food coloring for the purpose of energizing and enhancing a pudding’s aesthetics.

Ganache Filling:

Ganache is often used for cake fillings or even within doughnuts and other chocolate-based treats. Ganache filling typically contains more chocolate than cream, giving it a thick and creamy consistency. This thickness gives the cake a richer presence while acting as a form of rendering to keep all the layers together.

Chocolate Ganache Recipe

Chocolate ganache in a wooden bowl

Grab your pinny, recite a quiet prayer to the Ganesh Gods, and let’s get to it, shall we? As noted, there is a wealth of information on the internet centered around different ganache recipes and variations, but we are going to focus on the original method. Not because it is the most simple to create, but because this is a great jumping-off point for future experiments.

Later, you can bury yourself away in dungeon-laboratory-kitchen, trying out different methods with a wide variety of ingredients, looking over your shoulder occasionally as you manically chortle, like a mad ganache-obsessed scientist. We embrace that kind of passion and adventure here at Kitchen Community.

Honestly, though, you should focus on getting the following recipe right before getting too carried away. So here it is, in all its glory, the original French method for making ganache greatness. You can use this with pretty much anything, including:

Chocolate mousse, chilled ganache, thick ganache, filled cupcakes, a chocolate mixture for cake layers, a chocolate glaze, layer cakes, making truffles; the list really is endless.

Ingredients

  • 35 ounces of dark chocolate 993 grams. You can use equivalent chocolate chips if you have them, but owing to lower cocoa content, it’s better not to. Add a teaspoon of cocoa powder to compensate if you use chips.
  • 17 oz heavy cream 496 mL (Heavy whipping cream, or any form of heavy cream, generally results in a creamier, thicker ganache).

If you think you can remember all of that, let’s get going with the instructions.

Instructions

First, place chopped chocolate bits (or chocolate chips, if you must) in a large bowl. Next, bring the heavy cream to near boiling in a small pan and reduce to medium heat. Pour heated cream over your diced chocolate, and leave it alone for five or six minutes. Next, stir the mixture slowly, patiently, and with care, blending together the cream and chocolate until all chunks are mixed smoothly.

At this stage, we have a cheat suggestion that we would prefer you didn’t do, but can if you must. If you are struggling to get all of the chocolate bits melted after a couple of minutes of stirring, you can bring out the arch-enemy of French cooking, otherwise known as the microwave. Place inside on medium-high, remove every 20 seconds and stir until chunks are dissolved.

We would prefer you didn’t do that, however. Ganache is such a simple recipe and, in theory, easy to make. Most people stumble at the stirring, however, and find it tough to get the chopped chocolate bits to dissolve and just generally find the desired consistency. Practice, stick with it, and one day without explanation, you will develop a knack for it.

And that’s all there is to it. As simple as it gets – but often quite tricky to find the knack.

Simplicity at its Finest

We made a huge song and dance about how amazing ganache is, and we stand by that. It is a wonderful thing. The recipe notes almost seem laughably simple though, don’t they?

Not all culinary things of beauty must be painfully complicated, and it is with a simplicity that ganache is so charming. Remember, the secret is in the technique. We can’t help you with that because trial and error is the order of the day until you arrive at a place of ganache greatness. It will come.

Ganache is something you need to attempt, practice, and learn to get right. If you have never made ganache before, you just need to strap on those knee pads, throw on a cute little helmet, and have fun falling over until you figure it out.

Stay tuned for future articles in which we might expand on variations, maybe a ganache recipe or two with a modern twist but for now, we wish you luck and if this is your first ganache, remember perseverance is the key! Have fun!

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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