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Ganache: Tips, Techniques & Troubleshooting

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jrshaul not sure if you are interested in a ganache for cake or for chocolates but one of these two books should be very useful:

"The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum

"Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner" by Peter Greweling

You should be able to get both from the library and there are discussion threads about these on eGullet too.

The Cake Bible technique is what I use. Not that I've made ganache in a while.

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Several years ago, I attended a demo by Frederic Bau of Valrhona. He says to treat ganache as an emulsion - if you add the liquid slowly to the melted chocolate, it won't break. He used an immersion blender. Melted the chocolate, warmed the cream (but it can't be too hot) then added the cream in slowly, letting incorporate fully before adding more. At first, the chocolate stiffens but as you keep whisking in cream, it smooths out and becomes shiny and smooth.

You can use different types of liquid - not necessarily cream. I've made water ganaches and tea ganaches.

It's not the lack of fat in the cream that makes the ganache break; it's the way you add the liquid to the chocolate.

Has anyone used a great big syringe to control the flow,or perhaps a turkey injector? I've heard of the mythical "water ganache", and this seems like a possibility.

Alternately, in butter-containing ganache, a beurre monte might be an option?

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You don't need to add the liquid drop by drop as you do with oil when starting a mayonnaise. He poured in a small ladle-ful of cream then tilted the bowl so it pooled at the edges of the bowl. Then he worked the liquid in slowly to the chocolate, tilting the bowl so some of the liquid dribbled into chocolate slowly. It's hard to describe.

Water ganache sounds like it wouldn't work but it does.

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You can dump the cream right over the chocolate without a problem. The technique them becomes stirring in small circles to create the initial emulsion, and widening those circles as the ganache begins to form. Despite what chefs from Valrhona say (and they are notorious for claiming their way is the only way), there is no one magic way to form a ganache. Many different techniques will produce the same (or at least very similar) results as long as they are done consistently. I’d recommend trying various methods and figuring out what is easiest for you.

I have developed slightly different techniques depending on the truffles I am making. A chocolate cheesecake ganache, a champagne ganache, a caramel based ganache, a plain chocolate ganache, all have slightly different methods that seem to produce the best result in the easiest way. I can get them all to work using one technique, but it isn’t as efficient. For instance, I use an emersion blender with cheesecake, I add flavorings at a different time with champagne, and I don’t pre-melt any of the chocolate with caramel based ganaches.

If you have trouble with ganache breaking or being grainy, then I have found it is usually caused by one of two things. The first is that you didn’t emulsify it properly. If you are just stirring then use a glass bowl and check if the ganache is smooth and slightly clingy as it runs down the side of the bowl. If you see small chunks or an inconsistent look then keep stirring or hit it with an emulsion blender. I’d recommend not using a whisk or beaters since they incorporate air. This reduces shelf life and if used in truffles can cause the ganache to shrink inside the shell after awhile leaving air pockets.

The second issue is that one of the ingredients may have been too cold. If you add the butter after the emulsion is formed, make sure that it is soft and at room temperature. The graininess is often caused by colder butter (or other ingredients) that comes into contact with the cocoa butter. The cocoa butter sets faster around the cooler ingredients and forms little clumps. This is why the ganache will look good initially, but get grainy as is sets. It is also why the little “grains” will melt.

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You can dump the cream right over the chocolate without a problem. The technique them becomes stirring in small circles to create the initial emulsion, and widening those circles as the ganache begins to form. Despite what chefs from Valrhona say (and they are notorious for claiming their way is the only way), there is no one magic way to form a ganache. Many different techniques will produce the same (or at least very similar) results as long as they are done consistently. I’d recommend trying various methods and figuring out what is easiest for you.

You describe this well - better than I could have.

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I make about 25 varieties of filled bon-bons, so for me "ganache" is a pretty loose description.

Basically, I use two methods

The first is with the food processor, about 90% of my ganaches are done there. Ganaches with just cream and couverture, with fruit puree and cream, with tea flavoured cream, etc.

The second method I use is "blocking", I make the ganache in a bowl, then dump it out on a marble slab. With my scraper (a 9" s/s drywall knife, actually) I push the ganache from one end to the other until it starts to crysatlize. For some reason, this method gives me a much better flavour with high fat content (butter) ganaches.

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I blend all of my ganaches with a hand blender, or make them in a food processor from the start, the difference in texture is incredible, and totally worth the effort in my opinion. If you do that, then I think Valrhona's method doesn't have any added value- it is supposed to create a better emulsion, but I think that if you use the blender at the end, it really doesn't matter how you created your ganache (as long as you just add alcohol and essential oils after it has cooled down a bit, so they won't evaporate), the result will be the same.

When blending with a hand blender, you can really see the ganache emulsify and change texture to something like mayonnaise, and this results in a much smoother and creamier texture. In my experience, if I don't do that, then within a few days, the ganache starts getting more dry and grainy. You can always judge of a chocolatier has done this by seeing your teeth marks in the ganache after you have bitten into a chocolate.

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The second method I use is "blocking", I make the ganache in a bowl, then dump it out on a marble slab. With my scraper (a 9" s/s drywall knife, actually) I push the ganache from one end to the other until it starts to crysatlize. For some reason, this method gives me a much better flavour with high fat content (butter) ganaches.

I have not seen this discussed previously. I'll have to try it.

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The January 1987 issue of Bon Appétit had an article on truffles. That was the year of my parents' 50th anniversary, so I made hundreds from the interesting recipes offered in that issue. The "Island Truffles" were especially tasty: white chocolate, toasted macadamias, toasted coconut, rum, cream of coconut, sour cream, and lime zest. They were dipped in white chocolate to finish them. Nothing was said about tempering any chocolate, and I knew nothing about such things in those days. Those truffles came out perfectly (sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss). Last year I was asked to make some truffles for a high school reunion, so I pulled out that issue of Bon Appétit and made those truffles again. This time was not successful (at least not at first). The recipe calls for melting the chocolate with the cream of coconut. I did that, and the whole thing separated horribly. After trying many methods of salvaging the ganache, I put it in a food processor, and it came together successfully. Now, one year later, I am making those truffles again for a big event. Today I was very careful in melting the chocolate (I am dealing with 40 oz.). It refused to melt for a ridiculously long time, but I was determined not to make my (assumed) error of moving too rapidly. Finally I got it softened (not melted), but when I added the sour cream, it separated just like last year. This time the food processor trick did not work. You can imagine my panic--with 40 oz. of Valrhona at stake, not to mention my sanity. I chilled the mess, then used a hand-held mixer. That seems to have worked. It doesn't look great, but inside a truffle, who will know?

Now I want to understand what happened. I have a couple of clues: In the 1987 effort, I knew nothing about chocolate. I am fairly sure the white chocolate I used was what I would now know as "coating chocolate"--I think the brand was Peter's. So my first question is whether the fat used in that kind of chocolate would have made a difference. I know whatever the fat was, it's not as temperamental as cocoa butter. Second question: I wonder if mixing the real chocolate (last year it was Callebaut, this year it is Valrhona) with the cream of coconut does something to the chocolate that eventually causes it to separate. Perhaps I should melt the chocolate first, then start adding the other ingredients. On the other hand, in a typical ganache, one doesn't usually add the cream to the chocolate when the cream is unheated, but such a mixture would eventually emulsify with enough stirring. (Both my cream of coconut and sour cream were at room temp.)

This is far from a typical ganache, so I am at a loss as to what to do. Maybe a fake chocolate is what is required?

Any ideas would be most welcome.

Jim

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Definitely a question for the chocolate doctor! My guess - Valrhona is higher fat than a lot of other chocolate, and when you have all that fat not very warm and you stir it, it's not happy. So you are supposed to melt the chocolate and cream of coconut together, then stir in the sour cream? Or melt the chocolate alone then stir in the coconut and sour cream?

I think just more heat would help. Melt the white chocolate, warm the cream of coconut, combine, then add sour cream. Did you use Valrhona Ivoire? I'm surprised that didn't melt well, it is usually so fluid. Maybe there was some moisture in the bowl and it seized? The flavor combo sounds really delicious (I LOVE coconut!), can you share the recipe?

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Thanks for the reply. You are supposed to melt the chocolate and cream of coconut together, then stir in the sour cream. Seizure is a possibility, though it did come together (for a while) when I put it in the food processor, and later used a mixer. But why doesn't chocolate seize when you pour hot cream over it? The choc. was some Ivoire I had left from another project, but mostly Opalys. I think you are right about how to do it--and it's the idea I had but abandoned--to melt the chocolate alone, then proceed with the additions.

The ingredients are 10 oz. white chocolate, 2 T. cream of coconut, 2 T. sour cream, 1/2 c. chopped toasted macadamias, 1/4 c. toasted coconut, 1T. dark rum, and 1 t. lime peel (I use a little extra as it cuts the sweetness). You could dip them in white chocolate or just roll them in powdered sugar or coconut or macadamias to keep it simple. The author of the article in Bon Appétit is Sarah Tenaglia.

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The Opalys is designed to be thicker and more opaque, primarily meant for molding. I just got a case of it but have not used it yet. The Valrhona literature I have says the Opalys has 10% more milk and 10% less sugar than the Ivoire. Ivoire: 35% min cocoa, 43% sugar, 21% milk, 41% fat. Opalys: 33% min cocoa, 32% sugar, 32% milk, 44% fat. So maybe the additional milk solids are throwing things off?

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That might be, except that last year I used Callebaut, and more or less the same thing happened. I formed the mixture into spheres today. It took considerable pressure and warm hands, but they look OK. It's kind of a shaggy mixture anyway because of the coconut and nuts. So I think it's going to turn out, but I will think twice before I make it again--I will definitely try a small amount first. I'm convinced that the coating chocolate I used the first time is making the difference--it is more tolerant of being insulted by throwing other ingredients into it without much thought. Perhaps some regular cream would make a difference; the cream of coconut must have quite a bit of water in it. And I think I would melt (and temper) the chocolate by itself, then start adding other ingredients.

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The ingredients are 10 oz. white chocolate, 2 T. cream of coconut, 2 T. sour cream, 1/2 c. chopped toasted macadamias, 1/4 c. toasted coconut, 1T. dark rum, and 1 t. lime peel (I use a little extra as it cuts the sweetness). You could dip them in white chocolate or just roll them in powdered sugar or coconut or macadamias to keep it simple. The author of the article in Bon Appétit is Sarah Tenaglia.

I believe that "cream of coconut" could be interpreted as the solid that rises to the top of coconut milk or as a sweetened product often used for mixing piña coladas. In 1980s US, I would assume this recipe used Coco Lopez. Maybe the emulsifiers in the Coco Lopez make a difference? Sour cream can also have stabilizers (or not) that could affect the consistency. And who knows what sort of white chocolate might have been used in the original recipe?

Now that I have thought about these so much, I am wanting to try them myself!

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What I referred to as "cream of coconut" is actually called "canned coconut cream" in the recipe, so I think the author meant something like Coco Lopez, and that is what I used. Since I was so careful in melting the chocolate + coconut cream mixture this time, I'm thinking that the problem stems from using real white chocolate. When I have some time, I plan to try melting some white choc. by itself, then slowly adding canned coconut cream and see if it turns out any better. The finished product is delicious.

I have read of others who had a similar experience with trying to melt white chocolate--it became almost like a dough rather than melting. Unfortunately the explanations have not been all that helpful. I melt and temper white chocolate a lot when making other ganaches and filling molds, and have not had a problem.

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Thanks for the reply. You are supposed to melt the chocolate and cream of coconut together, then stir in the sour cream. Seizure is a possibility, though it did come together (for a while) when I put it in the food processor, and later used a mixer. But why doesn't chocolate seize when you pour hot cream over it? The choc. was some Ivoire I had left from another project, but mostly Opalys. I think you are right about how to do it--and it's the idea I had but abandoned--to melt the chocolate alone, then proceed with the additions.

The ingredients are 10 oz. white chocolate, 2 T. cream of coconut, 2 T. sour cream, 1/2 c. chopped toasted macadamias, 1/4 c. toasted coconut, 1T. dark rum, and 1 t. lime peel (I use a little extra as it cuts the sweetness). You could dip them in white chocolate or just roll them in powdered sugar or coconut or macadamias to keep it simple. The author of the article in Bon Appétit is Sarah Tenaglia.

I would try adding some heavy cream or more cream of coconut... 2 tablespoons cream of coconut to 10 ounces of chocolate doesn't look like the right ratio of cream to chocolate. And I agree with Fernwood... based on the publication date of the recipe, it is calling for Coco Lopez when it specifies cream of coconut.

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Trouble melting your white chocolate often indicates that it has become contaminated by moisture.

Anyone know what the percentage of water and fat is in Coco Lopez (don't have a can around here to see).

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Kerry,

But many recipes for white chocolate ganache call for bringing cream to the boil, then pouring it over (unmelted) white choc., and that (usually) works. There is certainly water in cream.

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Indeed - cream is 65% water and 35% fat - so if I'm subbing out other liquids for cream I try to allow for this. Just thought I'd see if I could calculate amounts of fat and everything in the recipe to see if we could change it a bit to make sure it works.

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If it helps, the ingredients in Coco Lopez are: COCONUT MILK, SUGAR, WATER, POLYSORBATE 60, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, SALT, PROPYLENE GLYCOL ALGINATE, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES (EMULSIFIERS), CITRIC ACID, GUAR GUM, LOCUST BEAN GUM.

Don't have any idea how much water. If one goes by the usual proportions in a cream ganache, the truffle recipe is way off (as Curls suggested earlier). Of course you want truffle centers to be rather firm if they are to be rolled.

I've still got some cream of coconut, so when my current project is over (a charity event two weeks from today), I'll do some experimenting.

Contributing to the argument that the chocolate may have had moisture in it is the fact that I had to get through a Virginia summer with more chocolate on hand than I should have had. I asked around for suggestions on what to do. Keychris of this forum said she uses a wine fridge. So I got one with some charcoal to help absorb the moisture. I vacuum-sealed all the chocolate, and the room where the fridge was located was also air-conditioned at the hottest times of the day. But I noticed when I took the white out to make the truffles that somehow dampness had gotten through those layers to the chocolate. I am stymied as to what to do in hot weather. I think I read from Clay Gordon of The Chocolate Life that freezing it is a possibility.

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Oops, just realized there was already a thread on the topic of summer storage of chocolate on eG: summer storage And I thought I had read every word that that had ever been written on chocolate on eGullet!

According to what people said there, my vacuum-packed chocolate should have been OK. I'll know in a couple of days when I try to temper some more of that white chocolate.

Jim

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Kerry,

But many recipes for white chocolate ganache call for bringing cream to the boil, then pouring it over (unmelted) white choc., and that (usually) works. There is certainly water in cream.

Trouble melting your white chocolate often indicates that it has become contaminated by moisture.

Anyone know what the percentage of water and fat is in Coco Lopez (don't have a can around here to see).

But you know, of course, that it is a matter of proportion. Chocolate is a system of solids dispersed in fat. Ganache is an emulsion of fat dispersed in water. Add a tiny bit of water to chocolate, and it seizes. Add enough water to chocolate, and it emulsifies. You have to have enough water to change it from a fat system to a water system. Water is not always bad for chocolate, but the wrong amount at the wrong time can really screw it up.

I have to agree with Curls, I think there is not enough liquid in the recipe. Sounds like it was quite firm when you tried to form the truffles, and 10oz white chocolate to 2oz sour cream/coco lopez is a lot. Doesn't explain why it worked the first time, but I bet another TB or two of liquid would help.


Edited by pastrygirl (log)

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Proportion wise - if you look at the coco lopez, the sour cream and the booze as liquids - you are adding a lot more chocolate than you would in any of the other white chocolate truffle recipes I normally make. That's not counting the fat vs water amounts. So I suspect that as pastry girl mentions above - you aren't getting a good emulsion because your fat is probably too high vs your water phase.

In Greweling - there are some great descriptions of what goes wrong in emulsions (and solutions to those problems) - worth a read anytime you are having trouble with a recipe.

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Fat content of the entire recipie is too high.

Best way for me to explain is with classical screw ups that I've done or witnessed myself.

At one of the places I worked at, we had "chocolate sauce" in the bain marie in the hot kitchen. If it was kept in there too long, it would split--or separate. This was easily repaired by adding a few drops of coffee and stirring it in. Basically, as the sauce sat in the bain marie, water evaporated from the cream and the fat content went up.

At another place we would make a brandy truffle--a very basic recipie, cream, brandy, chocolate. Made it quite a few times and never had a problem. One day we had a special order for booze-free truffles, so I just subbed more cream for the brandy. It split. Again, the fat content was too high. I repaired it by adding a shot of hot exppresso and a dollop of corn syrup.

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I have made 12 different ganaches for each of the last two charity events for which I have provided chocolates, and to make handling this work possible (I am doing this alone), I made the ganaches several weeks in advance, then vacuum-packed and froze them. A couple of weeks before the event, I make the shells; then the final week I thaw the ganaches, heat them enough to melt the chocolate, and pipe them into the shells. This system works well, and--for the most part--I detect no difference in the state of the fillings. I don't make fillings such as caramel in advance as I am not sure how they would fare under melting, and I decided against trying the system with butter ganaches. But I forgot that last decision recently and made Greweling's eggnog butter ganache in advance, and when I melted it, it got a little thinner than I remember it being when it was first made. Although it did eventually firm up just fine, I think I detected a little graininess to the texture. This has led me to question my early-ganache system, and so I am posting this issue to see if others have opinions on whether freezing ganaches in advance is a bad practice. I should add that I know making the ganache just before it is used would be preferable, but I can't think of a schedule that would allow me to get all the fillings done.

The advantage of my system is that I can take my time making the ganaches and don't have to do all that measuring of tiny amounts of glucose, orange peel, peppermint oil, pectin, etc., in the face of a deadline. Having the time also means I can see whether the ganache is going to firm up sufficiently, and as there is always the possibility of failure with a ganache, I would have time to make it again. And a final consideration is shelf life: If I make the ganaches just before using them, it stretches the whole process out so much that I would be concerned with the chocolates made the first week.

I know someone will say "just don't make so many different fillings." But that was not an option in these cases.

I would appreciate any thoughts on this timing issue and related considerations.

Jim

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