Ganache is a mixture of chocolate and cream. How thick or thin the mixture should be depends on how you intend to use the ganache because it can be a glaze, an icing or a cake filling. A glaze is poured while icing and filling are spread. So, a ganache glaze is necessarily thinner than a ganache icing or filling. You control the thickness or thinness of the ganache with the amount of cream in proportion to the chocolate. Additionally, room temperature plays a role too.
Having defined ganache, a few notes before the instructions on how to make it.
First, it’s chocolate and cream, not cocoa powder and cream. Read the difference between chocolate and cocoa powder so you won’t be tempted to substitute cocoa powder for chocolate.
Second, it does NOT matter what BRAND of chocolate or cream you use; what’s important is that you use the REAL chocolate and RIGHT KIND of cream.
Third, unless you’re using sweetened cream, chocolate means sweetened chocolate which can be milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, white chocolate or dark chocolate. You can use morsels or blocks. If using blocks, chop the chocolate into small uniform pieces so that they will melt at the same time.
The most basic formula for making ganache glaze is to use one part cream for one part chocolate. If you intend to use the ganache as an icing or filling, use one part cream for two parts of chocolate.
Start by placing the chocolate in a bowl.
Heat the cream just until it starts to simmer. Pour over the chocolate.
Mix gently until the chocolate is melted. And that’s it.
The Double Boiler Method For Making Ganache
Another method for making ganache is to use a double boiler.
Heat about an inch of water in the bottom pan and bring it to barely simmering point (see how to boil water). Place the chopped chocolate and cream in the top pan and place it over the bottom pan. The steam from the water in the bottom pan will slowly heat the cream and melt the chocolate. Wait until the chocolate bits are partially melted before you stir. When no solids are left, the ganache is done.
Cream Does Not Always Have To Be Dairy Cream
We have used coconut cream to make ganache and it was good. So, for people who prefer a lower-fat version of ganache and for lactose-intolerant folks, yes, you can enjoy your ganache without dairy products in it.
Making Ganache With Unsweetened Chocolate
While ganache is almost always made with sweetened chocolate, it is possible to use unsweetened chocolate. Again, I refer you to Chocolate and Cocoa Powder 101 to get a background on what unsweetened chocolate is.
If you search the web, you will come across several techniques for making ganache with unsweetened chocolate. We have not tried all of them. We only use one technique at home using a double boiler and we are happy with the results. We use sweetened condensed milk. We start with 1:1 ratio and simply increase or decrease the amount of milk depending on how thin or thick we want the ganache.
Chop the unsweetened chocolate. Heat an inch of water in the bottom pan of a double boiler. Place the chopped chocolate and sweetened condensed milk in the top pan and position it over the bottom pan. Wait until the chocolate bits start to melt then stir until no solids are left.
Because chocolate hardens as it cools, ganache will thicken as it cools. Normally, ganache glaze (using the 1:1 ratio) is too thin to pour over a cake at once. If you pour it while too thin, most of the ganache will just fall off leaving a very thin layer of ganache on the cake. Wait a while until the ganache thickens a bit.
Admittedly, it takes some practice to determine the right consistency for pouring. The best way I can describe it is a consistency that will allow the ganache to spread and slide down the sides a bit then solidify so that very little falls off the cake. It will take some practice, for sure, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll understand why ganache is the easiest and classiest topping for a cake.