Tuesday, 3 March 2009

rescuing a split ganache

Many of you will make ganaches...either because you make truffles, or because you make chocolate fillings or toppings for cakes or deserts.

Reminder: a ganache is a blend of chocolate and cream.

If you're following a recipe closely, they should be foolproof, but if you're estimating yourself or scaling up, you can get problems with ganaches splitting, especially milk and white ganaches, where the fat content is high.

A lot of people panic then and bin the lot. But there's no need.

Tip one is to make sure you always add the chocolate to the cream, not the other way round. That way it's less likely to split. And stir all the time. Once you've started with a ganache, keep at it...don't leave it half-blended while you go to answer the phone, because chocolate likes you to know who's boss.

If your ganache has split, then you need to act as follows, and as quickly as possible.

Step one - first attempt to emulsify the mixture by using an electric hand-whisk. Many times, this will succeed in saving the ganache. Just mix for a minute or two and you will see it take on the smooth, glossy texture that good ganache has If you're making truffles beware of whisking any longer than necessary as you don't want to mix air bubbles in, which will affect your shelf life).

Step two - if that doesn't work, add some liquid glucose in roughly the ratio of 30ml for each litre of ganache you have. You could add a little more but remember it will affect the texture of the finished product so don't go overboard. If ytou're working with chocolate or confectionery you should always, always have a litre jar of liquid glucose in the cupboard. Then whisk again and 90% of the time this will save it.

Step three - if you're still not having any luck then boil up some more cream....about half as much in volume as the bowl of split ganache in front of you. Pour the split ganache into the cream as you stir. Work slowly. Rushing is probably what got you into this mess. Stop before the mixture splits again (you will have some split ganache left, which you can bin....at least you saved most of it).

If none of the above work then you really must have some very bad karma. Try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Fresh mint and green tea

The truffles are flying out of the shop at the moment so it’s a good opportunity to do some of our more unusual chocolates. At this time of the year people tend to want to play it safe…rum truffles, champagne truffles, violet creams (sigh…I will write about violet creams on a post after Christmas). So it’s nice to push the customers a little and show off what chocolate can do, or just offer the epicures a treat.

The fresh mint and green tea truffle is based on a chocolate called Orient by Jean Pierre Wybauw.

We’ve made some changes…so I can’t remember the original recipe but basically as we do it it’s an infusion of green tea (we use organic) and fresh mint (leaves and stems can go in) we allow to stand for 90 minutes. You can play around with the proportions but for reasons I’ll go into below, I tend to up the green tea so that at the infusion stage it’s the dominant flavour.

As always, we use double cream for the infusion, in almost equal volume to the melted chocolate.
We only sample this one to customers who (we think!) have palettes that can appreciate the subtleties.

Most people overtaste on the fresh mint…that’s because they’re more familiar with the taste and they can recognise it immediately. The green tea some customers tend not to be able to recognise until we let them smell the (dry) green tea. Then they recognise the clean, slightly smoky taste. Some people find the taste reminiscent of fresh grass. Certainly we always like to put it in one of the medium or larger boxes so that when people are having all their boozy truffles and caramels and pralines they have something to refresh the tastebuds a little. Something a bit more sophisticated than a caramel.

We dip in dark chocolate and then sprinkle with crystallised mint...it adds colour, texture and indicates to the customer the taste the chocolate will have.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Tips for truffle makers (part 2)

In my last post I talked about how a truffle is really a wonderfully simple way of bringing together some beautiful flavours.

You’ll have picked up that I think a truffle is as much about texture as flavour. I’ve tasted relatively few truffles that are offensive in terms of pure flavour, but its wondrously rare in this country to find a truffle that delivers texture wise.

When you’re making a truffle (or anything) think about the sensations you’re trying to create for the eater. With a truffle you’re aiming to fill the eater’s mouth with flavour, to flood it effortlessly with all that rich chocolate, cream and alcohol. The eater should not have to work at all...they should not have to chew or manipulate the truffle. It should, very literally, melt in the mouth.

The real key to all of this is freshness. A truffle eaten the day its made is incomparable to anything even a week old. If you’re making a day or two in advance then you don’t need to seal the truffle at all. Simply take your ganache balls, roll them in cocoa (for appearance and for the impact of flavour this will give you plus the slight tingling sensation you’ll get on the lips from the dust tickling them which all adds to the delight of the truffle). This is by far the best way of working.

I sometimes get resistance to this in the shop from customers who are convinced that this looks ‘amateurish’ and that moulding or dipping is somehow more professional. This is just wrong. Look at rococo, look at the chocolate society, look at any of the best French chocolate shops and that’s how they’ll serve their truffles. The only people I know who mould their truffles are Milk Tray and the like.

A truffle should never be moulded. Moulding gives you a thick chocolate shell that needs to be broken with the teeth. The only reason you see a truffle moulded is because it gives a longer shelf-life…ie the maker is putting their own convenience or profit before the experience of the eater. There’s simply no reason to do that at home.

Same with dipping.

I admit, if you are working further in advance then you can’t stick with just the cocoa. You will need to seal the ganache centre with chocolate somehow…otherwise it will go off and taste rancid. But you want to use as thin a coating of chocolate as possible to do so…otherwise the eater is going to have to chew the truffle…and then, as we’ve said, it’s not really a truffle.

Handrolling gives you the thinnest coating and after rolling in cocoa it’s my favoured option. But you will need to be able to temper chocolate (which will have to wait for a later post). Coat your hands in tempered chocolate and roll the ganache balls one at a time. Allow to dry (five minutes) and roll again to get a good seal. This is the method we usually use in the shop (because we can’t make all the truffles fresh every morning and we can’t expect our customers to eat them the day they buy them!).

Happy truffle making….

Friday, 7 December 2007

Tips for truffle makers (part 1)

We get lots of questions at this time every year from home truffle makers.

Judging from the queries we get in the shop, I think a lot of people at home try and make things a bit more complicated than they need to be. If you like to experiment, then great (I do!), but the best truffles are really simple things and if you’re looking for something to give as a gift or to serve after dinner then my advice is really to keep things very pure, very classic and concentrate on the best ingredients and the simplest of methods…ie no dipping forks or moulds!

I’m going to start with ingredients in this post and then in my next post I’ll talk about method.

The first thing you need to do is get hold of some good quality couverture. Couverture is processed chocolate ready for you to temper or otherwise work with at home.
Please don’t try supermarket chocolate bars….it will cost you a fortune and the quality is very variable (supermarket fine chocolate works on the principle of buzzwords and margin…not taste.). Certainly I wouldn’t advise ‘mixing and matching’ with different chocolates. Getting the right blend is a lifetime’s skill. It certainly isn’t a case (as I’ve had proposed to me by more than one home truffle maker this year already) of buying a cheap or low cocoa chocolate and ‘cutting it’ with some higher quality stuff to get something acceptable…it’s a bit more complicated than that and this approach is no more sensible than mixing a chablis with liebfraumilch and expecting to get something drinkable.

The other reason not to try and work with supermarket bars is that there’s a difference between couverture and chocolate bars…couverture is usually sold in small pieces so it’s easy to temper and its also more fluid (more cocoa butter, you see) …. If you get really stuck Green and Black’s do a 72% with extra cocoa butter for fluidity but that really is the only I’d consider.

My best tip as always is to try and befriend your local chocolatier or pastry chef . Ask if they would consider selling you some couverture. That way you can get a brilliant couverture for probably one quarter of the price at what you’ll pay at the supermarket. Ask for Valrhona or a single origin product. Ask nicely… chocolatiers put a lot of thought into selecting their couverture. Alternatively, if you’re working in slightly larger quantities (or if your local chocolatier is stressed to heck at this time of year and won’t sell you any couverture), try www.keylink.org.uk/ or http://www.vantagehouse.com/ both of whom have loads of equipment and ingredients for the home chocolatier, not to mention friendly and helpful staff.

OK…so that’s the chocolate sorted.

Next….cream. I use double…you want to keep the water content low and you want a rich, thick filling, so for me it’s got to be double. Some people use whipping cream. You should use almost as much cream as chocolate (by volume) to give you a truffle that melts really quickly and is beautifully soft and smooth. So selecting a tasty cream is as important as the chocolate. Taste your cream at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge as you’ll get more of its flavour then.

Now my favourite truffles would stop right there….great chocolate, great thick double cream (jersey really does seem to make a difference not just to the taste but to the texture).

But if you are flavouring alcohol is great really because it gives a warming effect to your truffle…the lips and tongue and throat are gently warmed by a creeping heat from the brandy or whatever you are using, which adds to the whole sensuality of the truffle (and that’s what truffles are about…sensation and texture is at least as important as taste. A good truffle is like a kiss…a lingering, deep kiss. That's why truffles are really a gift to a loved one. Altogether too provocative to give to a stranger!)

I would stick to champagne, armagnac, cointreau or similar (ie not a single malt whisky or a burgundy…chocolate plus other lovely but very distinctive taste tends actually NOT to make a third lovely tasting thing. It tends to taste awful). Chocolatiers use alcohol concentrates because keeping the water content low is really key to a great truffle. You can buy these from the suppliers listed above. You can’t buy these (legally) from a chocolatier. If you only have the normal kind, make sure you knock the bubbles out of the champagne and remember that the more alcohol you add, the more water you add, and too much water will lead to a grainy truffle. Plus if you've used a great couverture then you don't want to overpower it with too much booze.

The only other ingredient you might want is cocoa…Green and Blacks organic cocoa is good for truffle making (nice taste but not too distinctive).

You certainly don’t want any nuts or anything like that to roll your truffles in….as I’ve said above, a truffle should be like a soft and slow kiss…so why the heck would you want to coat it in a load of crunchy nuts?????

OK. Next post will be about method and again it’s about keeping it really simple.