I found myself on a local cooking show, wearing white and standing over a bowl, demonstrating how to make ganache.
“Ganache is really the mother chocolate,” I was saying to the host, “just this simple mixture, but you can use it hot or cold, as a glaze, a frosting, a filling. In France it’s everything – it’s the chocolate building block for everything!”
Was I saying that? I heard my words sharp and separate, the way you hear yourself on the answering machine. I felt ill. I’d never cooked on camera, I’d skipped breakfast, and now I was two gulps away from heaving on the host. Then, something amazing happened – I not only heard my voice, I saw my hands moving, grasping a whisk, stirring cream into chocolate.
“You just pick it up around the edges a few times,” I said, stirring, “and move in wide circles.” Pick it up. What, the dry cleaning? Is my hair okay? Did I just touch my nose? I was still talking.
“…and then, toward the center. You just stir-stir-stir, and form a vortex.” The host was staring into the bowl. She doesn’t seem to know what a vortex is, I thought, clearly I was speaking a foreign language, in my head it sounded like bird language – so I whisked more vigorously, to show her.
It’s…a spinning circle, a whirling dervish, a swirling eddy. See how the cream and chocolate make a uniform, shiny center? The vortex.
After ganache, the show went on. The host cooed when I glazed chocolate hearts, and then the kirsch truffles looked divine, and aside from that unplugged mixer glitch, I began enjoying the lights, and the talking. I got bolder, gradually warming to my new, network-ready voice. Rolling truffles in cocoa powder, we went to commercial. “We’re rolling right along,” I sang, “and we’ll be right back!”
“Oh, that’s great,” said the producer, “I love that!”
I grinned the whole break, and turned to the host, giggling. “This is going pretty well, don’t you think? Next we’ll do the plating, and the rose petals, and…”
She was still, no longer rolling, frozen-eyed and tapping a fingernail on the stove.
Oh. Now I sounded like a sick crow again. “O-kay….soooo….what are you going to say when we’re back?” Nothing. “Should I roll more in sugar or more in cocoa? Ha ha, is this thing on?”
Later I’d gather up my sprinkles and platters, and stuff my chocolate-splotched jacket in a grocery bag. I handed out chocolate-glazed hearts and cherry truffles to the crew, on little cocktail napkins. Thank you, I told them, thanks for having me, certain I wouldn’t be back. I passed the burly cameraman on the way out and he was munching a truffle, cocoa on his chin. I said goodbye, and whispered, “I think the ganache segment came out pretty well, don’t you?”
from Chocolate, by Nick Malgieri, HarperCollins, 1998
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 pound (16 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Optional ingredients can be added for flavor, richness and smooth texture. Pick one or all three:
1/4 cup light corn syrup (sweeter, shinier)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened (richer, more flavorful)
Let the butter stand at room temperature until softened but still cool. Add the butter in chunks to combine during mixing.
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon Kahlúa, any liqueur, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
To make ganache:
Place chopped chocolate in a medium-sized, heat proof bowl. Note that hot cream will eventually be poured over it and must cover it entirely. If whipping later, use a stand mixer bowl, which is perfect.
Pour cream into a medium saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour over chocolate. Shake bowl, and allow to stand for about 2 minutes.
Stir with a whisk until smooth. If using ganache for a frosting, whisk in the optional room temperature butter chunks and corn syrup until smooth. If desired, whisk in the optional espresso powder dissolved in liqueur.
* Ganache can be poured warm as a glaze, cooled and spread as a stiffer icing, or whipped. Allow to cool less time if pouring (should pour like corn syrup), more for spreading consistency (like buttercream) and the most time for whipping (stiff, but not hard). Don’t let ganache get too cold, or it will not spread as frosting. To re-warm, place the heat-proof bowl over a pan of hot water while stirring to desired texture. Do not reheat to “hot.”
* Ganache can also be refrigerated or set aside. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed atop the ganache and store. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before using by letting it sit in a warm kitchen spot, about an hour to soften.
* Whipped ganache is used for making truffles, piping, filling or making a mousse. It must be cool to lukewarm when whipped, to whip faster and hold better texture. To whip, place ganache in a mixing bowl and whip it vigorously hand or with an electric mixer on medium-high, until mixture is fluffy and has lightened in color. Do not overwhip or mixture will become grainy. Use whipped ganache immediately.