How To Make Chocolate Ganache for Any Dessert

Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

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Chocolate ganache, that amazing chocolate concoction we use for everything from truffles to glazes and layer cakes, is a simple enough thing. After all, it's just cream and chocolate, right? Well, yes and no!

Knowing how to make chocolate ganache — thick or thin, whipped or smooth — requires understanding just two things: proportion and temperature.

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It's true: ganache is the simple process of introducing finely chopped chocolate to very warm cream, waiting a few minutes for the chocolate to melt, and then stirring until it blends together into a rich, shiny, beautiful mass. But success is always in the details, so let's take a closer look at some of the things to know and understand about making ganache.

Understanding Proportion

The chocolate ganache that glazes your cakes and pastries is the same chocolate ganache that you roll into truffles, with one very important exception: the proportion of cream to chocolate. Glazes and icings will require a thinner consistency which translates to a higher percentage of cream. A thicker glaze for frosting or for rolling into truffles needs to be stiffer, so the chocolate percentage is higher. Here's a handy guide:

Chocolate Ganache Proportions

These proportions are based on weight. For example, a 1:1 ratio means 4 ounces chocolate to 4 ounces cream.

  • Layer cake filling and thick glaze: 1:1, equal parts chocolate and cream.
  • Chocolate truffles: 2:1, two parts chocolate to one part cream.
  • Soft icing and pourable glaze: 1:2, one part chocolate to two parts cream.

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Understanding Temperature

You don't actually need to boil or even simmer the cream to make ganache; it simply needs to be hot enough to melt the chocolate. To help this happen more quickly and easily, chop the chocolate very finely before combining it with the hot cream. This said, even somewhat chunky pieces of chocolate will melt in very warm cream given enough time. (And if your cream cools before all the chocolate has melted, you can reheat the cream over a double-boiler or by setting your bowl over a pan of simmering water.)

It's also important to use your ganache while it's at the right temperature for whatever you're making. A still-warm ganache will pour beautifully over a cake and settle into a smooth glaze. If it's too warm, though, it may be too loose and simply run right off; if it's too cool, it will start to stiffen and won't pour at all. By contrast, a ganache used for truffles will need to cool until it is thick enough to roll into balls, but if it is too cold and stiff, it won't roll easily.

Keep an eye on your ganache and be ready to use it in the appropriate window. If it has cooled and stiffened too much, you can always gently reheat it over a double-boiler or a pot of simmering water until it reaches the proper consistency.

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Understanding Ingredients

It's also helpful to understand ingredients. Because ganache is made of just two ingredients, each needs to be the best quality you can buy. This is especially apparent in the chocolate, which will affect the ganache in both flavor and consistency. Important: I don't advise making ganache with white or milk chocolate.

A chocolate with higher cocoa percentage (70% to 72%) will make a rich, not-too-sweet ganache. If you taste it and it's not sweet enough, you can dissolve a little sugar in to the ganache as long as it's still warm enough for the sugar to melt. Also, keep in mind that the melted sugar is basically a liquid, so don't put in too much or you'll affect your final consistency. Start with a spoonful — you'll be surprised at how little it takes to sweeten the ganache!

How To Make Chocolate Ganache

What You Need

Ingredients
Dark chocolate
Heavy cream

Chocolate Ganache Proportions

These proportions are based on weight. For example, a 1:1 ratio means 4 ounces chocolate to 4 ounces cream.

  • Layer cake filling and thick glaze: 1:1, equal parts chocolate and cream.
  • Chocolate truffles: 2:1, two parts chocolate to one part cream.
  • Soft icing and pourable glaze: 1:2, one part chocolate to two parts cream.

Equipment
Kitchen scale
Heavy bottomed sauce pan
Spatula or wooden spoon

Instructions

  1. Weigh the chocolate: Weigh out the amount of chocolate called for in your recipe. If you aren't following a recipe, start with a small amount and make more as needed.
  2. Measure the cream: Based on the ratio chart above and how you're intending to use the ganache, weigh the amount of cream needed for the ganache in a separate bowl.
  3. Heat the cream: Pour the cream into a small saucepan and place it over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Keep an eye on the cream — it's not necessary to boil or simmer it. It just needs to get hot. The cream is ready when you can place a finger in the cream and keep it there for 3 to 4 seconds. Turn off the flame and remove the cream from the stove.
  4. Chop the chocolate: While the cream is heating, chop the chocolate into fine pieces.
  5. Add the chocolate: Scoop the chocolate into the cream. Stir gently to distribute the chocolate through the cream and then let it sit for a few minutes to give the chocolate time to soften and melt.
  6. Stir the mixture: With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir the ganache. At first it might look spotty and broken but keep stirring until it comes together in a creamy mass.
  7. Cool the ganache: Cool the ganache as specified in your recipe, or as described here:
  • If you plan on pouring the ganache over a cake, pie, or pastry, it will need to be loose enough to flow but thickened enough to stay on the pastry.
  • To whip the ganache for frosting or for layer cake filling, cool the ganache until it is thick, but still soft, and then beat in a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer, until the ganache is fluffy and has lightened in color, about 1 or 2 minutes.
  • To use the ganache make truffles, you may need to set the pan in the refrigerator so the ganache cools. Remove the pan every 5 minutes or so and stir so that the ganache cools evenly. As the chocolate begins to stiffen, stir it more frequently — it will go from soft to very hard quite suddenly. (If this happens, soften the ganache over gently simmering water, stirring until you've reached the right consistency again.)
  • The easiest way to work with ratios is to measure both the cream and the chocolate by weight. If you don't want to weigh your cream, remember that 1 cup of liquid is 8 ounces.

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(Image credits: Dana Velden)

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