Monday, August 11, 2008

The Four Ps Of Chocolate

The more I look at this pic and the more I keep racking my brains as to what recipe I used for it. After I posted it a couple of days ago, I convinced myself that it was a Nigella recipe through and through. Except I have had a flick through her books and I cannot find it at all. So it must have been my own hybrid creation if it did not come from Nigella because, as I said before on the subject of Madeira cake, I tend to use some of her recipes as a blueprint for classics until I am confident enough I can develop my own versions. Now I am looking at those three meringue discs (you can barely see under all of that ganache, but I assure you it's three layers of meringues), and I cannot remember for the life of me how many egg whites I used and how much cocoa I added in order to turn these into cocoa meringue discs. Still, the more I look at the pic and the more I think of ganache.

Instead of giving you a recipe (which I don't remember anyway), today I decided to write a few lines about ganache. This is a post I've felt coming for a while as it stems from my visceral love for cocoa and chocolate. You know how some people (men) think about sex every three minutes? I think about chocolate all the time. My experience has taught me that to work with chocolate you need to get well acquainted with the four Ps of chocolate: passion, perseverance, practice and patience. I am putting passion first because, if you've got a passion for chocolate, in time you will learn to persevere as you practice and as you become more patient. Being in a hurry is the greatest single crime of the chocolatier; chocolate just cannot be hurried. Or, it can, and then you'll throw everything down the sink. Been there, done that my friend.

So ganache. Ganache is a complex emulsion of chocolate, cream and butter and when I say complex I do not mean complicated to make, I mean complex in the chemical sense. What you need to grasp to produce professional-like ganache is that temperature, glucose and mixing are the three elements that will give you fantastic ganache each and every time.

Dark chocolate must be melted and heated at 46C, as must the cream. The butter must be very soft, but not melted, at 23C. Then you need invert sugar, which is a blend of glucose and fructose, which are the two elements that constitute sugar as we know it. You can separate these by warming the sugar or (easier) just go and buy it. Invert sugar is vital because it stabilises ganache (read: it makes it smooth) and it allows it to hold shape. A hand-held blender is ideal for mixing ganache. You should continue mixing until you reach the correct emulsification, that is, when you have a beautifully glossy dark cream as opposed to a grainy, and split, mix. And now... I feel some ganache practice coming up...
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