Ganache is a simple thing, really. It's just cream and chocolate. But oh, the wonderful, wonderful things a creative chef can do with it!
To make ganache, one simply boils heavy cream and pours it over bits of chocolate, then stirs and stirs until the chocolate melts and forms the most irresistably smooth texture.
Most of the time, in making ganache, you'll be using equal parts of cream and chocolate, though this can vary from recipe to recipe and will also depend on how, exactly, you plan to use your ganache. You can make ganache from either dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate, but one thing is very important - no matter which type of chocolate you use, for the best ganache, use the highest quality chocolate you can find. This is one confection where cutting corners just won't work.
No one really knows who invented ganache, though several countries claim the honor. We do know the public began its love affair with ganache sometime around the mid-1800s. Switzerland claims its pastry chefs were the first to make truffles from ganache, however the French claim to have invented this confection earlier than the Swiss at the Patisserie Siradin in Paris. No one, however, really knows for sure.
One of the best known uses for ganache is truffles, an elegant dessert, which are made by rolling the mixture into balls, then rolling those balls in cocoa powder (the traditional coating), confectioners' sugar, coconut, nuts, or even dipping them in chocolate sauce and letting it harden. Liqueurs and other flavorings can make truffles even more tempting and flavorful. For example, if you want hazelnut flavored truffles, you might add Frangelico to your truffle mixture. For orange flavored truffles, you can't beat Grand Marnier, and for my favorite, coffee flavored truffles, add espresso to the hot cream and Kahlua to the truffle mixture.
Truffles are fun to make, though they can be time consuming. The good news is that they store exceptionally well. You can freeze truffles for several months and they keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. Remeber to serve them at room temperature, though.
Heated ganache is often poured over a cake or torte, coating it with a slick, sugary glaze. To make your ganache extra shiny, you can add oils, such as butter or corn syrup.
Chilled ganache is often used as a filling or spread for cakes and other pastries. When softened butter is added, you've made ganache beurre, a confection that is very similar to chocolate buttercream.
No matter which type of chocolate you use - dark, milk, or white - or what you use ganache for, there no denying its elegance and sophistication. Next time you're having a party, try some chocolate truffles for dessert (both dark and white - decorated with contrasting chocolate) and your guests will sing your praises. They also make a perfect Valentine's Day dessert.