A couple days ago, I had myself a good old-fashioned chocolate throw-down. Well, maybe not so old-fashioned, considering the eclectic flavors, but definitely feeding the chocolate fix.
Ganache is one of my favorite foodie tricks. It’s simple yet decadent, impressive, and versatile. Depending on how you make it, you can use ganache as a coating or filling for cakes, a whipped frosting, or rolled into truffles. I usually end up eating most of it from a spoon, right out of the fridge.
Generally, ganache is simply one part chocolate to one part heavy cream, or two-to-one chocolate to cream if making truffles or other firm candy. There are many variations on the exact technique, but it is generally quite forgiving, considering the persnickety nature of chocolate.
For these experiments, I chose — for the first time — to use the microwave method. This means bringing the cream just to a simmer in the microwave, then pouring into a bowl of chopped chocolate. I will advise you to do otherwise on one of the three variations…not a big deal, but probably easier. We’ll get there.
I halved the typical recipe for ganache so I could make several smaller batches. I used the one-to-one ratio most commonly used for fillings and less-firm coating. This turned semi-firm in the fridge (perfect for spooning), and warmed up beautifully in the microwave as a dip (see top photo). I’ll give you the basic recipe, then the flavorings for each:
Basic Microwave Ganache
- 8 oz. good chocolate chips, chopped finely (I used Ghirardelli in a food processor)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Chop the chocolate chips finely in small batches with a large knife, or buzz in a food processor for about 15 seconds. Place into a small heat-resistant baking dish or bowl. In a microwave-safe measuring cup, heat the cream in 30-second increments until just simmering. Pour over chocolate and stir vigorously until all the chocolate is completely melted. The mixture will feel very loose at first, then tighten up as the chocolate melts. Cover and cool in fridge for at least 2 hours or until set.
Variation: Orange Mint
Before measuring the cream, put 2 T. frozen orange juice concentrate in the measuring cup, then pour cream to equal 1 cup. Mixture will thicken and seem to curdle a bit, but this is OK. Crush two or three fresh mint leaves in your hands until you feel the oil, then tear into small pieces and stir into the mixture. Heat the mixture until just simmering. Using a wire strainer, strain mixture as you pour it into the chocolate.
Variation: Cranberry-Grape Sage Buzz
Before measuring the cream, place 4 T. Blast XS Cranberry Grape Energy Drink Mixer (contact me for ordering info) in the measuring cup, then pour cream to equal 1 cup. Mixture may thicken a bit as above. Crush one large or two smaller fresh sage leaves until you feel the oil, then tear into small pieces and mix in. Strain and continue as above. (I suppose you could use 2 T. of frozen cran-grape juice concentrate instead, but you don’t get the caffeine and B12 buzz!)
Variation: Smoked Cayenne and Spices
Measure 1 cup cream into a small saucepan over low heat. Using kitchen scissors, cut a two-inch piece of smoked cayenne pepper into very small pieces into the cream. Add one small stick of cinnamon, two whole cloves, and about 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg. Slowly bring to a simmer and keep there for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste the cream to see if the desired amount of “kick” is acquired. (If you don’t want to buy smoked cayenne peppers, you could use a sprinkle of cayenne powder, the smoked kind if you have it.) Strain into prepared chocolate and stir as above.
The surprising thing about the cayenne version, besides the fact that it is actually good, is the separation and delay of flavors. First you get the smokiness, then the chocolate, and lastly you get the kick of the pepper. A few seconds after you think you’re done, in fact.
Next time, I’ll try using the truffle-making proportions and see how the flavors hold up. Or maybe I can melt these back down and add more chocolate…any choco-experts out there? The pepper one would be wonderful as a truffle, rolled in cocoa powder and a bit of cayenne powder. Hmmm…..
Until then, I’ll just be eating these out of a spoon. That would, in fact, be a neat presentation for the three flavors: a plate of three Chinese-style soup spoons filled with each ganache. There you go, that was free. Someone do that and take a photo…I don’t have those spoons!
Try these or your own weird flavors, and let me know how it goes.