Before I came to Spago, I lived and worked in San Francisco. Critics hailed my Hot Chocolate Elixir at Campton Place as the "best hot chocolate anywhere." It was totally decadent topped with Chocolate Whipped Cream. Enhance this hot chocolate with peppermint, cinnamon, or anise seeds or add another liquor, such as rum or Grand Marnier. You can vary not only the flavor but the form as well. Check out the variations following the recipe.
Bring the milk, cream, and cocoa powder to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it reaches a boil, remove from the heat, and add the ganache. Let sit for 1 minute, then stir well until combined, about 4 minutes. Stir in the Tia Maria or vanilla.
Serve the hot chocolate right away as is or store it covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It can be reheated easily on the stovetop or in the microwave. If you wish, top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
Can deep, dark, intense, rich, velvety smooth chocolate be a spiritual experience? It certainly is heavenly when mixed with cream. Praise the pastry angels and pass the bonbons!
This is the basic ganache recipe. Use it for truffles, tarts, fillings, you name it. Follow the same technique when adjusting the recipe for firm and soft ganache. An alternative food processor method is given, which can be applied to any ganache recipe in this chapter.
My desire is not only to introduce you to ganache but also to make it a staple in your refrigerator. As long as you don't eat it all as a midnight snack, it can be available to help you throw together dessert at a moment's notice.
Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch pieces. Don't be lazy here. Big chunks will not melt.
Traditional method: Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boiling means the cream will actually rise up in the pan and threaten to boil over.
Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl, and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air to the ganache. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. It may look done after 1 minute of stirring, but keep going to be sure it's emulsified.
Food processor method: Place the chopped chocolate in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat (or bring to a boil in the microwave.)
Immediately pour the hot cream into the food processor, on top of the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then pulse the machine 3 times. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and pulse 3 more times, until all the chocolate is melted. This smooth, silky chocolate is now ganache. Transfer the ganache to a bowl.
Let the ganache sit at room temperature until it cools to 70 degrees F. In a 65 degree F room, this will take approximately 4 hours or 2 hours in the refrigerator. You can speed up the process by pouring the ganache out onto a clean baking sheet (thinner layers cool faster.) Once the ganache reaches 70 degrees F, it is ready to be used. At this point it can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe courtesy of Sherry Yard, "The Secrets of Baking", Houghton Mifflin, 2003