I remember the astonishment when I realised that the best chocolate sauce in the world is this simple. I was with four girlfriends, having a quiet weekend away from our normal lives in Castle Hill village, in the Lewis Pass. One of my friends had been a pastry chef in a past life and whipped up some chocolatey goodness for us to have with our decadent pancake breakfast - heaven!
I'm not sure where the distinction between chocolate sauce and ganache lies - if you're making it as a sauce it needs to be served warm, and you'll use less chocolate for the same amount of cream - but I tend to refer to the mixture as ganache regardless. It is chocolate and cream, and it is hard to beat.
Different ratios of chocolate to cream can be used to create a sauce, glaze, firm icing, or even truffles. You can add flavours - liqueurs or essences, freeze dried fruit, perhaps a hint of chilli or cardamom. In this case I was making a ganache filling for my huge topsy turvy cake, and it needed to be reasonably firm, so that I could 'glue' the cake together.
The process is really simple; you heat the cream so it's just beginning to boil, then take it off the heat and add the chocolate. The residual heat will melt the chocolate without breaking down the molecular structure - for years I just boiled the crap out of the cream then dumped the chocolate in and heated it some more if the chocolate didn't melt straight away. As I recently learned, overheating the chocolate, even in ganache, results in the molecular structure becoming compromised and it won't set properly. The mixture shouldn't get above 34 degrees C, but so long as you don't let the cream get to a full, rolling boil, and you transfer the mixture out of the saucepan when the chocolate is about halfway to being melted you won't need a thermometer. If it doesn't quite all melt you can pop the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water to create a bain marie - but again be careful with the temperature.
The ganache will become thick and spreadable within an hour or so, but will continue to thicken afterwards. If you are making a thicker version to do some tasty truffles you'll have to wait a bit longer to get it nice and firm for rolling.
Ganache has become my go-to recipe if I want a chocolate icing - I often get comments on how delicious it is - and though being chocolate-based makes it a bit more expensive than some other options I think it's well worth it. What's your favourite icing?
Chocolate Ganache (for icing)
400g chocolate, broken into small pieces
Heat the cream in a saucepan until it is just starting to boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Gently fold the mixture to melt the chocolate.
When the chocolate is half melted transfer into a bowl and continue to fold to melt the chocolate. When smooth stand at room temperature or in the fridge until thick enough to spread.