The Gift of Ganache

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Ganache is magically delicious.  Cream + chocolate = sweet perfection, in a preternaturally versatile combination.  The same basic ganache recipe (equal weight boiling cream and chopped dark chocolate) works equally well poured hot over ice cream sundaes as it does chilled in truffle form, or as a thick layer of decadent frosting on a chocolate lover's cake.  And, because hot cream is so easily infused with other flavors, making ganache taste like your favorite herb, spice, or other flavor is one of the most impressive, no-talent-necessary kitchen tricks in the world.

Being a bit of a culinary thrill-seeker, I take advantage of Christmas gifting season to experiment with new ganache infusions.  Last year my friends got jasmine tea, salted caramel, and fresh thyme-meyer lemon zest truffles.  This year it's chipotle, earl grey, and rosemary-parmesan.  It's pretty hard to go wrong with cream and chocolate, so be bold... and maybe start with a small batch. I've found 6 ounces cream and 6 ounces chocolate tends to be a good experimental size.
Heat the cream up just to a simmer, then toss in whatever you want the cream to taste like (small pieces infuse faster, so shred or chop it first), cover the pot, and let it sit off the heat for five minutes.  Then taste the cream.  Add more of your flavoring if you need, or let the stuff steep a little longer.  Bear in mind that since you'll be diluting the cream with an equal weight of chocolate, you need a pretty intense flavor.  For tea-infused ganache, for example, I tend to use about 2-3 times the amount of tea leaves that I'd use to make the same volume of regular tea.

Once you've gotten the cream to taste like you want it to, remove the infusing agent.  Straining is safest, to ensure no weird bits of cardamom pod or tea leaves wind up in the finished product.  Heat the cream to boiling (this is the hardest part, since cream can get crazy and boil over in the blink of an eye), pour it over your chopped chocolate, and stir gently with a spatula until all the chocolate has melted and looks glossy and fabulous.

Pour the silky chocolate over whatever you want to be bathed in deliciousness, or chill it down in a pan before shaping it into the candy form or frosting of your dreams.  Easy, awesome, and 100% homemade.

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