Chocolate has always been at the top of the list for Valentine’s Day treats, and as the day approaches, the shops are filled with a staggering variety of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and candies. Although the satin and ribbon trims offer a promise of delicious, too often what we find are treats that are just a little too sweet, or way too light on actual chocolate flavor. In my book, chocolate on chocolate is what Cupid’s arrow points toward, and the darker the better
With a few rules in hand, making chocolate desserts and other delights at home is not hard at all, and produces some memorable results, but there are a few simple rules to follow.
At the heart of many of these creations is ganache, a basic mixture of heavy cream and chocolate melted together which can be transformed into countless dishes. Form it into a truffle, pour it as a glaze, or spread it as a fluffy frosting, all that differs is the proportion of cream to chocolate and the addition of a few other ingredients. This is a handy recipe to commit to memory (don’t worry, it’s as easy as they come).
Basic ganache is equal parts of chocolate and heavy cream. That’s it. I use local cream that is not ultra-pasteurized, and chocolate without additives and stabilizers for the best results, but in a pinch, a bag of good chocolate chips will do!
For a simple ganache glaze, heat 8 ounces of cream to simmering but not boiling (it should just start to steam) and pour over 8 ounces of cut-up chocolate or baking chips and a pinch of salt. Let sit for a couple of minutes, then, using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix it all together until well blended. You do not want to whip and add too much air. Set it aside for a few minutes, then pour it over a cake or cupcakes to make a lovely, drippy glaze that remains soft. You can also add a teaspoon of espresso powder to the cream to enhance flavor.
If you want to whip the ganache for frosting, decrease the chocolate to 4 ounces. Once melted, let cool a bit then place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so, no longer. If I plan ahead, I make it directly in the bowl of my standing mixer to save dishes.
Once cool, begin mixing on low speed. Stop after a half a minute or so, and scrape the bottom of the bowl. Put the speed up to medium/high once you have a little volume. If you like, add 6 tablespoons of butter, a little at a time, and continue whipping until a nice consistency. The butter adds to the body, and the shine, but it is not essential.
Even those who are not a fan of sweet frosting will love this one!
Change up the chocolate proportions and you can make truffles; add a couple more and create a decadent double dark chocolate truffle tart, below, for that special Valentine’s Day dessert.