Whether amateur or professional, bakers and pastry makers usually appreciate things that make their lives easier. Ganache falls into that category: A simple mixture of cream and chocolate that can serve many purposes. Chilled and scooped, it becomes truffle centers, melted and poured it's a beautiful glaze for cakes, and when whipped its an easy and intensely flavorful chocolate icing or filling. Although it contains cream, ganache doesn't usually need to be refrigerated immediately.
A Winning Combination
Making a basic ganache couldn't be simpler. You boil a quantity of cream, then add its own weight in chopped chocolate -- or twice as much, or three times as much -- and stir it until the chocolate melts into a smooth, even mixture with the cream. Some recipes add butter to give the ganache a satiny sheen, egg yolks to make it richer or corn syrup to make it smoother, but those are all optional. The most common ganache is the version using 2 parts chocolate to 1 part cream, which is safe at room temperature for the short term.
Life at Room Temperature
There are two main reasons to keep ganache at room temperature. You may have used it to fill or glaze a cake, in which case refrigerating the finished cake might mar the finish with condensation. Ganache at room temperature can also be whipped to fill a cake, or gently re-melted to make a glaze, with a minimum of fuss and bother. How long it lasts at room temperature is variable. Master baker Bo Friberg, author of culinary textbook "The Professional Pastry Chef," suggests storing it at room temperature for up to a week. Some batches might begin to deteriorate and become grainy after just a few days.
Quality vs. Food Safety
In most cases, the issue is one of quality, rather than food safety. Potentially harmful bacteria need moisture to reproduce, and the high-fat cream contains relatively little. The chocolate's sugar content, the moisture-absorbing cocoa granules and the fat's ability to surround and seal water molecules all conspire to slow or stop bacterial development, keeping the ganache safe. Over time, the fat globules in the ganache will begin to group together, coarsening its satiny smoothness to an increasingly grainy, gritty texture. High-quality chocolate speeds this process, so the better your ganache, the shorter its shelf life. A good rule is to keep it at room temperature for no more than two days, whenever possible.
For the Long Haul
If you don't plan to use your leftover ganache immediately, you can refrigerate or freeze it for longer-term storage. Cold storage limits the fat's ability to coalesce into grainy lumps, prolonging the lifespan of the ganache. It can be kept readily for a week or two, as long as it's kept airtight to prevent contamination with unwanted flavors. If you only make desserts sporadically, freeze the ganache to keep it fresh-tasting for longer. Frozen ganache can be kept for four to six months, then thawed and used when needed.
- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
- The Professional Pastry Chef; Bo Friberg
- Baking 911: Ganache
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images