Sunday, September 20, 2015

Chocolate: Making Ganache

Hello fork musketeers!

Today we'll be focusing more on ganache. Om nom nom nom nom!

What is ganache?

Ganache is chocolate mayonnaise.

Okok, let's back up a bit...

Ganache is like chocolate mayonnaise. It's an emulsion of fat (cocoa butter) and liquid (cream). Fortunately you don't need a food processor or blender to make it, plus there are -tons- of ways to make your ganache flavourful and much more interesting.

The ratio between chocolate and cream will depend on what you'll be doing with your ganache. Generally speaking, if you're making truffles or want to cut out a shape, go for 2:1 (chocolate : cream). If you're looking for a glaze, 1:1 will suit your needs very well.


There are a few ways to make ganache. The usual way I've seen is to boil your cream; pour it over your chocolate and let it melt before mixing it and wishing you had stronger biceps. In general, you'll want your cream; chocolate and flavouring. In this case, matcha.

At school, our teacher was very adamant not to boil the cream. Boiling the cream causes the liquid and fats to separate and you totally change the flavour of the cream. So, you warm it up. Key word being warm and it should feel slightly cool to the touch.

But Olivia, you might say, this won't melt the chocolate if I pour warm cream over it. What are you getting at?

Well, while ganache is like chocolate mayonnaise, it does require some attention to the temperature of your ingredients. If either of your ingredients are too hot, the emulsion won't work. At school, my teachers taught us to keep the average temperature of our ingredients between 30-35˚C. So we heat the cream and melt the chocolate. But if your method's been working out for you, go for it. Although I do think boiling the cream is a bad idea since it does affect the taste, but anyway... you'll heat your chocolate and your cream.

When they're at the desired temperatures, pour your cream into your chocolate in three or four parts. This ensures you get a good chance to have a good emulsion before committing all of your cream in. (Although if you're in a rush, pouring it all in works just as well. Don't tell anyone I said that.)

Step 1: Pour your cream into your chocolate
Now when you're making your emulsion, do not mix from the outside and do not use a whisk. Mixing from the outside doesn't create an emulsion, which makes both of us sad, and using a whisk incorporates air into the mixture. This will also mess up your emulsion. So use a spatula and mix from the centre!

As you're mixing, you're going to think, "oh donkey butt, I messed this up before I started." Just believe in yourself and keep mixing with your spatula. Eventually, in the centre, you'll see the cream and the chocolate come together into a ganache. Just keep mixing and when the cream no longer gets pulled into the centre, add another part of cream. Keep doing this until all of your cream is in. Then, and only then, can you run your spatula along the sides of the bowl and bring it into the centre.

Now you might think you're done, but if you look closely, sometimes your ganache will be a bit on the oily side. It'll kinda.... slide. Everywhere. For a small amount you may not notice this, but for a larger amount you'll see it. Just like buttercream, the answer to this is to just keep mixing. Just keep mixing, just keep mixing... until the ganache sticks to the sides of the bowl. Just be sure not to overwork it, otherwise your ganache can split. Yikes!

If all goes well, you should have a beautiful, glossy and sexy looking ganache. Delicious!

I hope you guys enjoyed this post. The next post will look more into how to flavour your chocolate in different ways.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tempering chocolate

Hello fork musketeers!

It's almost been a whole (albeit busy) month and not a single post on chocolate? I call that blasphemy. So here is how I'll make it up to you guys: let's talk about tempering chocolate.

What is tempering?

If you've even dipped your toes into making adorable, small chocolates, chances are you've tried your hand at tempering chocolate. Heck, if you're even remotely aware of the chocolate process, chances are you've at least heard of it. You may not know exactly what it is but all you know is it's something something shiny chocolate; something something mmm so tasty in my tummy.

Without getting too technical, tempering, or crystallization, is the process of getting the cocoa butter crystals into the right pattern/formation to give chocolate all of its characteristic qualities: the snap; the taste and the smooth appearance. If you've done some basic searches on the internet, most resources tend to talk about tempering in terms of temperature. At school, however, my teachers insist on calling it crystallization. No joke, they'll always correct us when we say tempering. So what's the big deal?

Well, it's a matter of perception. The school of thought for tempering relies solely on a number. Yes, while it's true that the crystals you want melt at X temperature and you need it bring it down to Y temperature, chocolate is still a living medium. It's not quite like bread, but some chocolates don't act the way they normally should. For example, we did a bunch of dark chocolates with coloured stuff (cocoa butter based) and remelted it all. After that, it started being a little weird; namely staying streaky and getting really thick soon after it reached the desired consistency.

Now if we were using a thermometer, we would be too afraid to raise the temperature because it wouldn't be the "right temperature". In reality we needed to raise the temperature to keep the right consistency. Tempering involves relying on numbers that may not otherwise work; crystallization involves listening to your chocolate and reacting accordingly to make your work easier.

If you're curious about the technical parts, you can take a look for the heading, Technical Deep Dive. It'll be at the end of the post.

Methods for tempering

There are a lot of different ways to temper chocolate. Ideally, when you're done, your chocolate should feel slightly cool to the touch (approx. 30˚C ish). At school we learned two methods: the table method and the seedling method. Whether you choose the first or second method, you need to have a bain-marie set up (double boiler). Putting chocolate directly into your hot pan/pot will most likely burn it. At that point you're just burning away your hard-earned cash, which is no fun to anyone.

1. Table method
The table method needs a few things. For this you'll need:
  1. An icing spatula
  2. A wide scraper
  3. Marble or granite counter top.
Melt your chocolate until it feels pretty warm. If you like numbers, that's around 50˚C. When your chocolate is hot enough, pour 2/3 of it onto the table and start spreading it around with your icing spatula. Then gather the chocolate with your scraper into the centre. Rinse and repeat.

To test the final temperature of your chocolate, dip the top part of your pinky/finger into the hot chocolate, wipe, then into the tabled chocolate. You'll get an idea how cool or warm your chocolate will be when you mix the two parts together. Just make sure the tabled chocolate doesn't start to crystallize or thicken too much; that's usually a bit too much.

When it's at the right temperature, put all of the chocolate back into the bowl and start mixing. It should be slightly below body temperature. Warm it up slightly to get it at a workable consistency.

1. No bits of unmelted chocolate like in the seedling method. So it's more "clean" in that sense.
2. Makes the overall tempering process quicker.

1. Requires a number of tools most people don't have at home.
2. Dirties your counter space.
3. Requires more active time dedicated to chocolate rather than doing something else.

2. Seedling method
This is a very accessible method. Obviously not everyone have a marble/granite table and it doesn't even need any tools aside from your spatula to do it!

You'll melt 2/3 of your total chocolate and raise the temperature to about 40˚C (so it should feel warm). Then dump the rest of the chocolate in there and let it melt the chocolate. You can either leave it for a while or mix it.

You'll probably be left with some pieces of chocolate, but don't fret; just bring your bain-marie to a boil and stick your bowl on top for 5-15s. Take it off; stir and gently melt the remaining pieces. Or, if you're too impatient, you can pick them out or run it through a sifter.

1. Leaves your work space very clean since it's all in the bowl.
2. Allows you to multitask better since you can leave this alone and come back 5-10 minutes later.

1. Those naughty chocolate bits that didn't melt. (Super annoying)
2. Chocolate cools down at its own pace.

Protip: Chocolate is pretty expensive. Chocolate also happens to be very forgiving - it can just be remelted if you mess up. Remember to scrape your work surface and your tools to reduce the amount of chocolate that goes down your sink and save your hard-earned cash!

Now whether you choose to use the table method or the seedling method, you'll want to check if your chocolate is ready before using it. The easiest way to do this is to take a piece of parchment paper and gently dip one side of it on the surface of your chocolate. Then place the parchment paper, clean side down, onto a cold surface. Now wait.

There's something very interesting that happens. By cooling your chocolate down immediately from a certain temperature, your chocolate will either: crystallize with streaks/dots; crystallize perfectly (smooth and delicious) or take forever to crystallize. So weird, right?

Here are some rules of thumb when handling chocolate:
1. The test should crystallize in less than 5 minutes. Any longer than 3 minutes usually means your chocolate is too warm.
2. If your chocolate crystallizes streaky or dotty, it can mean it's still too warm and/or your chocolate isn't well-mixed. Make sure to mix it very well with your spatula to incorporate the cocoa butter and try again.
3. If you're using chocolate you've melted before, you can mix in new chocolate if you feel iffy about it. Both my teachers said opposing things, so try a batch of "old" chocolate and a batch of new and recycled chocolate. It can't really hurt.
4. You can use a hand blender to cut the bits of chocolate that haven't melted. It helps speed up the cooling process as well.
5. If nothing works, try re-tempering it again.
6. If nothing really works, put it aside and do something else.

#1. I know home bakers tend to work in small batches but it's actually easier to temper and work with a big batch of chocolate. This is because, by virtue of having more mass, a big batch of chocolate will hold the right temperature longer. This allows you to work more at your leisure rather than constantly cooling and reheating your chocolate to do only piece at a time.
#2. When you're done with your chocolate, pour the rest of it onto a sheet of parchment paper to crystallize. Remember to scrape the bowl as well!
#3. Scraping chocolate is a lot easier when it's solid than when it's still fluid. If you have a small icing spatula, those are perfect for scraping the insides of a bowl. It's also my favourite way to clean a bowl.

Chocolate is a forgiving medium but you need a lot of patience with it. You'll need practice to master the art of proper crystallization but when you do... the chocolate world becomes your oyster.

Technical Deep Dive

So, what's this business thing about crystals and stuff?

If you're familiar with the composition of chocolate, chocolate is mainly made up of cocoa mass and cocoa butter. The key ingredient you're paying attention to for proper crystallization is the cocoa butter.

Cocoa butter is a "polymorph". Not that it can take random shapes, but it's a term that means the cocoa butter's molecules can take on many different patterns or structural shapes. The molecules can go into 6 (!!!) different shapes; the formation chocolatiers want is type 5: the crystal formation that gives chocolate its delicious, snappy and smooth surface.

Nature being nature, untempered chocolate naturally has all 6 different kinds of formations in different proportions. By heating the chocolate above body temperature, you're effectively deconstructing all the crystals in the chocolate - a tabula rasa or a blank slate if you will. So that's why you have to heat up chocolate, aside from making it uniformly fluid.

Now why do you have to cool it down? Well, it turns out types 1-5 all form and melt at different temperatures. You know what's really convenient? Type 5 forms at around 30˚C or just below body temperature. So if you're trying to temper your chocolate, it may fall to about 29˚C or 30˚C. It's no biggie; just gently heat it back up, which will also make the other types melt and leave the desired type 5 crystals. Now you know why most chocolate tempering tutorials use that magic number.

Realistically speaking you're always going to have a bit of the other crystal formations. However, there's something magical that happens when you mold your chocolates at the right crystallization point. Chocolate has a "memory". As it cools, type 5 crystals will be the dominant formation and it also makes all the other crystals take on the type 5 form. It will continue to harden and crystallize until it's finally set with the wonderful chocolate, snappy and glossy smooth qualities.

As long as your chocolate doesn't completely set (become solid), you don't need to re-temper it. Your chocolate already has the predominant type 5 crystals, so you just need to reheat the chocolate to the workable consistency. Just make sure not to heat it up too much, otherwise you'll be starting from square 1.

I hope this post was helpful. If you have any questions and or comments, don't be shy and leave it down below or contact me by email on the side bar. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bread deep dive: Flour, fermentation and proofing

Hello fork musketeers!

This is part 2 of the Bread deep dive I promised earlier. If you want to skip around, here's the table of contents:
  1. Basic anatomy of bread and bread making
  2. Flour, fermentation and proofing
  3. Fat vs. fat-free doughs
  4. Designs on breads
Let's start off by looking at the flour.

It's all about dat wheat

Flour is entirely starch. While most people think flour is a non-perishable item, it originally wasn't... depending on who you ask. During the 1800s, most people would bring their wheat to the miller and grind small batches to use over the summer; they'd be able to make bigger batches just before the winter. What made flour so perishable? The answer is in the grain.

The flour richer people used was different from the flour the poorer people used. It was believed foods that were more white - "purer" in a way - was healthier. So when flour is made, the grain is ground as a mix of endosperm (the actual grain); the bran and the germ; aka whole wheat flour. The flour used by wealthier folks removed the germ and the bran; whereas the flour used by the poorer folks used more germ and bran. Germ and bran have more oils and nutrients in it, thus they would expire more quickly than their germ/bran-free cousin.

As it turns out, flour made exclusively with the endosperm didn't contain enough nutrients. In Canada, flour is mandated to always mix the endosperm and some germ in it; the bran is usually removed - to be used as livestock feed - or kept in. That being said, not all wheat is created equal. Without getting too technical, there are strains of wheat that have more proteins/gluten in it ("hard" wheat) and wheat that has less gluten("soft" wheat). This is partially why different brands of flour don't universally act the same way. Just because you're growing wheat doesn't mean it's going to have the same characteristics as another farmer's wheat. Yeesh!

You may be wondering: so Olivia, what about bleached flour? What's the difference between bleached and unbleached? Enriched?

Industrial-produced flour, like Five Roses and Robin hood, use cast iron grinders to grind the wheat. It's a lot faster and more efficient, however it makes a lot of heat. The heat produced by the milling process destroys some of the nutrients found in the germ and the bran; thus they have to put in additional nutrients ("enriched" flour) to make up for that.

Bleaching/unbleached is a bit more complicated. If you were to get flour from the miller today, you would probably think, "oh boy! Time to make the bestest bread ever with fresh flour!" However, that isn't the case. When flour is exposed to the air it oxidizes and makes the gluten stronger - and also makes the flour more white. This oxidizing process takes a few days or weeks to complete; which usually happens while it's being shipped to your grocery store.

Bleaching is the shortcut way to have white flour. Instead of letting the flour age to turn white and develop the gluten proteins at its own pace, the manufacturer uses bleaching agents and aging agents, such as peroxides and potassium bromate respectively. If you're more conscientious about being organic/reducing the amount of chemicals, you'd probably be more inclined to buy unbleached flour on your next trip to the grocery store. (Totally calling it, by the way)


As I covered last time, bread rises because it uses yeast as a leavener; or, in French, levain. This means that yeast eats the sugar and, as a waste product, produces gas (CO2) and alcohol. If we look at the sourdough starter I made, you can see the bubbles of gas made by the yeast.

Now I've been asked this a few times: Olivia, what do you mean there's sugar? Where does it come from? Well, in flour there are two things that are going to help you; an enzyme called amalyse and, of course, yeast.

When you make bread, you put flour; water and yeast. When water is introduced, that's when things start to pick up. Amalyse is an enzyme present in flour and it breaks down starch into simple sugars. Bacteria likes to eat simple sugars, especially yeast. When it's baking in the oven, the enzyme continues to work until it gets too hot; which also allows the yeast to work faster with more sugar until it finally dies off from the heat.

If you're making a wild yeast starter, then the additional bacteria you're concerned about is lactobacillus. While yeast produces gas and alcohol, lactobacillus produces acid: lactic acid and acetic acid. Lactic acid will give the bread more flavour while acetic acid will make it more tangy.

What does it mean when a recipe says to let your dough proof? It's not super complicated; all it means is to let your dough sit while the yeast gets to work. In other words you're fermenting your dough. It might be a little weird to imagine, considering when most people think of fermentation they think of this:


Or everyone's favourite science experiment you find in your fridge:

Totally delicious.

But that's exactly what you're doing when you're proofing your dough. It's fermenting. That being said, during this process you're a) allowing the yeast to do its thing and b) improving the overall flavour of the bread. Since bread making is an art and not a science, you can play around with the fermentation time.

Fast fermentation: Shorter proofing time in a warm place.
This doesn't take as long and you're obviously speeding up the fermentation process. However, the bread is more bland.

Slow fermentation: Long proofing time (usually 8-12hrs) in a cool place.
This allows the bread to develop more complex flavours since the fermentation process is going at a nice, slow pace. However, it obviously stinks to wait 12hours for your bread to do its thing.

Remember that your dough may rise a few times but yeast only rises once. Once it reaches its peak, it's only going to fall from there. In addition to your developed gluten, this will help determine whether your bread is fluffy and airy or dense and chewy.