Water-Based Ganaches

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(This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

As a chocolatier, I am often asked if heavy cream in a ganache can be replaced by another liquid such as a fruit juice or puree, coffee, wine, tea, beer or any other liquids. Or, more generally, what do I think about a “water-based ganache” as a concept? The answer is that all ganaches are water based, and the solution lies in analyzing the makeup of a ganache.

In a nutshell, a ganache is a balanced mixture of liquids (cream, milk or water), dry solids (dry cocoa solids, sugars, milk solids), fats (cocoa butter, dairy butterfat, nut oils, vegetable oils) – added flavors or inclusions are optional. If we look at the typical ratio or percentage of those ingredients, we get an average of: 20 to 22% liquids maximum, 30% sugars minimum (including glucose syrup, invert sugar, dextrose, sorbitol, etc.), 21% cocoa butter minimum, 15% milk fat maximum, and 14% cocoa solids minimum. We swing between these number and aim for a good shelf life, a nice texture, a great flavor and an appropriate cost.

While the source of those liquids is not really important, whatever you are removing or substituting from the total percentage of liquids is very important. So if we talk about using a 40% fat heavy cream, we basically have in 1 kilo of cream: 400 grams of milk fat, +/-515 grams of water and +/-85 grams of dry milk solids. If we decide to make a ganache without cream, we should replace the ingredients by an equal amount of other ingredients.

For example, you could use 400 grams of clarified butter, 515 grams of red wine ,75 grams of milk powder and 10 grams of whey protein. This will result in a ganache with basically the same texture and shelf life, but, of course, with a different flavor. The magic happens as we create the emulsion with the liquids and the fats and force those elements to co-exist and keep the dry solids in suspension between the water and fat droplets. If the emulsion is not successful, it can be a disaster.

You can compare the values and total weights of ingredients in the following two formulas. The first is made with cream, and in the second I simply replaced and tweaked some elements with equal values of other ingredients. These two recipes will yield products that will be very similar in texture, shelf life and perceived sweetness, but one of the recipes is cream-free.

Dark Chocolate Ganache with Cream, for Framing (38-day shelf life)

  • 735 g Valrhona Manjari chocolate 64% (48.86%)
  • 335 g heavy cream, 30% fat (22.27%)
  • 48 g skim milk (3.19%)
  • 127 g glucose syrup DE42 (8.53%)
  • 74 g invert sugar (4.93%)
  • 65 g crystalized dextrose (4.35%)
  • 116 g anhydrous butter, 99.5 % fat (7.77%)

Here is the breakdown of elements and percentages in this ganache:

(Total dry solids: 80.57%; water: 19.43% = 100%)

  • Defatted cocoa: 13.51%
  • Fats with 21 to 32°C melt point: 14.45% (pure butterfat)
  • Fat with 33°+ C melt point: 18.31% (cocoa butter)
  • Sweetness index: 18
  • AW 84.44

Dark Chocolate Ganache with Water, for Framing (38-day shelf life)

  • 735 g Valrhona Manjari chocolate 64% (49%)
  • 270 g water (or red wine) (18%)
  • 10 g whey powder (0.67%)
  • 90 g glucose syrup DE42 (6%)
  • 52 g invert sugar (3.47%)
  • 238 g anhydrous butterfat, 99.5 % fat (15.87%)
  • 105 g crystalized dextrose (7%)

Here is the breakdown of elements and percentages in this ganache:

(Total dry solids: 80.06%; water: 19.94% = 100%)

  • Defatted cocoa: 13.52%
  • Fats with 21 to 32°C melt point: 15.87% (pure butterfat)
  • Fat with 33°+ C melt point: 18.33% (cocoa butter)
  • Sweetness index: 18
  • AW 85.16