I am once again going to fly picture blind with this post. With the new house, and all the unpacking and organizing that we’re doing, I have been thinking about how different the cooking vibe is in this house. I don’t feel compelled to cook at all. I am still getting used to having only drawers in the kitchen, as the cabinets were clearly built for someone with at least a foot in me. Not feeling the urge to cook is an odd place for me to be, but perhaps it’s just the idea that we are still unpacking and, as I said, rearranging. We did decide that we won’t host Thanksgiving this year, which is a little bit of a relief, even though I thoroughly enjoy the entire process, even being bone tired after everyone leaves! However, I also don’t want to get out of the habit, and perhaps getting used to not hosting. I love to do it, and I am so thrilled to host the family and keep the old traditions alive! But’s it is a great deal of work, and honestly I think we have had enough change, anticipation and preparing for one year!
With the cooler months and falling leaves, I start thinking more and more about dark, deep food, like sticky toffee pudding, red wine stews and rich, dense chocolate cake. My very favorite frosting, isn’t really a frosting at all, it’s more like a heavenly chocolate cloud that you anoint a cake with. It’s simple, very easy, and completely worth the accolades of everyone whose mouth comes in contact with it! As a matter of fact, at it’s simplest, it’s two ingredients. Good quality chocolate (although chocolate buttons, or even Hershey bars will do in a pinch) and cream. There can be additions of butter, sugar, some kind of fruity alcohol (I adore raspberry liqueur and Grand Marnier) but honestly the simplest and best way is just the two ingredients. And by the way, it’s called ganache and it isn’t anywhere near as difficult as you may have heard!
You can do ganache with white chocolate, rather than dark or milk, but I can tell you first hand, it’s very easy to curdle. I am going to get into my way way back machine to give you an example. Many years ago, I made a 25th Anniversary cake for my parents. I used the very best recipes that Bon Appetite and Gourmet magazines had to offer, with a little of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “The Cake Bible” thrown in. (A word to the cake-wise, if you don’t have that book, get it. I have had it for almost 20 years, and I still refer back to it to this day, even though it is falling apart and has moved countless times with me!) Now, lets set the mood here, I was 24, so that would make it 21 years ago, long before making wedding cakes became stylish, and certainly before any of the reality shows you see these days. Wedding cakes were a standard, slightly gross and dismal business. At best they were a cut up, brut edible sheet cake. At worst they were the various left over bits of cake, merged and frosted to look like a cohesive, but barely edible cake. When I saw this cake on the cover of the magazine, I decided that my parents would have a big surprise 25th Anniversary party and for it I would make this cake. I have photos of the homemade white chocolate fondant ribbons and flourishes that I made by hand with no food processors or any help for that matter, draped over every surface you could imagine, including over broom handles and the frame of a bicycle, drying. The ganach was supposed to be the crumb coat under the fondant. When I tell you I tried it 4 or 5 times, and each time, it curdled. Since this was the first time I had ever tried it, I just gave up and used a nice milk chocolate ganache. I can still taste it to this day, slightly raspberry and very rich. It was lovely but so soul suckingly hard to do! That being said the parents loved it, as did everyone else at the party, so it was a success, and worth every second!
Now, back to my frosting. It’s so simple you’ll kick yourself. Equal parts chocolate (by weight) and heavy cream. And no, you can’t substitute any other diary, no milk, no half and half, and for God’s sake, nothing soy or coconut based. They won’t whip up the way that heavy whipping cream will do. The trick is finding that vague and imprecise moment when it’s all cool enough to whip, and yet not so cool that you can’t get the mixer to work. When I say equal parts by weight, I mean an 8oz cup of cream and 8oz of chocolate. It’s better if you have a weighing apparatus in the kitchen, so if you do have that, use it., otherwise, do the best you can and use cup measures.
16 oz heavy cream
16 oz chocolate (chopped fine, or grated to make measuring easier)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons liqueur of your choice (raspberry goes great, as does coffee)
Heavy bottom saucepan
Large heat proof bowl (glass is best)
Heat the heavy cream to just boiling, if it does boil, that’s ok, just be sure you remove the skin that forms. In the heat proof bowl, place the chocolate, and when the cream comes to the boil, pour it directly over the chocolate. Her wis the magic bit, immediately use the whisk to start mixing the chocolate and cream, it will start to look like chocolate milk, only lumpier, as the heat of the cream melts the chocolate. Then suddenly in the middle of the bowl, you will see this dark pool start to from, that’s what the entire bowl will begin to look like! Keep whisking gently until it is all uniform and there are no chocolate lumps. The bowl should still be very warm, and if you choose to use the butter (which givers it a nice sheen) or the liqueur, now is the time to add it, and mix well. Once everything is amalgamated and melted, set this aside to cool. It will take about 30 minutes until the bowl is room temperature or cool to the touch.
If you’re using this as a glaze for a cake, now is the time to get pouring. If you’re using it as frosting, get your hand mixer out. Starting at medium speed, start to whip the mixture. As you go along and it lightens up, you can increase the speed. The more air you incorporate, the more it will begin to look like rich chocolate whipped cream. Once you have it getting pretty fluffy and light looking, get a rubber spatula and fold and scrape the bottoms and side of the bow, so you don’t loose any of this magic chocolate mixture.
Here is what a frosted cake will look like: