Has anyone tried using agave syrup as an invert sugar in ganaches?
At first glance, the chemistry seems to work, and I like the idea of a natural, vegan invert sugar that doesn't have as detectable a flavour as honey. The idea of this natural additive to prolong shelf life a little is attractive to me.
Any negative or positive comments on this would be appreciated.
We recently started ranging a RAW chocolate product. The company is not bean to bar, but uses raw product they buy in, re-combine (I think) and then use Agave nectar as a sweetener. This means the chocolate is sugar free (apart from natural occurring sugars which is about 2.5%), vegan, gluten free, etc. It has been surprisingly popular, especially given it is quite a high price in comparison.
Interestingly, they do not use an emulsifier either, so it is chunky/grainy/gritty. Surprisingly, I thought the chocolate was rather intense in flavor (its 74% I think) and not too bad! I have no opinion on the benefits of raw, and am not sure about their claims that it contains 4x the anti-oxidants of other chocolate, but if customers want it, we will sell it (so long as it meets our criteria, which this does)
You can find the company here: http://www.naturesgold.co.nz/index.html
What does chunky/grainy/gritty have to do with emulsification?
Further to the reference of the chocolate being "chunky/grainy/gritty", the texture means that the cocoa hasn't been refined long enough to where the particles are small enough that our palletes can't detect the texture anymore. In my opinioin, one could get a better effect and the same health benefits from a silky, well refined chocolate, with good quality nibs added to the bars.
With regard to the agave syrup, that would certainly be an interesting ingredient to try. I'm interested, but don't even know if we can get that up here in Canada.
Hey Brad - Agave is totally available in Canada. It's actually where I first came across it. Check places where health-food is found. David's tea also has a decent agave at a fairly good price - I ordered some from them since the stuff I've seen here is stupidly expensive.
Hi Jessica, I've been making agave sweetened ganache for truffles and fillings since 2004 and it works great! As I do not like my truffles too sweet I start with 100% chocolate and use the agave for the sweetener. That way I get an intense Dark chocolate truffle. The shelf life is not as long as when using corn syrup (which I never use) so don't expect to have truffles sitting on a shelf for months (like most candy). In any case truffles are at their best when freshly made and should be consumed within a short time span. Some chocolatiers never hold truffles past one day! Hope this helps. -Mark
from a chemistry stand point, agave syrups can be used as an invert sugar for ganaches. the basic composition of agave is made up of fructose and glucose. both of which have a greater capacity than sucrose to bind and stabilize water. your typical confectionery invert (i.e. trimoline, nuvoline etc..) is composed of dextrose and fructose. typically in a 50/50 split. on the surface, i would say that its quite possible that invert sugars might be slightly more effective at stabilizing water as dextrose is more effective than glucose in this regard. the one thing to consider when using these ingredients is what is their role in the recipe. from a flavor standpoint, both inverts and agave (due to the presence of fructose) are roughly 30% sweeter than sucrose. this naturally adds a sweetness to the finished product. they also affect the texture of ganache, sometimes making it creamier, sometimes softer or gummier....depending on the types of sugars we use. however the real importance of adding sugars, of any sort, to ganache is their abilities to bind and stabilize water. this is how we are able to modify the shelf life of ganaches....the control and stabilization of water. all sugars, inverts, fruit sugars, alcohol sugars, do this to different capacities. as we write our ganache recipes, we must keep in mind the total amount of water in the recipe so that we know how much and of what kind of sugars to add to create the desired result. this is especially important if you are looking to convert recipes with invert into agave. typically, commercial inverts are 82% dry (sugar) and 18% wet (water). in contrast agave syrups have about 75% dry and 25% wet (there does seem to be some differences in brands, so probably best to check with specific manufacturers for more precise info). this extra water will actually help to reduce shelf life, so it must be checked through a reduction in water from the other ingredients in the recipe (i.e. cream, butter, puree, alcohol etc...)
from standpoint of 'health' or ' natural', there does seem to be some controversy around agave these days. agave is an industrial sugar product that seems to have been around only since the 90's. the two main methods of production are by boiling the ball the at the base of the agave plant (the source of the carbohydrates) or by enzymatic hydrolysis (the same method that commercial inverts are produced). in the case of the boiling of the carbohydrates (to convert them to sugars), the product is not 'raw'. on the other hand, the hydrolysis is not exactly natural. the real controversy comes up when you look at the chemical composition of agave. agave is very high in fructose sugar. it can range anywhere from 70-90%. this is even higher than high fructose corn syrups. there is an increasing amount of studies linking high fructose levels with obesity (having to do with the way the sugar is absorbed and stored in the body).
so is agave exactly natural...honestly, i don't know. im not advocating for or against its usage in confections. for diabetics, this is clearly a better option than many other sugars out there. from the stand point of chemistry its totally usable. i would advise checking with different manufacturers and try to get as much info as you can. there are companies that do make raw versions and there are differences in water and sugar contents. in the end, the percentages we are using are quite small when compared to other food manufacturers. a ganache bonbon is not exactly a can of soda.
hope this helps!
Damion - Thanks! This is exactly the kind of info I was looking for. :)
Excellent and very informative post Damion.