Hi there -- This weekend I made slab/cut style truffles rather than the traditional round style I am used to and I ran into a few issues that I'm hoping you veterans might be able to help with.
1) I had varying thicknesses in different parts of the slab. I know they sell vibrating tables to ultimately fix this problem, but I'm wondering if there is a technique that I could try that might be a hair cheaper. My current "technique" (ha) is to just pour the ganache into my frame and spread it around the best I can with an offset spatula.
2) I had releasing issues. I made my frame out of some metal bars I found at Lowe's based on a post I saw at egullet, and as it noted in the post, I put them right on my Silpat. It molded beautifully, no leaks, but after taking the bars off, brushing on some tempered chocolate and flipping the whole thing to get it ganache side up for cutting, I went to pull the Silpat off and in a few spots it stuck and broke. I'm wondering if I needed to 1) let the ganache crystalize further (mine was about 18 hours old), 2) coat the Silpat with tempered chocolate first (I know this helps releasing from silicone molds), 3) put the whole slab in the fridge for a few minutes before flipping. 4) something else.
3) Some tiny cracks and pin holes formed on maybe 6 of the truffles and something oily oozed out. I'm guessing that is just liquified cocoa butter. It isn't a huge deal, but I'd like to avoid this. Any thoughts on what happened?
4) Slightly grainy ganache. I don't think this has anything to do with the shape of the truffles, but the recipe. I used a new recipe that called for tempered chocolate, cream, butter, and honey. Room temperature butter thoroughly worked into tempered chocolate. Butter and honey scalded together, cooled to 105, and then added all at once to the chocolate/butter mixture. My guess is that it was adding the butter to the tempered chocolate directly (generally I put it with the cream) or the fact that I did not incorporate everything fully enough. I just read something scary that said too much air whipping into ganache dramatically reduces shelf life, so I was probably a little stingy with the stirring.
I know this is a boatload of questions. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!
For your releasing issues...have you tried putting saran wrap inside the frame? I put the frame on a tray, then put saran wrap over the frame so it hangs over the side of the frame. Then I pour the ganache onto the saran wrap in the frame and tap the whole thing on the counter so that it evens out. When the ganache is set, I put the cutting board on top of the frame and flip it upside down. Now the side of the ganache with the saran wrap is on top and all I do is peal off the saran wrap. So far, I haven't had anything stick...just a few wrinkles from the saran wrap that I smooth out with a flat spatula.
Here's my two cents, would love to hear anyone else's technique as well...
1. you need a spreader that is just a bit wider than your entire slab, so that you can run it flush on top of the ganache frame and even out the thickness in one sweep (or several). It helps to have a little bit more ganache than what fits in the frame so that as you hit the edge, the whole top surface remains flush and you remove any extra as you hit the end of the frame.
2. not mixed well enough? not tempered? not firm enough? could be a number of things. i've had this problem too, but usually when the ganache is too soft. also, your ambient temperature needs to be just right (65f-69f) seems to work best, firm enough for it to hold together, soft enough to cut on a guitar without breaking strings.
3. maybe improperly tempered...fats will separate out if the ganache is not properly tempered (and the chocolate within) which leads me to 4.
4. I would say the 105 honey/butter mix is way too hot, should be more like 86F or so when adding, that could throw off any of the good crystals in your butter/chocolate mix if the quantity was big enough. The sequence seems kind of odd to me too-most ganaches using butter and another sweetener (honey, fondant, glucose, invert sugar) are processed by first mixing together the butter and sweetener, then adding the chocolate. You might try just combining all the butter and honey first without heating it (at room temp) then adding in the chocolate. Your mileage may vary but I think that's a better route to try.
Thank you all for the tips! Sorry for my late reply -- computer out of commission. I am going to use all of these tips slowly but surely and hopefully the will fix my issues.
I'm still freaked about the grainy ganache -- I'm hoping adding the butter at a different time, cooling the cream more and mixing with a little more vigor will do the trick! I will try this all tomorrow night.
awesome, thanks Andrea! I will definitely whisk tonight.
As for the temperature issue, do you agree that the honey/cream mixture needed to be cooler? Also, my plan is to melt the butter right into the cream mixture. Do you think that is a smart plan?
I do think the butter mixture was way too hot. Definitely cool it down into the low-to-mid 80's before adding it.
Do you mean you are planning to add the room temp butter to the cream instead of the the chocolate? If so, then I would not do that. Adding things at different times and temps can affect the texture and mouth feel of the final product. Also, make sure the butter really is at room temp before adding it.
Also, this is just a funny FYI. A few months back I was at a class where they were talking about ganache and the problems one can encounter (i.e. broken ganache, too hard, too soft, etc) and I commented that I had never had a broken ganache before. Well, I cursed myself... just about every ganache I made for that class broke and had to be repaired! It was interesting because I typically do not use tempered chocolate for my ganache and this instructor swears by it. He thinks the texture of the ganache using tempered chocolate is better over the life of the product. I have tested this notion (strictly on myself) and actually found that I prefer ganache made with untempered chocolate no matter when it is in it's life (i.e 1st day it is made versus 2-3 weeks old). I have taken recipes that call for tempered chocolate and just used melted chocolate with no discernable difference in the end - of course I make bonbons and don't usually slab my ganache. Just something for you to think about and maybe test for yourself in the future. I hope your next attempt with this ganache goes well. Let us know...
Andrea, that is an interesting aside!! I usually just use hot cream to melt my chocolate and use that -- untempered!-- and it has never broken... I decided to use tempered chocolate for the same reason you did (someone swore by it), and this is when I encountered problems. I would happily go back to using untempered chocolate in my ganache but I am wondering if this will effect the truffles' stability when they are not refrigerated. What is your experience with that? I am looking to make truffles that can be stored in a cool place, but don't have to be refrigerated.
Also, If i continue trying to use the tempered chocolate in the ganache, what order would you do things in? I'm particularly interested in when you would add the butter.
Your final texture or firmness (i.e. stability) of your ganache should be a reflection of the ratio of cream to chocolate as opposed to tempered versus untempered chocolate. Your final product may be a little more firm using tempered chocolate but that is something you can experiment with to see what you prefer. Personally I'd give it a shot with untempered chocolate and see what happens. I do the same as you and melt the chocolate with the heated cream and it saves me from tempering more chocolate (I temper by hand since I don't have a tempering machine)
I am guessing that the room temperature butter should be added to the ganache as the last ingredient and once the ganache as cooled enough that the temperature of the chocolate is not melting the butter but only incorporating it. Think about when you make chocolate chip cookies. The butter is added to the recipe softened but not melted. If you added melted butter to the recipe your final texture of the cookies would be different - it is kind of the same concept here.