Midnight Ganache - Caramel part question
Posted: 26 April 2010 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]
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First, this cake needs no frosting.  The Devil’s Food cake is truly amazing.  In fact, I’m finding this to be the case with all of the cakes.
Second, even though my ganache failed, it was the best stuff in the world, and I ate it by the spoonful (new spoon each time, of course)

However—where am I going wrong?  This has happened to me before!

Scenario:

Instructions say to bring the sugar/water to 370 or until a dark amber.

My experience:

At around 270, it is a dark amber, so if I didn’t have a candy thermomenter, I’d think it was done and take it off the heat.  However, in an attempt to get it as close as possible to 370, I wait until it is on the verge of smoking (as I have more than once filled my hosue with smoke burning caramel to get it to 370), and take it off the heat, and proceed with the instructions.

Naturally, my caramel never becomes like softened butter, but more like my dream cream soup—so, I mixed about half of it with cream cheese, butter and coca powder and make a great frosting out of it.

Some other notes that might be helpful in figuring out my problem:

> I figured it was my stainless steel pan that caused the problem, so I used an aluminum cake pan on the burner this time (have a better caramel-pan on order), but I had the same result

> I don’t have a food processor, so I couldn’t do the food processor thing in the instructions, but I poured the caramel over the chocolate, waited a minute and stirred slowly from the center out (a la my ‘Baked’ cookbook, where I sent the sugar scrotching to get it to 360).

> Finally, on my first Midnight Ganache caramel attempt, I saw the crystals spread across the surface of the sugar water, so I chucked it, and on my 2nd attempt, added about 1T of corn syrup


Thanks so much for any thoughts, and Rose, if you’re out there OMG, WHAT A BOOK!!!  Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!

—ak

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Posted: 26 April 2010 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I suspect your thermometer. Sugar shouldn’t began to turn amber until well into the 300s. Unfortunately, most candy thermometers are inaccurate. You could order one that Rose recommends (thermapen or quicktip), or do the caramel by eye as you suggest. I use a stainless steel pan and it isn’t a problem.

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Posted: 26 April 2010 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Many thanks, Matthew! 

If my thermometer is accurate at water-boiling point, do you think it can still be inaccurate at the higher temperatures?  If so, I’ll take it back to Sur La Table—it’s their brand, and they’re very good about that kind of thing.

I went by color, rather than temperature—do you have any thoughts as to why my ganache might not have set?  I used all specified ingredients, weighed them, etc.  the cake came out fabulously, but I’d love to be able to successfully troubleshoot my caramel!

Thanks again…

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Posted: 27 April 2010 01:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Made the same cake this weekend and experienced the same problem with the caramel ganache…It was turning dark and starting to smoke/a little bit burned-smelling, even though thermometer was far below 370. Took it off and proceeded but the ganache took FOREVER to become even remotely spreadable! The taste was wonderful. It eventually came together but I was stressing out as the cake was for a surprise party and needed to be at the location by a specific time.

Great flavor, though.

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Posted: 27 April 2010 09:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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When I made this ganache, it never became thick enough to spread.  I’ve been afraid to try again.  (I will have to give it another try).

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Posted: 27 April 2010 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Lauriegood - 27 April 2010 04:02 AM

Took it off and proceeded but the ganache took FOREVER to become even remotely spreadable!

The directions say it takes about 5 hours at room temp, but, like you, I needed it quickly.  Some time in an ice bath and freezer had it barely spreadable in only two hours.

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Posted: 27 April 2010 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Definitely sounds like a thermometer problem.  I have a thermomter that often doesn’t work well at caramel temperatures, so I just go by color (and it still tests accurate at boiling, so that’s no guarantee). 

Also:
-Don’t add corn syrup or use a sugar with residual molasses still in it, or it will need a different temperature than the one indicated. 
-Stainless steel pan should be fine, don’t use a non-stick as some finishes are not stable at caramel temps. 
-In my experience, even a sugar solution that shows a little crystallization will liquefy again once it reaches caramel temps (above 340F). 

I’ve made this ganache, and it is slightly on the soft side, but a perfect consistency for the presentation in the book.  I try to make ganache the day before and let it sit overnight before using it.  Rose has mentioned that if a ganache isn’t setting, sometimes a little whisking can help (thought this will lighten the color), or as Charles recommends, you can use an ice bath.

I’m not sure about this, but I suppose it’s possible that there may not be enough cocoa butter in some cocoa powders to properly firm the ganache.  Some cocoa is only 10% cocoa butter, while the brands Rose recommends are more like 22-24% cocoa butter. 

Attaching a photo of this cake in cupcake form, so you can see the texture and color of the ganache.

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Posted: 27 April 2010 04:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Ditto to what Julie said, accuracy at boiling doesn’t guarantee accuracy at higher temps.

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Posted: 27 April 2010 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Many, many thanks to all of you for all of your thoughts!

> Very glad to know that accuracy at boiling doesn’t ensure accuracy at caramel temps.  I’ll likely reutrn mine or go by color.
> I definately let mine sit for 5 hours, but it was still soupy—albiet amazingly wonderful! I used about half of it, w/add’l cocoa powder and made a cream cheese frosting.  Froze the rest in 2 containers for later use.
> I used Green & Black’s organic cocoa powder, which is alkalized—no cocoa powder has cocoa butter, if I am not mistaken
> Very glad to know that the crystallization will liquify—scared the bejeezus out of me!!!
> Ordered this pan!  Got good reviews for using as caramel on some other sites (in case anyone is looking): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007A5P9Y/ref=oss_product (at Amazon, it says nonstick, but according to Faberware, it doesn’t have a nonstick coating.  Oddly enough, Rose recommends a nonstick coating in the instructions, but I thought it could get unstable, also.  Supposedly, the coatings are good up to 400 or something, so I’m not stressing either way.  Hope no coating, though!)
> Thanks for the tip on the corn syrup changing the temp.

Julie!  Your cupcakes are cute as can be!

My husband is always so right!  It drives me crazy, he is so intuitive!  Without having read the book, he suggested (and I didn’t do either):
> Making the ganache the day before
> Whipping it to see if it would thicken

Much, much, much appreciation. 

P.S.  The cake got AMAZING raves.  Everyone loved the cake part and the “rescue” frosting!

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Posted: 28 April 2010 03:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Green & Black’s is definitely among the richer cocoa powders, so that wouldn’t have been the problem.  They do indeed contain some cocoa butter, just not as much as unsweetened chocolate, which is about 50% cocoa butter.  The nutrition label should give a clue as to fat content.

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Posted: 28 April 2010 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Oh, yes, Julie, I see where you’re coming from.  According to their lable, in 5g of cocoa powder, there is 1g of fat, which makes for a 20% cocoa butter content.

Thanks!

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Posted: 28 April 2010 11:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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In case anone’s interested, my caramel pan I ordered (link a few posts above) came.  It has an aluminum core in the base and is otherwise stainless steel.  It has no nonstick coating.  The pan, without the lid and fryer insert, weighs 2.15 lbs (and the handle is lightweight).  It’s about 8” diameter and about 6"deep, so there’s plenty of “boil up” room for adding cream.  It’s obviously silver inside, so it should be relatively easy to check color (as opposed to a nonstick or other black interior).  Looks good for about $30.

Haven’t tried it yet, but there’s the stats.

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