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A Butter Experiment

A Butter Experiment

We’ve spent the last four posts exploring the role of butter in ganache and other confections, and now it’s time for a little substitution experiment. A good guideline for the addition of butter to a ganache is to add 15% of the weight of the cream and chocolate combined. So in each of these tiny 400g test batches, I used 200g full whipping cream, 400g of 72% Cacao Barry Tanzanie chocolate, which is what I happened to have kicking around, and 60g of butter or a butter type thing. The substitutes I looked at were coconut oil, soft margarine, hard margarine and nut paste.

It’s an experiment, right? So I tried to control all of the variables – I didn’t make any of these pieces dairy free or vegan – all of them used dairy cream as the liquid because the point is only to look at the effect that an additional fat has on the taste, texture and appearance of your ganache. (We will be exploring full dairy free options in a future post, not to worry!)

I started with solid, tempered chocolate discs straight out of the Cacao Barry box, and cream poured in at 75C to melt the chips. I chose to whisk these ganaches by hand as if I was doing them in a limited equipment home kitchen, because this is the simplest way and because I don’t want to assume that you have a fancy schmancy food processor at home. Once the cream and chocolate were smooth together, the butter was whisked in at room temperature.

Once the ganaches were sufficiently emulsified, I covered the ganaches in their bowls and set them at room temperature overnight. In the morming, 4 of them looked great, while the pistachio paste trial looked like this:

pistachio ganache
Separated pistachio ganache

Now, this makes some sense, right? If you look back at our last post where we explored the shapes of the different fat molecules, the nut oils were the most different from the cocoa butter, so it takes more work to successfully blend them. The hand-made method here, using the whisk, isn’t enough to get all of those molecules to play nice together – but don’t worry! I’m writing a post about emulsification to help you get the best blend. In the meantime, here’s what I found with these five ganaches:

1) Butter: the texture is smooth, the flavour is of rich chocolate. The piece looks perfect.

2) Coconut oil: the texture is also smooth, but the flavour is definitely on the coconutty side. Texture-wise – we had an issue. The ganache that looked perfect started to separate in the shell when I enrobed it, and I had little puddles of coconut oil leaking out of my bonbon. I let them solidify so that I could show you.

Coconut oil Bonbon
leaky coconut oil bonbon

This is similar to the pistachio issue – coconut oil isn’t like cocoa butter, so it is hard to make them mingle. As well, coconut oil is 100% fat, while butter is only 80% fat. The point is, if you want to use coconut oil instead of butter, you have a couple of options to help your emulsification: use a mechanical method, and decrease the fat by 20%.

3) Soft margarine: this had a very smooth mouthfeel, but it had a very oily aftertaste and mouthfeel.

4) Hard margarine: almost the same as the soft margarine, but not surprisingly, the ganache was slightly harder than the soft margarine ganache.

5) Pistachio paste: obviously this had a very nutty flavour. I included it because I wanted to compare fats of all different kinds, and nuts are a common addition to chocolate. The taste is fabulous, but if you want a plain ganache it isn’t the right thing, of course.

So what have we learned? It’s pretty clear why dairy butter has been the choice for increasing the richness of a ganache for centuries, but there are many possibilities for substitution depending on your end goals.

To read the other posts in this series click on our Bean2Bonbon Blog overview page.

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Photography by Jessica Washburn, Bliss Chocolatier and Ecole Chocolat

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