The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts

The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618138920
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 11/04/2003
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

The winner of sixteen James Beard Awards and author of twenty-nine cookbooks, including A Grandfather’s Lessons, Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen, and Essential Pépin, JACQUES PÉPIN has starred in twelve acclaimed PBS cooking series. He was awarded France’s highest distinction, the Legion of Honor.

Read an Excerpt


When I was in cooking school, I loved showing off my newly acquired culinary skills in front of my sisters. One winter break, my sister Laurie was baking a birthday cake for a friend in my mother’s wood-paneled Brooklyn kitchen. Being a typical culinary student, I was appalled to see her reach for a can of ready-made frosting.
“Why don’t you just make ganache?” I asked in my best I-know- something- that-you-don’t-know tone.
“What’s that?” she asked.
Seizing the opportunity to impress my sister with a basic pastry technique, I looked around the kitchen for chocolate and cream. I heated the cream in the microwave and poured it over the chocolate.
From those humble ingredients emerged a luxurious, decadent frosting.
She was amazed. What sounded exotic and mysterious was so easy that even her sister could do it!

While it does sound exotic, basic ganache is made with just two ingredients: chocolate and cream. By varying techniques and tweaking ingredients, you can turn basic ganache into a truffle, a glaze, a frosting, a mousse, a tart, a warm drink, or a frozen pop.
Adjusting the proportion of chocolate and cream changes the density of the finished product. More cream makes it thinner and lighter and more chocolate makes it thicker and denser. You can also manipulate ganache by changing its temperature. It becomes thinner as it heats and thicker as it cools.
The idea of mixing two ingredients seems simple. But mixing chocolate and cream is equivalent to mixing oil and water, which can’t normally be done. This process of mixing two unmixable ingredients is called emulsification.
Remember the school science fair? Wasn’t there always a kid with an oil and water display? He’d plop some oil into the water, but instead of dissolving, it would float to the top. What that kid didn’t know is that oil and water actually can be mixed, with a little help from heat and agitation.
The emulsification that results in ganache combines the fat in chocolate (cocoa butter) with the water in cream. To accomplish this, you must first liquefy the fat. Hot cream is combined with the chocolate, melting the fat into liquid form. Stirring breaks down the fat into microscopic droplets, small enough to be suspended within the water. Whipping and heavy cream may be used interchangeably to make ganache. They differ in the amount of butterfat they contain. As a general rule, the higher the fat content of the cream, the richer the finished ganache will be.

Temperature is an important factor in the emulsification of ganache. If the temperature is not controlled carefully, the result will not be smooth. The optimal emulsification temperature for ganache is 90° to 110°F. If the temperature rises above 110°F, the cocoa butter gets too hot. Droplets of fat will pool together and rise to the surface, separating from the mixture. When this occurs, the ganache is referred to as “broken.” Ganache can also be lumpy if the chocolate is not chopped into very fine pieces before being combined with the hot cream. If the chocolate pieces are larger than 1/4 inch, they will not melt completely and the resulting ganache will have lumps. Lumpy ganache can be repaired by being reheated. Reheating, however, can easily cause the fat to overheat, pool together, and break the ganache.
After the cream is poured over the chocolate to melt the cocoa butter, the mixture is set aside to warm undisturbed for a minute and then stirred in a slow, circular motion. Steady agitation is essential in reducing the fat to tiny droplets. Care must be taken to resist excessive beating, which can bring the temperature of the fat below 90°F too quickly, producing ganache with a grainy texture.


If your ganache looks broken or feels grainy, there is still hope for it. To repair a broken ganache, divide it in half. Warm one half over a double boiler to a temperature of 130°F. The fat will melt and pool at this temperature, making the mixture thinner. Cool the remaining ganache to 60°F by stirring it over a bowl of ice. The fat in this portion will begin to solidify, causing the ganache to thicken.
When both halves have reached the desired temperatures, slowly stream the hot ganache into the cold and stir to combine. You can use a food processor for this step by placing the cool ganache into the bowl of the food processor, turning on the machine, and streaming in the warm ganache. The mixture will not fall below 90°F during this procedure, so there is no risk of creating a grainy texture. Combining the two portions of ganache in this way averages the temperature into the optimal working range, and the fat droplets will be suspended evenly in thhe water.


The most common chocolate used for ganache is dark chocolate. Dark refers to the color and includes sweet, semisweet, bittttttersweet, and unsweetened chocolates. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans that have been roasted and pulverized. The result is chocolate liquor, also known as cocoa mass.
As the beans are ground, they exude cocoa butter. Different amounts of cocoa butter are added back into the mixture, depending on which type of chocolate is being made. Dark chocolate contains less cocoa butter than milk chocolate. White chocolate is comprised of nearly all cocoa butter and no chocolate liquor. (Due to the lack of chocolate liquor, white chocolate is not technically chocolate. However, it can be used in the same manner as types containing chocolate liquor, with certain modifications.) Chocolates also differ in the amount of sugar they contain. Bittersweet has less sugar than semisweet. Unsweetened chocolate has no added sugar, and I often used it in conjunction with bittersweet for an extra dark, intense flavor.
Milk solids, which contain milk fat, are used to make milk and white chocolate. The added fat and the increased cocoa butter content make the lighter chocolates softer and more susceptible to damage from heat. You can certainly make ganache from milk or white chocolate, using the traditional technique, but you’ll have to adjust the proportion of cream downward to compensate for the increased fat content.

All the recipes in this chapter begin with the same ingredients and techniques. The Master Ganache is made with an equal ratio of chocolate to cream. This is considered a ganache of medium consistency. Recipes categorized as firm are made with more than 50 percent chocolate. Soft ganaches have more than 50 percent cream. The recipes are not mysterious, nor are they difficult. If, however, you want to impress your sister, keep this information to yourself.

Ganache Family Tree

medium 1 part chocolate : 1 part cream Truffles Fudge Fondue Milk Chocolate Ganache White Chocolate Ganache Caramel Ganache Frozen Chocolate Parfait Chocolate Soufflé Ganache Glaze Chocolate Sabayon

firm 2 parts chocolate : 1 part cream Raspberry Ganache Banana Ganache John Do Ya Ganache Candy Bars Baked Whiskey Tortes Chocolate Frosting

soft 1 part chocolate : 2 or more parts cream Chocolate Whipped Cream Campton Place Hot Chocolate Chocolate Sauce Chocolate Mousse Trio Deep, Dark Chocolate Tart

MEDIUM-TEXTURED GANACHE is the MASTER GANACHE, and all the recipes that are derived from it begin with a 1 : 1 ratio of chocolate to cream. (Adjustments have been made to the Milk and White Chocolate Ganache recipes to achieve a medium texture.)

FIRM-TEXTURED GANACHE is made with 2 : 1 ratio of chocolate to cream and is suitable for icings, fillings, and baking.

SOFT-TEXTURED GANACHE uses a 1 : 2 ratio of chocolate to cream or even more cream.

All the recipes are related to the Master Ganache. They all begin with the same ingredients and techniques. Note that the ratio is based on weight, not volume.


Can deep, dark, intense, rich, velvety smooth chocolate be a spiritual experience? It certainly is heavenly when mixed with cream. Praise the pastry angels and pass the bonbons!
This is the basic ganache recipe. Use it for truffles, tarts, fillings . . . you name it. Follow the same technique when adjusting the recipe for firm and soft ganache. An alternative food processor method is given, which can be applied to any ganache recipe in this chapter.
I want to introduce you to ganache and persuade you to make it a staple in your refrigerator. As long as you don’t eat it all as a midnight snack, it can be available to help you throw together dessert at a moment’s notice.

SPECIAL TOOLS: Food processor (optional) Candy thermometer

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate 1 cup heavy cream

1. Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch pieces. Don’t be lazy here. Big chunks will not melt.


2. Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boiling means the cream will actually rise up in the pan and threaten to boil over.

3. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air to the ganache. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. It may look done after 1 minute of stirring, but keep going to be sure it’s emulsified.


2. Place the chopped chocolate in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat (or bring to a boil in the microwave).

3. Immediately pour the hot cream into the food processor, on top of the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then pulse the machine three times. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and pulse three more times, until all the chocolate is melted. This smooth, silky chocolate is now ganache. Transfer the ganache to a bowl.

4. Let the ganache sit at room temperature until it cools to 70°F. In a 65°F room, this will take only 15 minutes. You can speed up the process by pouring the ganache out onto a clean baking sheet (thinner layers cool faster). Once the ganache reaches 70°F, it is ready to be used. At this point it can also be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

NOTE I prefer using a serrated knife for chopping chocolate. It’s safer because the blade doesn’t slip off the hard surface of the chocolate. And I find that it’s easier to get small chunks.


* Tangy Ganache: Replace all or part of the cream with crcme fraîche.

* Earl Grey Ganache: Place 1 bag of Earl Grey tea in the cream and bring it to a boil. Cover and let it steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bag and squeeze over the cream. Rewarm the tea-infused cream and continue with the recipe.

* Lavender Ganache: Place 1 to 2 tablespoons lavender flowers in the cream and bring it to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain and rewarm the lavender-infused cream, then continue with the recipe.

* Orange Ganache: Add 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest to the cream and bring to a boil; strain into the chocolate. When the ganache is complete, add 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier.

TRUFFLES medium yield: About 2 dozen 1-inch truffles

The original chocolate truffle was a French confection meant to simulate the much-sought-after truffle fungus. It was rolled rough like the real fungus, not round, and covered in cocoa powder to replicate the dirt it grows in. (Whose idea was it to make people think they were eating dirt?) Chocolate truffles are a rich, decadent treat with a special elegance all their own. Don’t be intimidated! Truffles are easy to make and always appreciated.
The choice of alcohol to use is yours. It can be a liqueur, such as Chambord or Grand Marnier, or another spirit like bourbon or rum. The alcohol can also be left out entirely. Substitutions for it could include brewed coffee, orange juice, or fruit puree.

SPECIAL TOOLS: Candy thermometer Piping bag with a large (#6) plain tip (optional) Parchment paper

1 recipe Master Ganache (page 16), with the addition of: 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened 1 tablespoon light corn syrup 2 tablespoons liquor, such as Grand Marnier, kirsch, bourbon, or rum

FOR THE COATING 2 cups sifted unsweetened cocoa powder 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1. Follow the method for Master Ganache, adding the butter to the chocolate and the corn syrup to the cream before bringing the cream to a boil.

2. Pour the hot cream and corn syrup over the chopped chocolate and butter. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, stir slowly in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air to the ganache. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the liquor and stir to combine. Allow the ganache to cool at room temperature until it is firm. This should take at least 4 hours in a 65°F room or 2 hours in the refrigerator.

4. Once the ganache is firm, it can be formed into truffle balls. Using a piping bag, a mini ice cream scoop, or a tablespoon, make 1-inch-diameter blobs. Then roll the blobs into somewhat uniform balls by hand. This is messy, no doubt about it. If they begin to warm up and become soft, refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes. If you have hot hands or it is a hot day, it may feel as though you can’t get a grip on the truffle. Work near a sink with cold running water. When the ganache feels like it’s melting, cool your hands under the running water, then dry them and dust with a little of the cocoa powder. Be careful not to get too much cocoa powder on the truffles, or they will taste like cocoa powder.


After the truffles are rolled, they can be finished in a variety of ways. The original cocoa powder coating is the easiest, and quite good.

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4 inch pieces and place it in a medium heatproof bowl. Fill a medium saucepan half full of water, bring it to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Create a double boiler by placing the bowl on top of the saucepan. Stir the chocolate occasionally with a rubber spatula until it melts, about 2minutes.

3. When the chocolate has melted, take it off the heat. Stir it slowly with a rubber spatula until the temperature drops to 90°F, about 5 minutes. Place the remaining cocoa powder in a small bowl.

4. Drop one rolled ganache ball into the melted chocolate. Remove it with a fork, tap off the excess chocolate, and toss it into the cocoa powder. Roll the truffle around in the cocoa until it is well coated. Transfer the truffle to the prepared baking sheet and let it harden. Repeat with each truffle, coating one at a time.

Truffles should be stored in an airtight container at 60° to 65°F. Refrigerating them is OK too. If condensation forms when they come out of the refrigerator, simply toss them in more cocoa powder before serving.

Variations * Other delightful coatings include finely chopped toasted nuts (see page 366), toasted unsweetened coconut, grated milk chocolate, and powdered sugar. Match the coating of the truffles to the liquor used in the ganache, such as Frangelico truffles with hazelnut crunch coating. This will create an interesting depth of flavor.

* Steep 1 black currant tea bag in the cream and add 2 tablespoons Chambord as the liquor.

* Add 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder to the cream and use 2 tablespoons Kahlúa as the liquor.

* Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest and 1/2 teaspoon orange oil to the cream. Let sit for 10 minutes. Strain out the zest. Use 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier as the liquor.

* Add 2 tablespoons strained blackberry puree (or the puree of another fruit) instead of the liquor.

* Peel and grate fresh ginger and squeeze from it 2 tablespoons ginger juice. Add this and 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice instead of the liquor.

* Combine 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup Champagne or brandy in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn off the heat and let the raisins cool and absorb the liquor. Drain off any remaining liquid, chop the raisins, and stir the raisins into the warm ganache.

FUDGE FONDUE medium yield: 1 2/3 cups, serving 6

Fondue is back! This will be good news to those of you who didn’t get your fill in the 1970s. Traditional fondue is melted cheese into which you dip hunks of bread. My chocolatey version is perfect for dipping pieces of fruit, cubes of cake, or cookies. Though it’s really no more than a glorified chocolate sauce, fondue is a great excuse to cover everything in chocolate.
This dish always appears on my Valentine’s Day menu. It’s a great way to get a romantic conversation going. If you don’t have an old fondue set in the garage, any dish will do. No skewers? Go ahead and use your fingers.

SPECIAL TOOLS: Candy thermometer Fondue pot or serving dish Skewers

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk 1/2 cup whole milk 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped orange zest

NOTE Some of my favorite fruits to dip include:

Crisp fresh apple wedges Dehydrated apple chips Juicy pear wedges Bananas Fresh cherries

Dried cherries: Combine 1/4 cup dried cherries, 1/4 cup port, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cool and let the cherries absorb the liquor. Spear them with skewers.

Raisins: Combine 1/4 cup raisins with 1/4 cup verjuice or white wine and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the raisins cool. Spear them with skewers.

1. Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch pieces and place it in a medium heatproof bowl.

2. Bring the milks to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour over the chopped chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl and working out to the sides. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes.

3. When the chocolate has melted, insert a thermometer. When the temperature reaches 98°F, add the orange zest and stir to incorporate. Serve the fondue immediately or let it cool, cover it with plastic wrap, and store it at room temperature overnight. To reheat, place a bowl of fondue over a saucepan half full of simmering water, creating a double boiler, and stir continuously until melted, about 5 minutes. Do not let the temperature exceed 100°F when reheating, or the ganache can break. The fondue will also keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.


* Infuse the milk with your favorite spice, then strain. My favorite combination is a star anise pod, a 2-inch cinnamon stick, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

* Spike the milk with 2 tablespoons rum, Grand Marnier, or Poire William.

Copyright © 2003 by Sherry Yard. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Jacques Pépin xiii Introduction 1 My Bakeshop Rules 4

Ganache 10 From Chocolate Sauce to Chocolate Soufflé and Deep, Dark Chocolate Tart

Caramel 43 From crunchy to creamy to clear: Pecan Pralines, Caramel Custard Tart, Oven-Roasted Caramel Anjou Pears, and more

Curd 71 From a basic lemon-curd filling for pies, tarts, cakes, and cookies to Lemon Pudding Cakes and Lime Fondue

Vanilla Sauce 87 From Vanilla Sauce to Crcme Brulée

Pâte r Choux 114 From Cream Puffs and Profiteroles to Beignets and Cannoli

Pound Cake & Génoise 136 From Marble Cake to Buttermilk Birthday Cupcakes

Financier 162 The easiest cake in the world

Cookies 176 Variations on a Technique: from crisp sugar cookies to tender powdered- sugar cookies to chewy Snickerdoodles and Triple Chocolate Fudge Cookies

Pie & Tart Dough 205 Flaky and sweet crust s : from Almond Pie Dough to Chocolate Short Dough

Brioche 223 Coffeecake, Sticky Buns, Panettone, Challah, and more

Laminated Dough 264 From Puff Pastry to Classic Croissants to rich Apple Turnovers

Fruit 293 From Blackberry-Merlot Sauce to Roasted Voodoo Vanilla Pineapple

Master Combinations 306 The pantry of the imagination: from Thumbprint Lime Meltaways to Frozen Hot Chocolate Tower

Baking Terms 326 Basic Tools 336 Ingredients 348 Suppliers 375 Bibliography 376 Index 377

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The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have tons of cookbooks, but this is my favorite baking book. She explains how/why things work and how things are related. It is far more than a collection of recipes. If you only want one baking book in your library, this is the one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've made several of the recipes in this book, and they have all turned out beautifully. Her explanations of why things work as they do are invaluable and allow you to further customize recipes for yourself.