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I tried making "Dark and Stormies" out of Greweling's book (Chocolate and Confections). The center is a white chocolate ganache infused with vanilla and ginger and with rum. Both times I tried it, the ganache came out grainy or almost spongy in appearance.

I've never had this problem with ganache (although I'm aware that it is very common). I've also never used Greweling's technique for ganache. It has two primary differences:

  1. The chocolate has to be tempered prior to using it for the ganache.
  2. The chocolate is melted at 86 F (for white chocolate) before the cream is added.

Normally, I would use chopped up unmelted chocolate and pour hot cream over it. I wanted to try Geweling's method, though.

Attempt 1:

I know the chocolate was over heated (probably to around 130-140) during tempering, but the chocolate didn't show any signs of burning.

pre-frame attempt 1

Attempt 2:

This time the chocolate was kept at the right temperature. I also stirred the ganache slightly less. The result seems to be better, but still separated.

attempt 2

Thanks!

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I've always done the chop up (or grate) chocolate and pour over hot cream (and never tried white chocolate, either) ... but I thought I'd ask -- are you using 'white coating chocolate' as opposed to 'white chocolate' ... the coating stuff has a different melting point and some additives to it that might cause adverse reactions like what you're seeing. –  Joe Dec 12 '10 at 14:24
    
Me too. I think I'm going to try the recipe again using my normal technique for making the ganache and see how it goes. I'm using Callebuat white chocolate. I won't touch that "candy coating" crap. I don't use much white chocolate, so the chocolate I'm using is probably almost a year old, but it has been sealed and stored in a cool dry place, so it should be fine. –  Computerish Dec 12 '10 at 16:25
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2 Answers 2

I don't know the details of this particular recipe, so you'll have to excuse me if this comes across as a bit of a shot in the dark, but here are a few things that could have gone wrong:

  • Grainy chocolate is usually a sign of seizing. White chocolate still contains cocoa butter and can still seize. Therefore it's important not to let any liquid touch the melting chocolate and to not let the temperature get too high.

  • 130-140° F is definitely way too high. White chocolate will normally burn or seize at temperatures higher than around 110° F. You mentioned that the second time you used the right temperature, but it's worth pointing out anyway: Be very careful with the temperature, don't use direct heat preferably, use a double boiler or a stainless steel bowl placed over a steaming pot, and stir frequently to keep the temperature even.

  • Don't dump hot cream into the chocolate. It's strange that almost every recipe tells you to do this; water causes melted chocolate to seize, period. The only way to avoid this is to use a very large amount of liquid for a very small amount of chocolate, so what you have to do is go the other way; incorporate the chocolate into the cream, a small amount at a time. This is especially important with tempered chocolate because you've essentially raised the melting point!

  • Also be careful not to let any water get into the chocolate as it's melting; use dry utensils and make sure you don't have any steam condensing over top (use a large bowl over a small pot if you don't have a double boiler).

  • Finally, as Joe commented, make sure you're using the right kind of white chocolate. I've never seen baker's white chocolate, so when I need white chocolate for melting I generally use the white chocolate chips. If yours didn't burn at temperatures as high as 130° F then you might have been using coating chocolate instead.

Follow all those precautions and you should end up with a very smooth mixture. I've done this for ganaches and even foams and it's never a problem if you're careful about both the temperature and moisture.

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I'm quite careful about water in the chocolate. I use a double-boiler and low heat, keep all counters dry, use a silicone spatula (the wood ones trap moisture), and I do my best to keep the kitchen as low humidity as possible. I'm using Callebaut white chocolate from Chocosphere. I'm curious about your third point. I've read about the techniques of many chocolate pros and every one is some variation of pouring cream over chocolate. What basis do you have for adding the chocolate to the cream? –  Computerish Dec 12 '10 at 16:33
    
I thought I explained the basis, @Computerish, but I'll try again. Chocolate is an emulsion, and adding a small amount of liquid will break that emulsion and cause seizing. A very large amount of liquid won't have that effect because then solubility comes into play. Dumping water (which cream mostly is) into melted chocolate is almost a surefire way to make it seize, because you have no control over how much of the liquid comes into contact with any specific part of the chocolate. Do the reverse, and that problem goes away. –  Aaronut Dec 12 '10 at 16:52
    
Now, @Computerish, if you melt the chocolate with the liquid, i.e. by pouring hot cream over solid chocolate, that's another story, and that will often be fine if you're careful because again, you don't have a chance to break the emulsion. But pouring liquid into already melted chocolate will be a disaster. If the chocolate is already melted then you should incorporate the melted chocolate into the liquid, not vice versa. –  Aaronut Dec 12 '10 at 16:55
    
I disagree that pouring hot cream over chopped chocolate always causes it to seize. This is the only way that I make ganache, and it always turns out smooth. The trick is to start an emulsion in the center by pouring some in, rapidly whisking the very center of the mixture until the emulsion is formed, then pouring the rest in and gradually widening the concentric circles that you use to whisk the emulsion. This is the technique recommended by Greweling himself, and it works. It's a way to suspend the fat properly in the water for an emulsion. –  ash Oct 3 '11 at 22:11
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I use this method quite regularly for making slabbed ganache. I have the book you mention too and have made the dark and stormies. The temperatures of both the chocolate and the cream really need to be spot on or it goes a little wonky. Especially when working with white chocolate which tends to burn faster.

Another issue could be with the white chocolate itself. It tends to go off quicker than others and get very crumbly. It doesn't like to melt let alone emulsify into the cream. Also it can be a little harder to spot bloom on white chocolate. Sugar bloom will cause grainy chocolate.

As far as separating, if the fat ratio is off it will cause the emulsion to break and look oily. You can rewarm it, slowly whisking in a bit of whole milk or cream which can help to rectify things.

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