What’s the holidays without a little chocolate?
Chef Alex Guarnaschelli takes the People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN) inside the kitchen of her New York City restaurant, Butter, to show you how to make an enriched chocolate ganache that can be used in multiple ways throughout the season.
“Ganache is a mix of chocolate and cream,” the Iron Chef explains. “Warm cream, warm chocolate, they want to get to know each other — they’re happy.” To take the sweet combo to the next level, Guarnaschelli adds a touch of cinnamon, orange zest and rum. While the alcohol is optional — and should be left out if cooking for kids — the chef emphasizes that it “really brings out that great chocolate taste.”
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Once you’ve got your sauce, the ways to make the most of it are truly endless. “I love to pour this over cake when I’m not in the mood to go crazy making frosting,” she says. “It will set once cool and make a shiny chocolate glaze that looks rather inviting.”
As a short cut, Guarnaschelli recommends picking up a store-bought cake and just making the ganache. “You could tell everybody, ‘I got up early and I baked this cake and I worked really hard,’ when in fact you didn’t,” she jokes.
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You can also use it as a filling between cake layers, as a topping for ice cream or mix in a spoonful into your morning coffee. But our favorite trick is to add it to a little warm whole milk to make the richest hot cocoa you’ve ever tasted. Dollop it with a little (or a lot) of whipped cream and you’re set.
“If it’s not messy and it doesn’t drip over the sides, it’s not a holiday hot chocolate —it’s just an average hot chocolate,” says Guarnaschelli. “We’re going holiday here, people. Huddle up.”
Alex Guarnaschelli’s Enriched Chocolate Sauce
Makes: about ¾ cup
½ heavy cream
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped (about ¾ cup)
2 tsp. dark rum, preferably Myers’s
A few light grates of orange zest (1/8 tsp. packed)
Pinch of kosher salt
1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cream and cinnamon and bring to a gentle simmer over low heat. Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and set it on top of the pan of cream to make a loose double boiler. Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the cream. The chocolate will melt gently as it covers the simmering cream.
2. When the cream is really hot, shut off the heat and allow the chocolate to finish melting. Stir the chocolate with a heatproof spatula until smooth. Remove from the heat and pour the cream into the melted chocolate. Stir in the rum, orange zest, and salt. Use this sauce warm. I love it, piping hot, poured over ice cream. If using it from the fridge, reheat gradually over low heat in a shallow water bath. If the texture becomes grainy, whisk in a splash of cream or water to loosen as needed.
Alex Guarnaschelli’s Hot Chocolate
Serves: 4 to 6
3 cups whole milk
½ cup Enriched Chocolate Sauce (opposite), warm
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup whiskey, such as Bushmills (optional)
1 cup whipped cream (optional)
1. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it simmers.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the warm chocolate sauce and cocoa powder until smooth. Whisk in the hot milk. Pour into individual cups and top with whiskey and whipped cream, if using.
Tip! “This recipe can be made even more old-school (read: richer) by substituting 1 cup cream for 1 cup milk,” says Guarnaschelli.