Step 1: Chop your chocolate into half-inch pieces. You don’t have to be exact, but the smaller they are, the quicker they’ll melt. Put them in a bowl that will fit the chocolate plus cream.
Step 2: Heat your cream in a saucepan until it’s JUST boiling—and no further! Dairy loves to boil over, so watch it closely. I know this is a terrible picture, but bear with me. Steam is troublesome. As soon as small bubbles form around the edges of the pan, take it off the heat.
Step 3: Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Make sure all the pieces are submerged (if your bowl looks like this, just take a spoon and push the protruding bits of chocolate under the cream). Wait five minutes for the chocolate to melt. Impatience can cause premature stirring and produce a lumpy ganache.
Step 4: Start stirring in the middle of the bowl. You can use a whisk or a small spatula—just keep in mind that you’re not whipping air into the mixture, you’re just helping it come together. Be gentle!
Step 5: The mixture will start to become glossy in the middle around the stirring utensil—this is what you want to happen. Continue to stir gently, and stay in the middle of the bowl. The rest of the mixture will follow suit. Keep the faith.
Step 6: Hooray! Your ganache is smooth, glossy and completely mixed.
Step 7: It should have a pudding-like consistency after it’s thoroughly mixed and slightly cooled.
Step 8: Now you can flavor it with something (if you didn’t steep the cream beforehand). I chose Calvados (because it is delicious) but you can add anything from fruit puree to peanut butter.
Step 9: When adding liquid flavorings, start small—too much liquid can break the ganache. Add it in bit by bit. If the ganache breaks, don’t panic. It can be saved! (See Troubleshooting section of the article.)
Step 10: Stir in the flavoring the same way you started mixing the ganache—gently, and staying in the middle of the bowl. Once the flavoring is incorporated, let the ganache set up until it has a pudding-like consistency.
Step 11: Now figure out what you’re going to use it for! If you’re going to make truffles and want to pipe your ganache, set up a pastry bag or Ziploc-type bag in a measuring cup or quart-sized takeout container, like so—folding the edges over the lip of the container. This makes it easier to get the ganache into the bag without a massive mess.
Step 12: Use a spatula or spoon to transfer the ganache into the bag.
Step 13: Snip the tip off of the bag with sharp scissors (take off less than you think you should—you can always cut more).
Step 14: Pipe small “kisses” onto waxed or parchment paper. Piping like this makes it easier to have consistently sized truffles, if that’s important to you. (It’s OK if it’s not.)
Step 15: They will look adorable. You can pop them in the fridge for a bit and then quickly hand-roll them into uniform balls.
Step 16: Alternatively, you can just put the entire bowl of ganache in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes and use a clean, warmed spoon to carve out bits of ganache that you can hand-roll. Have a bowl of warm water nearby to clean the spoon in between scoops.
Step 17: Roll the ganache into quarter-sized balls—quickly now! Hands are warm and will melt ganache sooner than you think.