When walking into a shop that carries artisanal chocolates and pastries, one hears names of ingredients that can baffle the mind and be challenging to remember.  I wanted to help clarify what the most used ingredients mean and where they come from.

One such ingredient is Ganache, a French word with a funny origin. In 1950 in Paris, an apprentice mistakenly poured hot cream on chocolate.  The master chocolatier called him “abruti or idiot, however, the mix was far from being unusable and it was named after its inventor Mr. Ganache. The concoction is being used today as a glaze, icing, sauce or filling for chocolates and pastries.  Now when you see the word “ganache,” it will be easy to recall the two main ingredients, chocolate and cream.  In most cases, the cream is warmed up and then poured over bits of chocolate.  Sounds simple, in theory yes, I’m sure in the actual reality, there is a lot more to it.  While the cream and chocolate are being blended together, other ingredients can be added such as liqueurs or extracts, butter is sometimes added to give it extra shine.  Now here is where the complexity comes into it, depending on what one is using it for requires adjustments to chocolate/cream ratio, temperature of the mixture and then knowing the right temperature to whip it as a filling.

Next on the list is Gianduja or Gianduia, an Italian term and it is the blending of sweet chocolate with approximately 30% hazelnut paste.  This sweet chocolate spread can be used on its own to make a piece of chocolate, such as the Neuhaus Cornet Dore,  or, it can be used as a filling inside of a praline or as a spread for toast or crepes.  Neuhaus has such a hazelnut spread and Nutella was once referred to as Pasta Gianduja.  Note that Neuhaus recipe is kept secret!

Gianduja has an interesting history, it was invented in Turin, Italy, during the Napoleon’s regency (1796-1814).  The Continental System which was imposed by Napoleon in 1806 forbade British goods from entering European harbors under French control, so this reduced the supply of cocoa raw materials into the continent.  A chocolatier in Turin by the name of Michele Prochet extended the supply of chocolate by mixing it with hazelnuts which came from a locality south of Turin.  Later on, a Turin-based chocolate manufacturer Caffarel was the one that invented Gianduiotta in 1852.  Gianduja is named after a Carnival and marionette character who represents the Piedmontese, the Italian region where hazelnut confectionery comes from.

Now onto a couple of those hard to pronounce pastry terms; Genoise and Dacquoise, which are often used in the pastries to be found at the Frenchman’s Corner.

A Genoese cake or Genovese cake, one rarely hears the term Genoise in English, is an Italian sponge cake named after the city of Genoa and is used frequently in baking in both Italy and France.  No chemical leavening agent is used to bake this cake, air is suspended in the batter during mixing to provide volume. Whole eggs are used when making this cake, the whites and yolks are never beaten separately.  Good news ladies, this is a fairly-lean cake and gets most of its fat from the egg yolks, occasionally a bit of butter may be added just prior to baking.  This form of cake is used frequently in French pastries.

Last but certainly not least is the Dacquoise cake, it’s a dessert cake made with layers of almond and hazelnut meringue with either whipped cream or butter cream. It gets its name from dacquois, a town in Southwestern France called “of Dax”.  The Frenchman’s Favorite Cake of the Month is a dacquoise cake.  Stop in to take one home.

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