Photography by Tracey Creed
Assisted by Amandine Paniagua
Recipe by Amandine Paniagua and Tracey Creed
Words by Tracey Creed
Published July 5 2019
Updated November 21 2019
Shake your cans of coconut milk, open and measure out the liquid, scrape out any solids left on the sides of the can. Set aside.
Roughly chop the chocolate into thin shards, this makes the chocolate easier to melt achieving a smoother ganache more easily. To melt your chocolate, we recommend the double boiler method.
Bring a small saucepan (we used a milk pan) with water to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Sit a glass or metal bowl over the top of the pot, the bottom of the bowl should not reach the water. The intention is to heat the bowl with steam and not the water. Add the chocolate constantly stirring with a rubber spatula until your chocolate has melted. Remove from heat.
Add your coconut milk to a small milk pan, bringing to a gentle boil. *As an aside, if you are using raw chocolate as we have done in the past, you only need a few tablespoons of coconut milk, in which case you would add this to the chocolate in the double boiler.
Add your melted chocolate to warm coconut milk, whisk until smooth.
Allow your ganache to cool to room temperature, stirring (we used a whisk to make it thicker) every 5 minutes or so. Be patient, ganache must be cooled slowly or it can develop a greasy appearance. Once your ganache starts to harden, stir more frequently — it will literally turn from soft to very hard within a minute at this point.
Frost your cake once you have a thickened, yet spreadable ganache. To achieve a beautiful on-cake texture you will want to work quickly with the ganache, it can harden as you are spreading.
Leave your cake at room temperature until you are ready to slice.
Cake does not need to be frosted, is better frosted yes. I knew I wanted a thick ganache that was super glossy, something that would later be referred to as ‘that cake’. So it had to be a proper ganache — I’m not one for attempting to create healthier versions out of vegetables. It will not do. The texture is off, pumpkin does not belong in a ganache. Initially, the recipe I found called for ganache via Pinterest was dark chocolate and heavy cream, I opted to use coconut milk. The white magic inside contains the healthy fat perfect for this fat-in-water emulsion. And for best results look for pure coconut milk, full fat; just water and organic coconut, gums and other additives might produce a less than perfect ganache. These volumes provide sufficient frosting for the top (not sides) of a standard cake. Double the quantity if you want to frost the sides also.
Ideally, you’ll prepare your cake the day before, or at least start about four hours before you intend to serve it. The cake needs to be completely cooled. Rushed and distracted is not when you want to be preparing chocolate ganache — ganache requires your complete attention, commitment to the task. Because ganache does not care if you have to post a story or text somebody back, it will set. Chocolate is super sensitive to temperature. If however, your ganache goes beyond spreadable, use the double boiler, bring your failing ganache to a gentle boil to soften, whisking constantly until you have reached a smooth consistency again. Never use the microwave. Ever. This includes the melt setting. I ruined 200 grams of Loving Earth Salted Caramel, it could not be brought back. I learned the hard way. And if you want to make the cake in the photographs, you will find the recipe for our vegan chocolate cake here.
We suggest using good quality chocolate, and yet what is good food? Obviously what one thinks of food depends on how one perceives and judges it and that will look different for everyone. And yet what we think of food has real consequences on our health, social justice, the environment and the economy. And so in describing food should we not consider the moral properties of food, was it produced in a moral manner? Means of food production are a complex and prompt reflection on areas where ethical quality matters, use of pesticides, genetically modified plants, factory conditions, forced and exploited labour. And while such conditions may not manifest in taste, to enjoy certain foods, then we must be able to accept the conditions of, the appropriateness of what is been eaten.
The $100 billion chocolate industry is built on the labour of 6 million smallholder farmers who reside in a thin Equatorial belt encompassing Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Asia. World cocoa prices have declined by 30 percent since mid-July 2016, reaching the lowest level in nearly four years. Currently, there is a cocoa production surplus, which some market analysts estimate between 150,000 and 250,000 tons for the current cocoa year. Capitalist agriculture thrives in large part because it appropriates so much surplus value from farmworkers. Such short-term developments threaten to undermine long-term sustainability in the supply chain. Cocoa farmers earn less, which will exacerbate poverty.
Prices send signals to farmers as to the amount of time and labour to invest in cocoa production. And so along with climate change and a disinterested younger generation of farmers, will harm the chances of growing cocoa—or any other crop. Human life is inextricably intertwined in systems of agriculture; that choosing what we eat isn't just about us, what we eat will change, and, subsequently, so will the system that creates our food. Good food isn't cheap, it shouldn't be, and our food choices can provide either incentive or disincentive for practices that compromise environmental and social justice. Chocolate should not be some 250-gram bar purchased for $4, or on promotion for less. That said, price wars at supermarket checkouts do not impact each link of the supply chain equally. Exploitation controls food production.
Understanding more deeply the conditions that produced that bar we last purchased, of any food really, aids in not only understanding but recognising the qualities that make any food good, or not. If you would like to explore the topic more deeply I would recommend reading Simran Sethi’s Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love. Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist focused on food, sustainability and social change. In her book, she looks at ways in which monoculture and an increasingly standardised global diet have compromised our global food system and reminds us how healing food can be. There is also this insightful interview with Simran Sethi over on The Chocolate Bar — on chocolate. Of course.
Chocolate around 70 percent is ideal for ganache. Over 75 percent, the cocoa solids can absorb so much liquid from the coconut that there is not enough left to keep all the solids and cocoa butter suspended in an emulsion. Read, you will end up with a broken or greasy ganache. Good doesn’t have to mean $10 a bar, I have used Trade Aid Classic Dark for this ganache a handful of times. It is 55 percent, vegan, organic and locally produced. Bennetto Intense Dark also works wonderfully in ganache. It is 75 percent cocoa, the upper limit you would want for making ganache. I have also used Loving Earth Salted Caramel, it is my favourite and I buy that in bulk from Good For, I don’t feel as bad melting it. If you do end up making this ganache, try and get your hands on the best chocolate you can afford. Whether that is vegan, organic, fair trade, perhaps not all those things. One is already winning.
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