by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell

Juanita Lane’s ganache recipe is surprisingly simple.

Anyone who attended Nashville’s 2006 Hunt Ball surely remembers those stylish ladies’ hat centerpieces that were magically sliced into dessert. That was the handiwork of Juanita Lane of Dulce Desserts.

For the past six years, her little shop in up and coming Edgehill has become a popular neighborhood stop for a cookie, a buttery pecan shortbread or a cupcake-of-the-month fix. Customers count on Dulce for holiday buche de noels to birthday cakes. And for high-style desserts and specialty cakes for weddings, the charity circuit,  Music Row and celebrity events, Juanita gets the call.

We popped into Dulce the other day and picked up some sweet Valentine’s Day dessert advice for romantic home cooks in the mood to concoct their own special love potions. Juanita, who describes herself as an obsessive-compulsive self-taught baker, suggests that the only recipe you really need to push your desserts to the next level is ganache.

Ganache is merely chocolate melted into heavy cream. It’s that simple. This luscious mixture starts out in warm creamy, liquidy state and cools into a creamy solid state. Ganache offers applications at all temperatures and levels of firmness and will, guaranteed, turn anything into a decadent, sexy treat.

Florida strawberries are a great example and a Valentine’s Day winner. Now in the supermarket, strawberries are perfect for dipping into the warm ganache, like a quick cheater fondue. You can also dip the strawberries ahead and enjoy them later when you pop the champagne. Or, have ready a pint of your Valentine’s favorite ice cream and pour on the warm chocolate love.

In its thicker spreadable state, ganache is the richest chocolate icing of all time. Bake a cake, cupcakes or brownies (your own favorite recipe or even from a mix) and lay it on, spread it between layers or blob a spoonful in the center. You can make the icing super smooth (Dulce pastry chef Candace Kraft recommends keeping your spatulas very clean when spreading), but as Juanita says “texture is your friend” so don’t get sidetracked by perfection. Just swirl it up or spackle a stucco pattern. Ganache tastes fabulous, no matter its top coat appearance.

The thickest, chilled ganache is your ticket to homemade fancy truffles.  Scoop the creamy chocolate into little balls and roll in chopped nuts, shredded coconut or cocoa powder.  They’ll melt in your mouth.

Use an expensive high percentage cocoa chocolate as Dulce Desserts does in the shop, but Juanita confesses to happily stirring in a couple of cups of reliable Nestle’s chocolate chips into the hot cream when baking at home for the family.  Ganache will assure a successful February 14, and even better, will inspire your baking all year long.  Soon your supper club gang and potluck pals will be hoping you’re the one bringing dessert.

Three States of Ganache:

Super Liquidy State. The outside of the bowl will still feel slightly warm. This ganache is ideal for dipping and spooning.  You can dip strawberries or other fruit or bites of cake in the sauce, or spoon it over ice cream or other desserts.

Spreadable State. The bowl is at room temperature and a spatula run across the top of the ganache will leave a trench.  You can spread it over a cake for a very smooth and sleek look. As it cools and hardens you may opt for a more textured icing.  If the ganache hardens too much, gently rewarm it by placing the bowl in a warm water bath.

Scoopable State.  Refrigerate the ganache until chilled and set. Now it’s ready to form into truffles. Use a small melon baller or other small scoop to form nice little firm balls. Roll in nuts, cocoa powder or coconut.



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