What is an Emulsion?

What is an Emulsion?

What does mayonnaise, truffles, and a pair of newlyweds all have in common?

They are all examples of an emulsion….where you combine two unlike substances to create one new homogenous substance.  

(Ok, ok, stretching it a bit with the newlyweds…but we all know some very “different” couples that induced a double take when you heard they had tied the knot to be together forever...am I right?!  No? Just me?  ok….that’s fine). :-)
So how do chocolatiers make emulsions for truffles?  The emulsion we are most known for is a chocolate ganache.  You start by taking an aqueous phase (cream, fruits, water, wine) and a fat-based phase (chocolate, nut butters, oil, cocoa butter) and combining them through friction and attention to temperature.  This produces an “elastic”, shiny and smooth filling, almost like sexy chocolate pudding. 

You can flavor with infusions into your aqueous phase, or by using differing varietals of chocolate from Madagascar, Venezuela, Ghana, all which have different flavor profiles, or by using caramelized sugar base chocolates or fruit chocolates.  Knowing the amount of cacao in your chocolate, and the fat content of your fat-based phase, will help you determine the correct ratios to have a perfect textured emulsion, as well as suspended sugars to help keep water activity low.  You can even learn to alter your formula to extend shelf-life naturally, or to create a more free-flowing filling for molded bon bons or something with more structure and chew for enrobed bon bons.

Being a chocolatier requires a lot of chemistry, math and attention to detail…which is funny, considering the urban legend that revolves around the core of what we make, which is ganache.  It’s been said that the word ganache came from a kitchen accident in France in the 19th century…."A long time ago….in a kitchen far, far, away…was a chef and his apprentice.  Chef wanted his student to pour warm cream into egg yolks to make a cream anglaise and the student tripped and spilled the warmed liquid into Chef’s bowl of chocolate.  Uh-oh,  how will he hide his error?  The student quickly went to work stirring the cream into the chocolate to hide the evidence of his clumsy behavior…and inadvertently made a beautiful chocolate filling.  The chef stormed in and saw his student panicking- came over and gave him a quick slap against the back of the head.  “Un ganache!”  Which loosely translated to “You idiot/fool!”….and yet when Chef tasted the chocolate mistake in the bowl…a small smile spread across his face and well, I guess you could say the rest is history!