Ganache is a versatile dessert that can top a cake or fill truffles and macaroons. Pronounced "gah-NAHSH," you can whip up this chocolate delight in minutes.

The basic idea is to mix together equal parts semisweet or bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream. It's recommended to not use chocolate that contains vegetable fat. Do use cream that contains 35 to 40 percent butterfat content. You can make ganache with dark, milk or white chocolate, and experiment with different flavors by adding extracts and liqueurs.

Finely chop 8 ounces of chocolate using a heavy serrated knife, making sure you cut it into small pieces so it will melt easily and evenly. You can also opt to shave off shards, which you can chop again with a knife or put them in a food processor. If you decide on the latter, pulse briefly, and make sure the chocolate does not melt in the food processor bowl. Meanwhile, place 8 ounces of cream over medium-high heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat once the cream starts to simmer.

Place the chocolate in a large, heat-proof bowl. Add the hot cream. Martha Stewart's recipe says to let it sit for 10 minutes before stirring. Using a whisk or spoon, start to stir the mixture and gently incorporate the cream. Be careful not to overwork it. The mixture should take on a glossy appearance. Add unsalted butter or corn syrup to help the ganache retain its shine.

Use the ganache right away if the recipe calls for it. You can always reheat it at a low temperature. If you want, let it cool completely, either by leaving it out at room temperature or by putting it in the refrigerator. This will thicken the ganache. The ganache will cool faster if you spread it out in a clean baking sheet.

You can adjust the consistency by using more cream for thicker ganache and less for thinner. You can use the ganache as a glaze, or to top your cake. Transform it into whipped or piped frosting. It also makes a great filling for layer cake, macaroons and other sandwich-type cookies. Turn it into chocolate fondue by heating it and serving with fruit. Add half and half to thin as necessary. Along these same lines, you can make beautiful chocolate-covered strawberries. Place them on wax paper to harden.

If you plan to cover a cake with your ganache, make sure the cake has cooled completely. You can opt to chill the cake to speed up the process, and proceed as you would to ice any other cake.

To make ganache truffles, cover and refrigerate it until firm. Roll the ganache to form small balls, which you can then cover in chopped nuts, powdered sugar or whatever else you want to top your truffles. The truffles can stay in the refrigerator for a few weeks and be frozen for a couple months.