You have all of your holiday shopping done, don’t you? I bet everything is wrapped and in gift bags, and that you know how to tie ribbons into bows without cursing. I suspect everyone but me knows how to… fluff? Is that what they call it? I bet everyone knows how to arrange the tissue paper inside the gift bags so that it looks perfectly festive and even a tad enthusiastic. I have a hunch that your gifts are homemade and hand-lettered; that you made your own cards. Oh, you didn’t? Well, come sit down over here. You’re among friends.
I ran to Duane Reade this morning and bought a roll of brown shipping paper and decided at once that the gift wrap theme this year would be “rustic”. I also wiped out the gift bag supply; sorry about that. Then I went home and made my first homemade gift. Yes, I know it is both Hanukah and Christmas week but I don’t like to be rushed. Plus, if you only have time this week to warm hearts and minds with but a single homemade treat, I hardly think this would be an unwelcome choice.
I’ve made hot fudge sauce before; I shared the recipe my mother always made from her worn copy The Silver Palate Cookbook a few years ago. But as it turns out, I have room in my heart and ladled over my ice cream for two hot fudge sauces. This one hails from the late Gourmet (can anyone believe it’s been only two years?) and I decked it out for the holidays with some peppermint extract and some poor candy cane that had an unfortunate run-in with one of the most random but secretly delightful kitchen purchases I’ve made this year. The earlier hot fudge sauce was a bit on the bittersweet side and it could be a tiny bit tricky in that a small amount of overcooking can lead to grittiniess and the dreaded separation (of cocoa solids). This is a less bitter, harder to mess up and reheats wonderfully. Poured over a scoop of ice cream, it stops quickly its tracks and cools to the hallmark fudge sauce stage of slight chewiness. (This is kind of my favorite part.)
Plus, it smells the way I imagine the Junior Mint factory must, i.e. like the heavens above. I will probably never fulfill my fantasy of sneaking into it unnoticed and falling asleep on a pile of soft blankets under a bubbling cauldron of chocolate and mint, with visions of peppermint patties and layered brownies dancing in my head. But now that I have this in the fridge, I don’t feel as bad about it.
Much more to come: I didn’t mean to disappear for a week, in fact, I have a ton of cooking to share — almost enough for daily updates until Friday. I really hope to make it happen; I think you should all have a talk with this guy if it doesn’t. I also hope to have some early cookbook news coming
today soon, so watch this space. Whee!
One year ago: Broiled Mussels and Spicy Gingerbread Cookies
Two years ago: Creamed Mushrooms on Chive Butter Toast, Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce and Mushroom Marsala Pasta with Artichokes
Three years ago: Feta Salsa, Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting, Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad and Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake
Four years ago: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies and Austrian Raspberry Shortbread
Five years ago: Winter Panzanella, Orchiette with Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula, Chicken Skewers with Dukkah Crust and Pecan Squares
Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce
Adapted, just a bit, from Gourmet
Now, not that one needs a reason to embrace hot fudge sauce, I mean, other than it’s Monday and there’s ice cream in the freezer, but one of the things that brought this on was that I found a product called golden syrup on the grocery store shelf when I hadn’t expected to, and this has kicked off a slew of cooking that was usually limited to corn syrup. Golden syrup is a pure cane syrup that can be used instead of corn syrup in most candy and caramel recipes and tastes infinitely better, as it has a slight caramel flavor to it. If you live outside the U.S., especially in the U.K. you’ve probably been using it your whole life but here it’s still a specialty item. I took the fact that Whole Foods on Houston was selling it in two different packages (canned and bottled) as a sign that this is probably slowly changing. (It’s also sold online over here and a bunch of other places Google can point you to, if needed.) If you cannot get golden syrup and don’t wish to use corn syrup, both honey and maple syrup will work as well, but of course impart different flavors.
Canning: Yes, I know I tempted you with tiny jars of ready-to-gift fudge, and I didn’t mean to be a tease, it’s just that products with dairy in them — and this has a ton — are not safe to can. But I see no reason why you cannot simply leave a note that it should be kept in the fridge and used within a week or two, right?
Makes about 2 cups
2/3 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup or golden syrup (see Note above)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, ideally Dutch-processed
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or level 1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or, about 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips), divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, or to taste
Crushed candy canes, for serving (optional)
In a 1 1/2 to 2-quart heavy saucepan, bring cream, syrup, sugar, cocoa, salt (if you’d like the salt to remain slightly textured, add it with the butter and extract at the end) and half the chocolate to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in remaining chocolate, butter and extract and stir until smooth. Cool the sauce to warm before serving it so that it can thicken up. While very hot, it will only slide off the ice cream and pool in the alleys of the bowl and that would be tragic, right?
Do ahead: Sauce keeps in fridge for a week (according to Gourmet), though we’ve kept it longer, closer to two weeks, and lived to tell about it. Reheat gently before serving, so that it is still thick but just loose enough to pour.