Desserts such as ice cream and cake are elevated to a new level with the addition of a sauce. Although fruit sauces are popular, there is nothing like a chocolate sauce to compliment a bowl of vanilla ice cream or a slice of pound cake. While there are several jarred options available at the grocery stores, chocolate sauce is also available with a few ingredients from your kitchen. Besides topping your favorite dessert, sauces can provide that extra pizazz by a well-placed drizzle or streak on a plated dessert such as Angel Food Cake or brownies.
Many formulas for chocolate sauce can be made from ingredients already in your cupboards. Some sauces are simple enough to make in a few minutes over a stovetop. Depending on personal taste and desired outcome, you can try your hand at a chocolate sauce, a “hot fudge” sauce”, chocolate syrup, ganache, or even a chocolate shell that hardens when poured on a cold dessert.
The difference between the several types of chocolate toppings as well as how to flavor and store the sauce, will be presented in this article. Ideas for usage and pairings will be suggested. The shelf life and storage of the sauce will be discussed as well as how to make a sauce worthy of gift-giving.
If you’re like me, you have dipped the spoon into the cold jarred hot fudge sauce stored in your refrigerator door just because. At times, I have placed the cold sauce straight on my ice cream while in other instances, I have warmed the chocolate so that it naturally thins out and partly melts the top layer of my ice cream. When I have found myself without a jar of hot fudge sauce, I have resorted to using the chocolate syrup intended to make chocolate milk. It is not the same consistency and has a sharper taste, but when I am in need of liquid chocolate, everything is fair game. There is no need to rattle through the salad dressings in the door of my refrigerator in search of a chocolate sauce anymore, now that I have experience making it fresh anytime the mood moves me.
What Is the Difference Between Sauce, Syrup, Shell, Ganache, and Fudge Sauce?
The choices for making a pourable chocolate product are many, but there are a few ingredients that are common in most recipes. These tend to be ingredients that most people have on hand such as sugar, cream or milk, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, corn syrup, coconut oil, butter and sweetened condensed milk. Vanilla, salt and extracts are often added for a flavor boost. The recipe you choose may be based on your pantry ingredients, your desired outcome, or your experience. Before you decide which one to make, let’s briefly look at the differences between them.
First, they are all pourable chocolate. Their thickness or viscosity will depend on ingredients and temperature. In general, chocolate syrup and chocolate sauce are the most similar, with sauce being slightly thicker than syrup. Syrup often has corn syrup as a sweetener and is more associated with mixing with cold milk to make chocolate milk. However, the names syrup and sauce are not defined by industry standards so often the two names are used interchangeably.
Ganache is generally the least sweet of the sauces. It is pourable when made but firms up after it is cooled. It can be reheated easily and is a great option as you can make it with as little as two ingredients, and it has other uses as well. Most methods call for heating a measure of heavy cream just below the boiling point and then pouring it over the same amount of chopped chocolate. More chocolate equals a thicker ganache.
Fudge sauce is thick and most people associate it atop ice cream. It is warmed to make it pourable and it is best known for complimenting ice cream as it flavors and slightly melts the dish. When you order a sundae, you are most likely to get hot fudge sauce. Fudge sauce is more indulgent than sauces or syrups. The texture is different due to the rich ingredients such as heavy cream or sweet and condensed milk.
A chocolate “shell” is also liquid-that is until it hits something cold like ice cream or a plate of cold strawberries. It is basically chocolate that has been thinned down with fat and hardens when cooled, forming a breakable shell that becomes part of the eating experience. Most recipes call for coconut oil to be used to thin the chocolate as it is liquid when melted, and solid at room temperature. It has gained in popularity in recent years and has become a staple in many kitchens.
What Chocolate Should be Used to Make Liquid Chocolate?
There are two basic ways to build a chocolate sauce: by using cocoa, or by using chocolate itself (bars, chips, pieces). Most people have “regular, natural” cocoa in their cabinets and will automatically use that. However, in the last several years, it has become vogue to use dutched processed cocoa, “special dark” cocoa and even black cocoa. The darker the cocoa is, the more intense the flavor will be. Because we are not baking with the cocoa, we do not need to concern ourselves with the acid/base ratio contained in the various cocoas like we would if we were making cupcakes.. They are all interchangeable in the chocolate sauce world, so it comes down to a matter of preference and convenience.
The same can be said of the chocolate pieces or bars used in a recipe. The result will be different depending on the percentage of cocoa you choose. For instance, bittersweet chocolate has less sugar than a milk chocolate and will provide a different taste and texture. Most recipes call for semisweet chocolate, which is a dark, middle of the road choice.
How Can I Alter the Flavor of My Chocolate?
All pourable chocolate can be modified by adding complimentary flavors. The most popular ingredient is an extract such as vanilla, raspberry, mint, or orange. Of course this would have to be coordinated with your dessert as a mint chocolate sauce would not pair so well with a dish of strawberry ice cream. Other flavors can be conjured up by using a few teaspoons of spirits such as rum or brandy. For a little heat, you can add cayenne pepper or chili powder, or some cinnamon for a Mexican touch. Lastly, if you are making a recipe that calls for chocolate chips, you can start with flavored chips.
How Do I Store My Chocolate Sauces?
Depending on the ingredients, it is best to refrigerate your sauces for up to two weeks. This is significantly shorter than the shelf life of the store purchased jars. That is due to the lack of preservatives. But if you don’t anticipate finishing off your batch within a couple of weeks, it is easy enough to pop into the freezer. To thaw, simply place in the refrigerator for several hours and soak in a warm water bath to heat when ready for use. If you are ambitious, you can water process and seal your jars according to standard canning procedures.
Once you master your chocolate sauces, it’s only natural that you want to share your liquid love. Divide your recipe in thirds and flavor each third accordingly. Pour into small jars and embellish with a sticker and ribbon and don’t forget to add a note about the need for refrigeration. There are times when circumstance dictates grabbing a jar of chocolate sauce from the grocery store shelves, but nothing can compete with the jar that you make from home and your heart.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore