This Silky Dark Chocolate Syrup Recipe is an All-Purpose Dessert Star

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Dark Chocolate Syrup

Total time:20 min + 2h refrigeration

Servings:8 (makes about 1 cup)

Total time:20 min + 2h refrigeration

Servings:8 (makes about 1 cup)

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I am a recipe writer but also a realist. Does everything have to be done from A to Z at home? Of course not. As Our Queen Ina (Garten) is famous for saying, “store bought is fine.” I would go a little further and say that often it is as good as homemade or even better depending on the food in question.

So when I come up with a recipe, I want it to be worth your time, money, and energy. Of course, for almost everything, it would be easier to grab something off the supermarket shelf. It just means that the payoff has to be there to make sure your efforts are worthwhile.

This dark chocolate syrup is definitely worth it. Best of all, the investment is minimal. Six ingredients, 20 minutes of work, and—this is the hardest part—a two-hour chill is all you need for a chocolate syrup that blows everything store-bought out of the water. The syrup, which could arguably be called a sauce, is shiny, silky and packed with a double dose of chocolate. More sweet and sour than sweet, it is also at home in drinks (chocolate milk, egg creams), on ice cream and as an accompaniment to a bowl of ruby-colored strawberries.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the ubiquitous brown chocolate syrup bottles. Generally, they are quite sweet, thin, and lack robust chocolate flavor. I challenged myself to resolve all of these things that were bothering me, as well as create something that would work for people with different dietary needs, namely vegan and gluten-free.

Many chocolate syrup recipes rely solely on cocoa powder – pure cocoa solids, which give you the most concentrated chocolate flavor. Since it’s so important, make sure you get good cocoa powder that you like. I call it the Dutch process here, and my favorites are dark and rich (dark cocoa would look especially dramatic). As with my Chocolate Bundt Cake, my top picks are King Arthur Baking’s Double Dark Cocoa Mix, currently out of stock, and Droste. Even with good cocoa powder, it usually won’t give you the same flavorful texture as sauces made with bar chocolate because it’s lower in fat. To compensate, some recipes call for the addition of butter, heavy cream, or another source of fat. But that proved problematic given my interest in a dairy-free recipe and minimal ingredient list.

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I decided to roll by adding unsweetened chocolate to the mix. Gram for gram, unsweetened chocolate contains up to three times more fat than cocoa powder. Plus, this staple meant I could always have complete control over the sweetness of the finished syrup, which wouldn’t be as easy with, say, a bittersweet or semisweet chocolate bar, especially considering due to variations between brands. I incorporated the unsweetened chocolate into the syrup like you would a ganache, letting it sit in a hot liquid then whisking.

About that sweetness: I started thinking about how I could hopefully get the most out of just one ingredient. It’s not uncommon to see recipes or products that use two types of sweeteners. In store-bought versions, at least one is often corn syrup — sometimes regular corn syrup, sometimes high-fructose, sometimes both. I’m a big fan of less processed regular corn syrup, which is less sweet than sugar. It’s a crucial ingredient in a variety of recipes, including pecan pie, marshmallows, and even ice cream, where it staves off the cold and keeps things deliciously smooth and easy to grab.

Everything you need to know about cocoa powder

The source of corn syrup’s superpower: It’s an invert sugar. Without interfering too much with the weeds, the smallest invert sugar molecules give it the characteristic texture of a thick liquid that gives it shine and softness. In a chocolate syrup, those are the two things I wanted, and a liquid sweetener would also keep it pourable straight from the fridge.

As much as I enjoy corn syrup, I thought maybe it was a small note for my purposes. So I turned to Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is 50% invert sugar, according to Cook’s Illustrated’s Dan Souza. Golden Syrup is one of my favorite ingredients in the pantry thanks to its subtle caramel flavor. It’s very common in UK recipes, although you can also find it in many US supermarkets these days (I bought a handy squeeze bottle from my local giant). You do not have any ? No problem. We tested the recipe with agave syrup and honey, both of which worked well with slight variations in flavor and texture. If you use honey, keep in mind that the syrup will no longer be vegan.

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The golden syrup and unsweetened chocolate went a long way in adding body and a creamy texture to my syrup. Still, one thing tickled me, that no other recipe seemed to mention: even if you whip the cocoa powder well, it’s very easy to end up with a bit of a graininess. My mind flashed back to a dark chocolate sauce I made several years ago with ice cream maven Jeni Britton, of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. This recipe from her second book is a little different from what I was looking for, but I knew right away that I wanted to adapt her method of running the sauce through the food processor. This wasn’t going to work for my relatively small amount of syrup, so I turned to my handy immersion blender. A minute or two with this tool, often called a hand blender, worked wonders, making the syrup universally smooth and shiny. (A mini food processor would also work well. As would a larger food processor, if you scale up the recipe.)

At first glance, the syrup seemed thin. The answer wasn’t to change the ingredient amounts, however. Instead, all it took was patience. About two hours in the fridge thickened the syrup to the right consistency. It stayed smooth and pourable, easily incorporated into drinks or cascading over ice cream. (If you prefer your chocolate to turn into a crackling coating, check out my colleague Olga Massov’s Chocolate Ice Cream Shell.) It’s also thick enough as a fruit dip or, uh, scoop. You can guess how I know.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of the syrup:

Egg cream. Some say you can only make custard, New York’s signature drink made of milk, chocolate syrup and seltzer water, with Fox’s U-bet Syrup, but some people need relax. The instructions are pretty universal, in that you pour chocolate syrup into a tall glass, followed by milk, then seltzer water, stirring quickly. To verify Katz Egg Custard for more details, know that you do it by observing the proportions in the glass and not necessarily with exact quantities.

Chocolate milk. Mix the desired amount of syrup in a glass of cold milk, 1 or more tablespoons of syrup per cup of milk. Or shake syrup and milk together in a lidded jar. It will be less sweet than the chocolate milk your kids are used to, so keep that in mind.

Ice. The thickness of the syrup may vary depending on the brand of cocoa you use or how hot it becomes during cooking. If you find you need it to drizzle over ice cream, you can warm it gently in the microwave for a few seconds or dilute it with a small amount of water.

Recipe Notes: Sauce should be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before serving and will keep in a covered container for up to 2 weeks. It will thicken when cooled and may thicken further over time, so dilute with water as needed.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup is available in well-stocked supermarkets and shops that sell UK products, as well as online.

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  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 milliliters) water, plus more if needed
  • 4 tablespoons (80 grams) Lyle’s Golden Syrup (can substitute honey or agave nectar)
  • 1/4 cup (25 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 ounce (28 grams) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of fine salt

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine water and golden syrup and stir until syrup is dissolved. When the mixture comes to a boil, add the cocoa powder and whisk to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low, stirring constantly, until powder is mostly dissolved and fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, add unsweetened chocolate and let stand until softened, 3-5 minutes.

Whisk the softened chocolate into the syrup, followed by the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.

Pour the syrup into the cup of your immersion blender (or a large jar or container large enough to use the blender) or the bowl of a mini food processor. Blend or process until completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down sides of cup or bowl as needed. This may not seem necessary, but this step eliminates cocoa clumps that may appear grainy in the finished syrup.

Transfer the syrup to a container, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. It will thicken as it cools but will remain runny. Quickly stir the syrup with a spoon before serving, diluting with more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as desired.

Per serving (2 tablespoons)

Calories: 59; Total fat: 2 g; Saturated fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: mg; sodium: 71mg; Carbohydrates: 11g; Dietary fiber: 2g; Sugar: 8g; Protein: 1g

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

From Voraciously editor Becky Krystal.

Tested by Becky Krystal and Ann Maloney; questions by e-mail to [email protected].

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