There are a lot of basics that people make for themselves instead of buying them - crackers, marshmallows, deodorant, spreadable butter to name just a few that I've either done sporadically or plan to. But the one thing I do make and will always make and will never, ever buy the commercial alternative to again is chocolate syrup. I used to think that the Hershey's syrup was great, and then I went for several years without having any, until Hazel began to like chocolate milk and since it's the only milk she'll drink (me too, can't imagine anything more disgusting than a glass of plain milk. Ugh!) I dutifully bought the Hersheys. Now I don't know if my tastes had changed in the intervening years, or their recipe had, but it was awful. Teeth-achingly sweet, not very chocolatey, and fairly expensive. I remembered that when I was a kid Mum used to make chocolate syrup for icecream and milk and I thought I'd give it a go again. People, you NEED to make this yourself too, it's the best! And really easy to make. There were masses of recipes online so I grabbed a few and started experimenting. Here is my recipe:
1 slightly heaped cup of cocoa*, sifted
1.5 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1.25 to 1.5 cups water (depends on how runny you want it)
1-2 tsp vanilla
- Combine all the ingredients except the vanilla in a saucepan and whisk together. The mixture will start out foamy but will end up lovely and thick and glossy by the end.
- Bring to the boil over a moderate heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Take care not to let it boil over or burn on the bottom of the pan.
- Let cool and stir in vanilla to taste.
- Keep refrigerated.
*Use the best cocoa you can, it really makes the difference! My dream is to make this up using the Valhrona cocoa, but that's not really in the budget at the moment so I buy the Trade Aid cocoa which has a lovely flavour (but is slightly grainy). Plain old Cadbury's is perfectly fine too.
This recipe is infinitely customisable, want it a bit sweeter? Add more sugar. Less intense? Put in less cocoa. Runnier? Use a bit more water. Chocolate peppermint? Put in peppermint essence instead of vanilla. Boozier? Slosh in some rum or Baileys. I guess it goes without saying that the last option is for the grownups :)
Our sauce never lasts long enough to worry about sterilising the jar beforehand, but if you were making it as a gift or planning on storing it for awhile, it would be a good idea.