Total time:20 mins, plus 2 hours’ chilling time
Servings:8 (makes about 1 cup)
So when I offer a recipe, I want it to be worth your time, money and energy. Sure, for almost anything, it would be easier to grab something off the shelf at the supermarket. That just means the payoff has to be there to ensure your effort is worth it.
This Dark Chocolate Syrup is definitely worth it. Even better, 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 anything store-bought out of the water. The syrup, which could arguably be called a sauce, is glossy, silky and packed with a double dose of chocolate. It’s more bittersweet than sweet and is equally at home in drinks (chocolate milk, egg creams), on top of ice cream and on the side with a bowl of ruby-red strawberries.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the ubiquitous brown squeeze bottles of chocolate syrup. Generally, they’re quite sweet, thin and lacking in robust chocolate flavor. I challenged myself to address all those things that bugged 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 gets you the most concentrated chocolate flavor. Since it is so prominent, be sure you get a good cocoa powder that you like. I call for Dutch-process here, and my favorites skew dark and rich (black cocoa would look especially dramatic). As with my Chocolate Bundt Cake, my top picks are King Arthur Baking’s Double Dark Cocoa Blend, out of stock at the moment, and Droste. Even with a great cocoa powder, it generally won’t give you the same luscious texture as sauces made with bar chocolate, because it has less fat. To compensate, some recipes call for adding butter, heavy cream or some other source of fat. But that proved problematic given my interest in a dairy-free recipe and a minimal ingredient list.
I decided to roll with adding some unsweetened chocolate to the mix. Gram for gram, unsweetened chocolate has as much as three times the fat as cocoa powder. Moreover, this baking staple meant I could still have total control over the sweetness of the finished syrup, which wouldn’t be as easy with, say, a bittersweet or semisweet bar chocolate, especially given variations among brands. I incorporated the unsweetened chocolate into the syrup much as you would make a ganache, by letting it stand in hot liquid and then whisking.
About that sweetness: I started thinking of how I could wring the most out of, hopefully, a single ingredient. It’s not uncommon to see recipes or products that employ two types of sweetener. In store-bought versions, at least one is often corn syrup — sometimes regular, sometimes high-fructose corn syrup, 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 iciness and keeps things delightfully smooth and scoopable.
The source of corn syrup’s superpower: It’s an invert sugar. Without getting too in the weeds, the smaller molecules of invert sugar lend it the characteristic texture of a thick liquid that imparts glossy sheen and smoothness. In a chocolate syrup, those were both things I wanted, and a liquid sweetener would also keep it pourable straight from the fridge.
As much as I appreciate corn syrup, I thought it was perhaps a little one-note for my purposes. So I turned to Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is 50 percent invert sugar, according to Dan Souza at Cook’s Illustrated. Golden syrup is one of my favorite pantry ingredients thanks to its subtle toffee flavor. It’s very common in recipes from the United Kingdom, though you can find it at many American supermarkets these days, too (I bought a convenient squeeze bottle at my local Giant). Don’t 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 the syrup will no longer be vegan.
The golden syrup and unsweetened chocolate went a long way toward adding body and creamy texture to my syrup. Still, one thing was niggling me, which no other recipe seemed to mention: Even if you whisk in the cocoa powder well, it’s very easy to end up with some grittiness. My mind jumped back to a dark chocolate sauce I made several years ago with ice cream maven Jeni Britton, of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. That recipe from her second book is a bit different from what I was going for, but I immediately knew I wanted to adapt its method of running the sauce through the food processor. That 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 referred to as a stick blender, worked wonders, turning the syrup universally smooth and shiny. (A mini food processor would also work well. So would a larger food processor, if you scale up the recipe.)
At first blush, the syrup seemed on the thin side. The answer wasn’t tweaking ingredient amounts, though. Instead, all that was required was patience. About two hours in the fridge thickened the syrup to just the right consistency. It remained fluid and pourable, easily incorporated into beverages or cascaded over ice cream. (If you prefer your chocolate to turn into a crackling coating, check out my colleague Olga Massov’s Chocolate Shell for Ice Cream.) It’s also thick enough as a dip for fruit or, um, a spoon. You can guess how I know that.
Here are a few guidelines on how to make the most of the syrup:
Egg cream. Some say you can only make an egg cream, the iconic New York beverage of milk, chocolate syrup and seltzer, with Fox’s U-bet syrup, but some people need to relax. The instructions are pretty universal, in that you pour chocolate syrup into a tall glass, followed by milk and then seltzer, giving it a quick stir. Check out Katz’s Egg Cream for more specifics, though know that you make it by eyeballing the proportions in the glass and not necessarily with exact amounts.
Chocolate milk. Stir your desired amount of syrup into a glass of cold milk, 1 or more tablespoons of syrup per cup of milk. Or shake the syrup and milk together in a lidded jar. This will be less sweet than the chocolate milk your kids may be used to, so keep that in mind.
Ice cream. The thickness of the syrup may vary depending on the brand of cocoa you use or how hot it gets during cooking. If you find you need it thinner for drizzling over ice cream, you can gently warm it in the microwave for a few seconds or thin with a small amount of water.
Recipe notes: The sauce needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before serving and will last in a lidded container for up to 2 weeks. It will thicken when chilled and may thicken more as time goes on, so thin with water, as needed.
Lyle’s Golden Syrup is available at well-stocked supermarkets and shops that sell British goods, as well as online.
Want to save this recipe? Click the bookmark icon below the serving size at the top of this page, then go to My Reading List in your washingtonpost.com user profile.
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 milliliters) water, plus more as needed
- 4 tablespoons (80 grams) Lyle’s Golden Syrup (may substitute honey or agave nectar)
- 1/4 cup (25 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 ounce (28 grams) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Pinch fine salt
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the water and golden syrup and stir until the syrup is dissolved. When the mixture comes to a boil, add the cocoa powder and whisk to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stirring constantly until the powder has mostly dissolved and turned aromatic, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the unsweetened chocolate and let sit undisturbed until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
Whisk the softened chocolate into the syrup, followed by the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.
Scrape the syrup into the cup of your immersion blender (or a tall jar or container large enough to use the blender with) or the bowl of a mini food processor. Blend or process until completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the cup or bowl as needed. It may not seem necessary, but this step gets rid of cocoa clumps that can come across as gritty in the finished syrup.
Transfer the syrup to a container, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. It will thicken as it chills but will remain pourable. Give the syrup a quick stir with a spoon before serving, thinning 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: 71 mg; Carbohydrates: 11 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 8 g; Protein: 1 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
From Voraciously staff writer Becky Krystal.
Tested by Becky Krystal and Ann Maloney; email questions to email@example.com.
Did you make this recipe? Take a photo and tag us on Instagram with #eatvoraciously.