Janet Bolin, Daryl Wood Gerber and I go way back. We all joined Sisters in Crime and their Guppy chapter about the same time. For years we were critique partners, which led to us becoming close friends. I'm always sorry that we live so far apart from each other, and now that I've actually seen the hot fudge sauce, I'm really sorry I wasn't close enough to sneak by Janet's house for the tastings!
And now, Janet!
Fudge, Pure and Simple
I confess—I love hot fudge sundaes. Hold the whipped cream, hold the chopped nuts, hold the cherry on top, and give me gobs of hot fudge sliding down a mound of ice cream and (if I’m lucky) stopping frozen in its tracks.
Years ago, friends and I always went to a certain restaurant for special occasions. Others would order sundaes with all the whipped cream and other goodies piled on top. I went for what they called the “Junior Hot Fudge Sundae.” Yes, the amount was small (well, sort of), but the fudge was semi-sweet and luscious, with no creamy or nutty distractions.
After I moved away, that restaurant closed (hmmmmm….)
What’s a fudge-lover to do?
First of all, chocolate is temperamental. It doesn’t look melted sometimes when it is, and overheating it can cause it to separate. And, as they say, microwave ovens vary, so I had adjust the timing and power to get the chocolate to melt just right. Which means you may have to keep trying and tasting…
First, I tried baker’s chocolate, and it nearly always came out grainy and gritty. It tasted fine, and I could pretend those grains were teeny chocolate chips. However, even in the photos I took, it looked a bit wretched.
The simplest recipe I came up with that can be made in only a few minutes while someone else is doing battle with an ice cream scoop and a container of hard ice cream (desperation for chocolate is the mother of invention) can be a bit grainy:
HOT FUDGE SAUCE
Melt one square of unsweetened baker’s chocolate in a small, covered dish in the microwave oven. Stir in two tablespoons of honey. Warm it again, but only slightly, and spoon over the ice cream. Serves two admirably.
My old Joy of Cooking cookbook says that chocolate that hardens on the ice cream will “enrapture” children. The first time I tried the above recipe, basically half chocolate and half honey, I put the honey in the dish with the chocolate before I melted the chocolate. The honey boiled. The fudge sauce turned into crunchy chocolate candy. I liked it, but no one became enraptured.
Finally, after many experiments and taste tests (poor me), I gave up on baker’s chocolate and used unsweetened powdered cocoa instead, and the recipe turned out well the first time—yay! A keeper, it’s semi-sweet like the sauce I remembered from those Junior Hot Fudge Sundaes from long ago, and it only takes a few minutes:
HOT FUDGE SAUCE
In a microwaveable dish, combine:
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons of cold water—added two at a time and stirred after each addition
Stir to create a thickish paste.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Cover the dish and heat in your microwave oven for approximately 2 minutes on a medium/low to medium setting.
Stir to completely melt the butter and blend it into the paste (which will now resemble a sauce!)
Stir in ½ teaspoon vanilla.
If necessary, reheat (gently) before drizzling the sauce on ice cream.
Hints: The rules for making fudge sauce are similar to the rules for making candy. For best results, make your sauce on a non-humid, non-rainy day. Cooking the sauce longer makes it (or the candy) harder. Don’t beat the sauce. Stir it gently to prevent it from becoming sugary. But don’t worry if it does separate. It will still taste good…
Make it in small batches—each time you reheat the sauce, you risk causing it to separate or turn into something resembling chocolate chips (which, as I said, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.)
With all that talk about whipped cream, nuts, and cherries on top, you probably think I’m a purist when it comes to hot fudge sundaes. Actually, hot fudge tastes just fine over the usual vanilla ice cream, but also over chocolate, mint chip, or orange sherbet. I’ve never tried hot fudge sauce over ginger ice cream. Just the thought makes me swoon…
Oh, and a brownie underneath it all might be nice.
In Janet Bolin’s Threadville Mysteries, Willow Vanderling teaches machine embroidery and helps solve mysteries in a village of textile arts shops. The first novel in the series, Dire Threads, was nominated for an Agatha for Best First Mystery and for the Bony Blithe. The second Threadville Mystery, Threaded for Trouble, is on the shortlist for the Bony Blithe. The third book in the series, Thread and Buried, which involves sleuthing on the way to and from an ice cream stand, will be on store shelves June 4 and can be pre-ordered from your favorite bookstore or from these booksellers. Two more Threadville Mysteries are in the works.
Janet lives on the shore of Lake Erie with two rascally dogs who resemble Sally-Forth and Tally-Ho in the Threadville Mystery series.
Visit Janet at Threadville Mysteries, on facebook and twitter.