Friday, February 14, 2014

My Mother's Chocolate Sauce

by Sheila Connolly

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'll give you a yummy (and quick and easy) chocolate recipe in a minute, but first...


(Okay, I'll stop shouting now)

You can’t have too many chocolate recipes, right? Especially not at this time of year, when after shoveling the last batch of snow you want something warm and comforting.

My mother’s Sunday Dinner with the Relatives menu seldom varied. These occurred every three weeks on average—my grandmother lived in Manhattan and in the years when we lived in New Jersey (which coincided with the years when I learned to cook) she enjoyed getting out of the city into the “country.” After a while the step-grands (the Swedish ones) were added to the mix, but the menu didn’t change.

It went like this: standing rib roast (two ribs), cooked rare. (Would you believe I’ve never tried to cook one? Of course, now it would take a third mortgage to afford one.) Potatoes. Something green (beans or broccoli). And for dessert, vanilla ice cream with home-made chocolate sauce.

Part of the charm of this dessert was the bowls, which I inherited (you’ll see them later). But I remember the suspense when my mother made the sauce at the last minute (must be served hot!), because there was always the risk that it would crystalize and be ruined. Or turn into sticky candy. I think this instilled a long-standing fear of cooking with chocolate in me, at least until microwaves came along and it became much easier to melt the stuff. And back then, there was Baker’s Chocolate, period. Milk or dark, but no fancy gourmet brands.

The recipe originated in the trusty battered (ooh, a food pun!) Fanny Farmer cookbook that was my mother’s first (I inherited it). You can see from the page that it has seen much wear—and also that she amended the recipe.

But then, amongst the recipe cards from about the same era, in her own hand, is yet another variation of the recipe ingredients! Is that the ultimate version?

Anyway, here goes:

2 squares (2 oz.) unsweetened chocolate (use whatever brand you prefer)
2 Tblsp butter
1/2 cup boiling water
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light Karo syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

My heirloom double boiler
In the top of a double boiler (okay, how many of you have a double boiler? Raise your hand! I’m using my grandmother’s) over hot (not boiling) water, melt the chocolate.

Chocolate, melted
Add the butter and stir until melted, then add the boiling water gradually, stirring continuously.

Butter and water added
 Raise the heat, then add the sugar and the corn syrup.  Cook at high heat (as high as a double boiler will go, anyway) for about five minutes—make sure the sugar is dissolved.

All in!
Cool slightly, then add vanilla and salt.
My mother used to make this right before we sat down at the dining table for the main course, and leave it in the double-boiler over low heat until it was time for dessert.  She would serve it over vanilla ice cream—and here’s where the dishes come into play.  You will notice there’s a nice deep well in the bottom, so the scoops of ice cream sat over it, and when you poured the sauce on top, you had a handy little reservoir of warm sauce waiting for you on the bottom.

The chocolate bonus
It tastes just the way I remember it. I hope my mother is pleased!

Ah yes, there's this book that came out last week--yup, that one, the BEST SELLER. No chocolate that I can recall, but surely there would have been some at tea in the manor house?


  1. Congrats on hitting the best seller list!

    Now I must go hunt up some chocolate.

  2. Sheila - I have a double boiler (raising my hand), but honestly I tend to slap a heatproof bowl on a saucepan or use the microwave. (In our little kitchen, one must dig out the double boiler from the backwoods of a lower cabinet--and "one" is usually too lazy to do it! :))

    Great day for chocolate--and bestsellers--Marc and I send you delicious congratulations!

    ~ Cleo

  3. Hand raised......I have a double boiler and use it frequently!!! It's the only thing I use to make my queso; in fact I gave one to each of my boys so they could make queso themselves!!!!

    Congratulations on being on the best seller list. Can't wait to read your BESTSELLER!!!!

  4. Sharon S, you'll have to tell us about the queso!

    Congratulations Sheila--and the bowls and chocolate are beautiful!

    1. So simple, it's from my SIL and we make it only a couple times a year, especially SuperBowl. One pound Velveeta, one can Rotel tomatoes and 1/2-1 pound pork sausage. Melt the Velveeta with the Rotel tomatoes in the double boiler, cook up the sausage in a skillet and drain, when cheese mixture is melted add as much sausage as you like. We used to add the whole pound package, but I have found that half the amount is sufficient. No, it's not healthy, but it is good - serve with Frito Scoops. I save some queso for breakfast the next is so yummy served over a poached egg!!!

  5. Sheila, congratulations on hitting the NYT. Enjoy every minute! Love the sauce. Gorgeous and mouth-watering.

    Daryl / Avery

  6. Super congrats in the NYT, Sheila! I love chocolate sauce and this looks wonderful. I also have a double-boiler, because I'm old enough to, but I use a heatproof glass bowl as Cleo does. I'll have to run a controlled experiment to compare. How tragic for me.

    Thanks for a fun post.


  7. My thanks to your Mom for this yummy recipe.
    And congratulations on the book!

  8. I'm old enough to have a double boiler, too! This chocolate sauce looks heavenly and makes an easy dessert after a big meal. Congrats on the NY Times!! go maire tú! (That's supposed to be congratulations according to the online dictionary!)

  9. Congratulations on the book! A toppling TBR stack is not a bad thing.

    And thanks for the yummy recipe. Sounds similar to my grandmother's recipe, although I think she used cocoa. She was a marvelous cook but never measured anything. We tried to watch and guess, sometimes with successful results and sometimes not. The picture looks just like her chocolate sauce looked - yummy. Will be trying this!

  10. Thanks, all. I have to say I was happy when I tasted the sauce and it tasted just the way it always did when my mother made it--and I realized I had never made it myself, because it was "her" recipe. Maybe now I can get brave and try out a microwave version (carefully!). I will confess that my first try at fudge crystallized in mid-air, so I didn't try again for years.

  11. Congrats, Sheila, on making the NYT bestseller list! My mother had a double boiler, but I never did. Nonetheless, this chocolate sauce sounds heavenly!

  12. Like Cleo, my double boiler is stashed waaaaay back in a cabinet and rarely sees the light of day. I love this recipe, though, and will be sure to try it. Such a lovely remembrance of your mom. The bowls are beautiful. And what's better than a little pocket of the sauce at the bottom? Yum!

    Huge congratulations on hitting the NYT's list! I'm thrilled for you! Yeehaw!