Ask Peter choco­late sauce

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I some­times make a last-minute choco­late sauce, melt­ing choco­late with cream, but I am al­ways a bit ner­vous in case I get the liq­uid-to­choco­late ra­tio wrong (as hap­pened once) and the choco­late seizes. Could you please give me a guide­line to fol­low? And does it mat­ter what type of choco­late you are work­ing with? Kate

I love the sim­plic­ity of ice cream and choco­late sauce, and it doesn’t have to be just vanilla ice cream. I quite like a scoop each of raspberry sor­bet and vanilla ice cream, or espresso ice cream with hokey pokey ice cream. Stone­fruit and gin­ger-based ice creams and sor­bets go well with a white choco­late sauce, and some­thing like a rich Christ­mas pud­ding ice cream goes re­ally well with a dark choco­late sauce (aim for 70 per cent plus), with some runny cream driz­zled on as well. Milk choco­late will pro­duce a softer sauce, so re­duce the liq­uids by about 10 per cent.

Gen­er­ally the thick­ness of the fi­nal sauce will be de­pen­dent on the ra­tio of choco­late to liq­uids (usu­ally cream, but some­times milk or wa­ter). You can make a choco­late sauce a lit­tle more glossy by adding golden syrup or maple syrup to the liq­uids, which will ob­vi­ously make it sweeter. Booze can be added which will thin it a lit­tle (so add less cream if you don’t want it too thin) and al­co­hol that seems to work well in­cludes Frangelico, rum, whiskies, Kahlua and other dark flavours. Some­thing like Mi­dori is best avoided.

To en­sure your sauce doesn’t seize have the choco­late al­ready melted be­fore you add the warmed liq­uid — over a dou­ble boiler or in the mi­crowave are best. Warm the liq­uids gen­tly — don’t boil — and then gen­tly pour the liq­uids on to the choco­late, slowly at first, stir­ring gen­tly and con­stantly (or use a small­ish whisk) un­til half the liq­uid has been added. Then add the rest and stir to emul­sify. You can also warm the liq­uids al­most to sim­mer­ing then add the melted choco­late in two parts, gen­tly stir­ring it in.

For a de­li­cious maple vanilla choco­late sauce

Place 170ml cream, 2 ta­ble­spoons maple syrup and ½ tea­spoon vanilla ex­tract in a small heavy-bot­tomed pan and slowly bring to a sim­mer, stir­ring the whole time. Turn the heat to the low­est tem­per­a­ture and add 40g but­ter cut into cubes (it can be salted or not depend­ing on what you’re us­ing it for) and 150g dark choco­late roughly chopped. Turn the heat off then stir un­til emul­si­fied.

You can add a shot of booze if you like, bour­bon and rum go quite well with maple syrup and vanilla. Chopped roasted nuts are also re­ally good added here, pecans seem the most ob­vi­ous as they al­ways work well with maple syrup, but hazel­nuts or salted al­monds would be great. Imag­ine a salted al­mond ver­sion poured over a steamed self-sauc­ing orange pud­ding with a gen­er­ous dol­lop of creme fraiche on the side!

Any left­over sauce can be made into choco­late truf­fles. Sim­ply spread the mix­ture onto a tray no more than 5mm thick and freeze. Scoop it up with a tea­spoon and roll into mar­ble-sized balls and re­freeze on a parch­ment-lined tray. Then place on a fork, one at a time, and dip in melted choco­late, mak­ing sure the mix­ture is cov­ered. Set on the tray, in the fridge, and store in an air­tight con­tainer in the fridge. Bring out 30 min­utes be­fore serv­ing to soften a lit­tle. You can also use the sauce as a fill­ing for choco­late truf­fle cases.

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