Quintessential Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

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Chocolate sauce and strawberries on ice cream Quintessential Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!  This is the sixth post in the second annual Love Rules! All Chocolate! All Month! celebration at LunaCafe OtherWorldly Kitchen. To check out the wonderful chocolate creations we debuted last February, as well as this year’s creations, be sure to visit the All Chocolate! recipe archive. Just click on any picture to go to the post. And do come back soon, as we are saving our pièce de résistance, LunaCafe Truly Chewy Bittersweet Brownies, for the last post of the celebration. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

Is there anything better in the world than a scoop of the richest vanilla bean ice cream  you can get your hands on and a generous topping of an equally rich dark chocolate sauce? Okay, maybe add a couple of perfect strawberries to that picture. And then, since we’re talking perfection here, how about a small handful of toasted almonds as well?

Adding chopped bar chocolate to hot cream Quintessential Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

Well, that’s how this post started, innocently enough. I simply wanted a small amount of silky, lush, bittersweet chocolate sauce to go over a pint of Haagen Dazs Vanilla Bean Ice Cream that was hanging out in the freezer, begging to be eaten.

The image of that uneaten ice cream came to me at the exact moment I saw a teeny-weeny jar of Fran’s Dark Chocolate Sauce at Zupan’s Market. And then in the very next moment, with the precious jar in my hand, almost on its way out of the store with me, I balked at the price. I must have stood there in the aisle looking at that jar in my hand for a full minute before finally putting it back on the shelf. I mean, seriously, it was almost $10. Probably worth every dime too, but in a rare fit of frugality, I just couldn’t fork over the cash.

Needless to say, by the time I got back to the OtherWorldly Kitchen, I was raring to chop me some chocolate. And chop I did. I chopped three pounds of chocolate in fact, and then started developing a sure fire formula for the best bittersweet chocolate sauce on this or any other planet. I was determined never again to be taunted and teased by a tiny jar of extravagantly priced chocolate sauce.

Finished chocoloate sauce1 Quintessential Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

I felt heroic surrounded by all those saucepans of newly minted hot chocolate sauce, like Scarlet in Gone With the Wind: “As God is my witness, those beautifully packaged dark chocolate sauces are not going to entice me into spending the kid’s college fund. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over I’ll never be without bittersweet chocolate sauce again nor any of my folk. If I have to chop chocolate for hours and hours as God is my witness I’ll never be without bittersweet chocolate sauce again.”

She said that, right?

P.S. Those three pounds of premium quality, bittersweet bar chocolate did not cost what you might expect. See bullet 2 below.

Chocolate Trio Quintessential Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce Tips & Tricks

  • A bittersweet chocolate sauce relies almost entirely on the quality of the bar chocolate used. Use the best you can afford, but there’s really no need to break the bank, especially of you are preparing one of the variations with auxiliary strong flavor notes.
  • I have been very pleased with the quality of the 72% bar chocolate that Trader Joe’s carries. It is about half the cost of other premium bittersweet bar chocolate. A clerk at the downtown Portland, Oregon store recently told me that several noted, local pastry chefs come in weekly to buy large amounts of this chocolate.
  • If bar chocolate is overheated as it is being melted, it may “seize,” meaning that it may begin to look grainy or curdled and lose its smooth, glossy finish. In a chocolate sauce, this issue can usually be reversed by adding additional liquid to the sauce and whisking rapidly. I have noticed that when I try to keep a chocolate sauce warm over barely simmering water for any length of time, it often becomes too thick and then begins to seize. A tablespoon or two of liquid (water is fine) always rescues the sauce.
  • Many recipes call for melting chocolate in a bowl set over barely simmering water. I see no reason to go to this added effort if you have a microwave oven. Chop the chocolate and add it to a Pyrex bowl or large measuring cup. Microwave for 30 seconds and check to see if the chocolate is beginning to melt. If not, microwave for another 20-30 seconds. Stir with a dry spatula or chopstick. If needed, microwave further in 10-second increments, checking after each to see if the chocolate is melting. Remove the chocolate from the microwave before it is completely melted, and stir to melt the remainder.
  • When making a chocolate sauce, rearrange the recipe if necessary so that the liquid ingredients are heated first. Then remove from the heat and simply stir chopped chocolate into the hot liquid until it melts and is incorporated.
  • Adding butter to chocolate sauce is not absolutely necessary, but a little does lend a luxurious texture and mouth feel. The same can be said for cream and even milk to some degree.
  • Most classic bittersweet chocolate sauces are simply heated, thinned (perhaps) chocolate ganache. Any chocolate ganache recipe can be turned into a chocolate sauce.
  • During the ganache emulsification step, it is important to slowly combine the hot (but not too hot) liquid and chopped chocolate. Use a flexible spatula and stir slowly until the chopped chocolate is melted and emulsified. If you see tiny undissolved particles of chocolate even after most of the chocolate has melted, use whisk briefly to help the emulsion along. But don’t overdo it.
  • If you want the nuances of your bar chocolate to come through most vividly, use water instead of cream or butter in the emulsion. The difference is striking.
  • Likewise, if you want to emphasize the flavor of a particular fruit with the chocolate, use a fruit juice or puree, chocolate, and little, if any, cream or butter.
  • Cream and butter soften the flavor of chocolate, which can be very nice if that is what you are after.

Melted chocolate and chocolate bits Quintessential Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

The Perfect Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

This is a basic formula recipe with ten luscious variations. It gives you the ingredient parameters and process, from which you can explore a range of variations.

1½ cups liquid (water, coffee, fruit juice or puree, coconut milk, caramel sauce, or cream; or combination of two or more)
¼-¾ cup sugar (white, brown, or combination of both)
1-2 teaspoons herbs, spices, or flavored tea
¼-½ teaspoon fine sea salt

8 ounces premium quality bittersweet bar chocolate (70%-72% cacao), pistoles or finely chopped

Optional Ingredients
1 teaspoon vanilla or other extract (flavor note)
1-4 tablespoons corn syrup (body and silky mouth feel)
1-8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (richness and silky mouth feel)
1-2 tablespoons liqueur or liquor of choice (flavor note and kick)

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the liquid ingredients, sugar, corn syrup if using, herbs or spices if using, and salt to a simmer. Remove from the heat. (If you are steeping fresh or dried herbs or flavored tea with the liquid with the intention to remove them after the flavor has been imparted, let the flavors meld for 30-60 minutes, strain, and then reheat the cream in a clean saucepan.)
  2. Add the chopped chocolate to the hot (but not too hot) liquid, and stir slowly with a flexible spatula to melt and emulsify the chocolate and cream. If the chocolate does not want to combine thoroughly with the liquid, use a whisk to help it along.
  3. If butter is being used, stir it until melted into the emulsion.
  4. Stir in the vanilla or other extract and liqueur or liquor, if using.
  5. Cool to room temperature and adjust the thickness by adding additional liquid if needed. Stir to combine.
  6. Pour into a plastic container, seal tightly, and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
  7. Chilled ganache (which is the foundation for the sauce) is too thick to pour. To serve, bring to room temperature and thin with liquid to the desired consistency, or microwave until warm to the touch (30-60 seconds typically), as desired.

Makes about 3 cups sauce.

Variations

Bittersweet Chocolate Raspberry, Strawberry or Blackberry Sauce

  • At Step 2, add 2 tablespoons strained raspberry, strawberry, or blackberry puree with the chocolate, and stir to melt.
  • At step 4, add 2 tablespoons corresponding liqueur, if desired.

Bittersweet Chocolate Rosemary Sauce

  • At Step 1, steep ¼ cup fresh rosemary leaves with the hot cream for 30-60 minutes. Strain and continue with the recipe.

Bittersweet Chocolate Jasmine Sauce

  • At Step 1, steep ¼ cup jasmine tea leaves with the hot cream for 30-60 minutes. Strain and continue with the recipe.

Bittersweet Chocolate Espresso Sauce

  • Use 1½ cups strong coffee or ½ cup espresso and 1 cup water for the liquid and increase sugar to 1 cup.

Bittersweet Chocolate Orange Sauce

  • Use 1 cup orange juice and ½ cup water for the liquid.
  • At Step 4, add finely grated zest of 1 large orange and 2 tablespoons orange liqueur, if desired.

Bittersweet Chocolate Peanut Butter Sauce

  • Use 2 cups of liquid.
  • At Step 3, stir in 1 cup of creamy peanut butter, spoonful by spoonful. Do not add butter.

Bittersweet Chocolate Mint Sauce

  • At Step 4, add 1 teaspoon peppermint oil and 2 tablespoons crème de menthe liqueur, if desired.

Bittersweet Chocolate Crème Fraîche Sauce

  • Use 1 cup crème fraîche and ½ cup water for the liquid.

Bittersweet Chocolate Caramel Sauce

  • At Step 1, caramelize 2 cups sugar, ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, and 3/4 cup water. Add 1½ cups water and whisk to combine.
  • Cool the caramel syrup for 5 minutes and then proceed to Step 2.

Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Sauce

  • At Step 4, add 1 teaspoon almond extract and 2 tablespoons almond liqueur, if desired.

Mexican Bittersweet Chocolate Chile Sauce

Oh, how I love this sauce. I use the more generous quantity to cayenne to give it a real kick and the optional tequila for added flavor dimension. Because only a modest amount of cream is used here, the chocolate nuances come through bright and bold. This is a stellar bittersweet chocolate sauce. It will be featured in an upcoming post titled, Fried Banana Split with Mexican Bittersweet Chocolate Chile Sauce & Strawberry Mint Salsa.

¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or 1/2 teaspoon Starbuck’s Via Italian Roast Microground Coffee)
¼-½ teaspoon cayenne chile powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

8 ounces premium quality bittersweet bar chocolate (70%-72% cacao), pistoles or finely chopped

1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract (or other vanilla extract)
2 tablespoons tequila Blanco, optional

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the cream, water, sugar, ancho chile powder, espresso power, cayenne chile power, and salt to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
  2. Add the chopped chocolate to the hot (but not too hot) liquid, and stir slowly with a flexible spatula to melt and emulsify the chocolate and liquid. If the chocolate does not want to combine thoroughly with the liquid, use a whisk to help it along.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and tequila, if using.
  4. Cool to room temperature and adjust the thickness by adding additional warm water if needed. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour into a plastic container, seal tightly, and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
  6. Chilled ganache (which is the foundation for this sauce) is too thick to pour. To serve, bring to room temperature or microwave until warm to the touch (30-60 seconds typically), and thin with warm water to the desired consistency.

Makes about 3 cups sauce.

Bittersweet Chocolate & Cocoa Hot Fudge Sauce

This bittersweet chocolate sauce has extra layers of flavor thanks to the addition of unsweetened cocoa and a lush, silky mouth feel thanks to a generous dose of butter. This is a heavenly chocolate sauce, sure top please every member of the family.

½ cup premium quality, unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or alkalized) (1¼ ounces)
¾ cup sugar  
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or 1/2 teaspoon Starbuck’s Via Italian Roast Microground Coffee)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup milk

6 ounces premium quality, bittersweet bar chocolate (70%-72% cacao), pistoles or finely chopped

½ cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, espresso powder, and salt.
  2. Add just enough of the cream to create a thick paste and whisk until smooth. Then add the remaining cream and milk, and whisk until incorporated.
  3. Bring the mixture just to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
  4. Add the chopped chocolate to the hot (but not too hot) liquid, and whisk to melt and emulsify the chocolate and cream.
  5. Add the butter and stir slowly until melted into the emulsion.
  6. Stir in the vanilla.
  7. Cool to room temperature and adjust the thickness by adding additional liquid if needed. Stir to combine.
  8. Pour into a plastic container, seal tightly, and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
  9. To serve, bring to room temperature or microwave until warm to the touch (30-60 seconds typically), and thin with warm water to the desired consistency.

Makes about 3 cups sauce.

COPYSCAPE3 Quintessential Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

Comments

  1. This recipe is divine. I’ll seriously start using this post from now in all chocolate sauce related issues. I used caramel and coconut milk as liquid, added about four tablespoons corn syrup,sugar, the chocolate and the butter and it tasted amazing. The only thing I’ll be changing is the sugar amount.

  2. Amy Elizabeth says:

    Hi! I was wondering if you have a dark chocolate sauce recipe that stays liquid (pourable) at room temperature or even better in the fridge. Thanks!

    • Amy Elizabeth, unfortunately no, because such a sauce would have a very high ratio of liquid, and thus not as much chocolate flavor. You can play around with this though. Make the sauce as described and add 1/4 cup water to it. Refrigerate and see how it sets. If still too solid, rewarm, add more water, and so forth, until you get the consistency you want. Make sense?

  3. Does your chocolate sauce go a little bit lumpy once it has sit for a while? And how could i fix this? Other wise its a wikidly good recipe :)

  4. wow, these photos are wonderful-that chocolate sauce looks so decadent and sinfully rich! Never again will I be content with simply melting a few chocolate chips in the microwave to dip my fruit in-this is definitely the way to go!

  5. this is an excellent recipe with all its infinite variations. Why, may I ask, was your Haagen Daz begging to be eaten, no chance of that happening at my house :-)

    • Thanks Sarah! I like to torture myself with uneaten quarts of Haagen Dazs ice cream in the freezer. It makes me feel strong and self righteous. But then of course I eventually succumb and eat it. Then I feel delightfully wicked. :-)

  6. Wow, you are quite the expert on all these chocolate. Goodness!! What an awesome list of chocolate sauce variations. I’m not crazy about bittersweet chocolate, so I’ll be subbing semi-sweet chocolate for most of these. I love your photos, and your pots, and your stovetop, too haha. Great post.

  7. Mmmm…. I could get closer to heaven if I had this:-)

  8. WHen people see how easy it is to make why would they ever buy it… really great post… chocolate encyclopedia!!
    .-= deana@lostpastremembered´s last blog ..Valentine’s Duck Breast with Orange Rose Madeira Sauce =-.

    • Deana, thanks so much! :-) Yes, I’m afraid that once someone sees how easy it is to make the most magical chocolate sauces in the world (and truffles too for that matter), it is the end of the chocolate sauce industry. BTW, love love love your latest post!

  9. What are your thoughts on substituting brown rice syrup for the corn syrup in the first recipe for Chocolate Sauce?

    • junecutie, I’m guessing any syrup would fulfill the textural element here. Taste would be the next consideration. Corn syrup has virtually no taste. If brown rice syrup is similarly mild, then it should work just fine. On the other hand, corn syrup is only an option that some folks like to use. I think the chocolate sauce is texturally perfect without it and rarely use it. Best…Susan

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