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This silky dark chocolate syrup is an all-purpose dessert star

I'm a recipe writer but also a realist. Does everything need to be made from scratch at home? Of course not. As Our Queen Ina (Garten) is famous for saying, "store-bought is fine." I'd go a step further and say that often it's just as good as homemade or even better, depending on the food in question.

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). 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.

I also turned to Lyle's Golden Syrup, which is 50% 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.

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.

A minute or two with my handy immersion blender, 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. It's also thick enough as a dip for fruit or, um, a spoon. You can guess how I know that.

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Dark Chocolate Syrup

20 minutes, plus 2 hours' chilling time

8 servings (makes about 1 cup)

This deep, dark and silky chocolate syrup is miles above anything you'll buy in a squeeze bottle at the grocery store. Dutch-process cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate team up for a rich flavor that's more bittersweet than sweet. Here, we use Lyle's Golden Syrup instead of sugar, for both its toffee-esque sweetness and ability to keep the syrup fluid and smooth.

The syrup is great for a wide variety of people because it's gluten-free and vegan (though not the latter if you swap in honey for the Lyle's Golden Syrup). We highly recommend using the immersion blender or mini food processor after cooking the syrup to ensure the smoothest possible texture.

Be sure to let the syrup chill so it thickens to proper consistency. We designed the recipe so that it would not be as runny as store-bought versions, but you can thin with additional water after chilling, as needed. Then use it in almost any way you want, including on ice cream, in chocolate milk or egg creams, or as a dip for fruit.

Make Ahead: The sauce needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before serving.

Storage Notes: The sauce can be refrigerated 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.

Where to Buy: Lyle's Golden Syrup is available at well-stocked supermarkets and shops that sell British goods, as well as online.

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.


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.

From The Washington Post's Becky Krystal.




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