Right now, most of you are probably exhausted from a whirlwind holiday weekend full of relatives, eating, drinking, and shopping, and are ready for a little rest and relaxation. Is that too much to ask? I'm afraid so. Might I remind you that Thanksgiving is just the kick-off of the busy holiday season and that, as my mother reminded me this morning, Christmas is exactly one month away (Hanukkah is even sooner...)? Well, as I did during the month prior to Thanksgiving, each day I will do my part to help you to spread some holiday cheer by sharing with you a recipe or creative homemade gift idea. From a festive roast to homemade toffee to sugar cookies and hot chocolate for Santa, I'll try to minimize the chances of you harboring any feelings of stress and "Bah Humbug" this season.
Selecting the first recipe to share with you was a no-brainer, as it has been a holiday tradition in my family for many years. My mom is famous among her friends and family for her decadent hot fudge sauce. We especially enjoy it paired with some peppermint stick ice cream, but you could probably put it on a piece of plywood and it would taste delicious. My dad, brother, and I have often tried to get her to start selling it, but as is often the case with some of the best recipes out there, she is happy just to give it away as a homemade gift over the holidays. So, I have taken it upon myself to share it with all of you--I would be cheating each of you if I didn't. For such a simple recipe, it is incredibly rich and complex tasting. It only takes about 10 minutes to make, and the recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. A little bit of this sauce goes a long way, so if you decide to give this as a gift as my mom does, even a small container is a treat. Decant it into pretty glass jars tied with a festive ribbon and attach the recipe on a note card. This will help to prevent the frantic phone call begging you for the recipe once your gift recipient has run out! Here are some tips for this recipe:
- Because there is cream in this sauce, it must stay refrigerated, and be sure to communicate this to anyone who receives this as a gift.
- This fudge will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, if it lasts that long. Reheat small amounts in the microwave or on the stove over low heat before pouring over ice cream.
- You can put your own twist on this recipe by substituting various ingredients for the brandy. In the past we have tried Creme de Menthe, Grand Marnier, and Chambord, but Kahlua, Bailey's, or Frangelico would also be fantastic. If you want to omit the liqueur altogether, but still want to add extra flavor, try a teaspoon of peppermint extract or some orange zest instead.
- This sauce thickens significantly as it cools, so don't concern yourself too much with the thickness of the sauce after boiling. It is more important that the consistency is smooth and not grainy.
- A product that I have recommended in the past on this site is the "Pound Plus" chocolate bar from Trader Joe's. When you need to buy large amounts of chocolate for baking, it is hard to beat the combined price and quality of this chocolate, available is dark, milk, and bittersweet.
- Bittersweet chocolate has less sugar than semisweet chocolate, but for the most part, the two can be used interchangeably. I prefer bittersweet because it produces a deeper, more complex flavor.
Makes about 2 cups
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
generous pinch of salt
1/4 cup brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the sugar and cream in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat and stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Add the chopped chocolate, butter, and salt and bring to a gentle boil, stirring often. Continue to boil and stir until slightly thickened and smooth, about 6 minutes longer. Remove the saucepan from the heat and then add the brandy and vanilla. Stir until well incorporated. Cool completely, pour into containers, and refrigerate.