Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts

Spur-of-the-Moment Dark Chocolate Sauce Without a Recipe

December 16, 2013

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Forgot to plan for dessert? Grab whatever chocolate is in your pantry and make a last-second sauce with Alice's simple 2-ingredient ratio.

Spur of the Moment Dark Chocolate Sauce without a Recipe from Food52

You can make a fabulous dark chocolate sauce with any amount of sweetened dark, semisweet, or bittersweet chocolate you have on hand, regardless of cacao percentage, or even an assortment of leftover pieces of chocolate. All you need is a liquid such as milk, cream, half-and-half, or even a nondairy liquid like water, coffee, or coconut milk.

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Then you taste and fine-tune with a pinch of salt, a few drops of vanilla, etc. The trick is knowing that you start with a small amount of liquid and add more as necessary until the sauce has the perfect consistency for your purpose. You can make a sauce that hardens like hot fudge over ice cream, or one that stays saucy and fluid. It’s up to you.

Spur of the Moment Dark Chocolate Sauce without a Recipe from Food52

Any amount of dark, semisweet, or bittersweet chocolate (any cacao percentage), chopped medium fine
Milk, half and half, heavy cream or other liquid that tastes good with chocolate
Optional salt, vanilla extract, butter, sugar

Spur of the Moment Dark Chocolate Sauce without a Recipe from Food52

Weigh the chocolate and put it in a stainless steel bowl. (If you don’t have a scale, figure that 1 cup of chocolate chopped medium fine weighs 6 ounces).  Add 1 tablespoon of liquid for each ounce of chocolate. Set the bowl in the bottom of a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir frequently until the chocolate is melted.

If the sauce looks curdled or too thick -- and it probably will if you are using a high percentage chocolate -- stir in more liquid gradually until the sauce is smooth and has the consistency you are looking for. If you are planning to serve the sauce over ice cream, spoon a little "test" over some ice cream to see if it hardens just the right amount, or too much. Adjust the sauce with more liquid as necessary.

Spur of the Moment Dark Chocolate Sauce without a Recipe from Food52

When the sauce looks perfect, taste and consider adding a pinch of salt or a few drops of vanilla. If you have used a high percentage chocolate and a liquid that doesn’t have much fat in it, the flavor of the sauce will be fairly intense chocolate; you can mellow it if necessary by stirring in a little soft butter (a pat at a time) or a little sugar.

Once you’ve made this sauce once, you will do it again, completely by eye and by taste.

Use the warm sauce immediately, or rewarm it briefly in a pan of hot water when you need it.  The sauce keeps in a covered container in the fridge for several days.

More: Extra points if you throw together a caramel sauce too -- here's how.

Alice's new book Seriously Bitter Sweet is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet.


Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kim Lytle
    Kim Lytle
  • gmak4
  • Leyanne Taylor
    Leyanne Taylor
  • Droplet
  • AntoniaJames
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Kim L. February 24, 2017
I have just made this chocolate sauce (in main to pour over a chocolate courgette cake) ... with double cream, butter and several different single origin chocolate bars I was given for Valentines ... it's perfect!
gmak4 December 28, 2013
My favorite hot fudge was the one at Edy's in Berkeley. It came in a little pitcher and you poured it on yourself and when it touched the cold ice cream it became thicker and almost chewy--How can I make a sauce that does that?
AntoniaJames February 14, 2014
gmak4, you should post this question to the Hotline. I'd like to know, too! ;o)
Leyanne T. December 24, 2013
I was always under the impression that you shouldn't stir the chocolate too much while it melts as it tends to make it go grainy.
Droplet December 16, 2013
Something I have always wondered about is whether chocolate as a medium is good for composite creations such as a simple chocolate sauce that are to be served to or eaten by somebody with untrained palate. I am afraid that the subtleties of individual varieties will get lost and always choose to enjoy higher end chocolate in the form that it comes from the chocolatier. Are there any wise words of advice that you could give, which won't rob chocolate of its essence by the necessary simplification of the matter. Thank you :).
MrsMehitabel December 21, 2013
Well, you may feel it robs the chocolate of its nuances, but melting it with a little cream certainly leaves the essence intact. I would say, if you enjoy it, it's good. I don't think there's a "correct" way to eat chocolate, other than one that tastes good. What better way to celebrate a good chocolate than with labors of love by skilled hands in a warm home kitchen?