I’ve been chasing chocolate sauce for nigh-on 25 years now. A sauce so rich, sticky and perfectly unctuous that it’s haunted me all these years. At last, I think it’s with my grasp.
Back when I was about eight or nine the then-great American-themed (but Canadian owned) ice cream chain Swensen’s arrived in New Zealand, to much fanfare and a swag of outlets decked out with wooden panelling, marble counters and branded tiffany lamps. They served a quality of ice cream at the time unseen in New Zealand, with flavours that made boysenberry ripple and hokey-pokey seem like inbred country cousins. Blueberry cheese cake and chocolate peanut butternut are two that I grew inordinately fond of, over successive visits. My mother took a shine to this place too, on account of a congenital weakness for frozen fats, but also because they did very decent sit-down food, of the American-diner style. So, often of a weekend evening, mum would take me by bus to Takapuna and we would throw back our fries and burgers (actually I doubt very much that Mum ate burgers…I just can’t remember what else they served), followed by Swensen’s trademarked (literally) hot fudge sundae. From first appearances this was nothing special- vanilla ice cream, chopped nuts, the ubiquitous maraschino cherry, a wafer biscuit and hot fudge sauce. But my God, that sauce…
Well, I got older and less inclined to eat out with mum of a Saturday night, while Swensen’s fortunes faltered. Branches closed down and they eventually retreated from New Zealand altogether. Curiously this uber-American themed ‘experience’ is now huge in Asia and the Middle East.
But throughout the unpleasantness of adolescence, the fumbling of early adulthood, to the mortgaged, baby-bounded reality of whatever I am now, the thought of this sauce continued to pop into my head, taunting me and unwelcome regularity.
Over the years I’ve tried to recreate it, from off-the-shelf products claiming to be hot fudge (but falling well short), to various recipes from books and the net, without anything approaching success – until this week. I finally decided to conquer the sauce. Take no prisoners, no defeat, no surrender. My head deserves to be haunted by rare and sophisticated foods, not franchised hot fudge sauce.
You see, it turns out, I just haven’t been thinking American enough. I was busy trying to make a sauce from real chocolate, cream, soft-ball sugar syrup, and by other legitimate and authentic means. But those are not the paths to post-war American food. Short cuts and chicanery are the way and the light to the stomach fillers of this era. Cheap cocoa powder, not real chocolate; evaporated milk, not cream; flour, not soft-ball syrup; sugar by the sack full; and enough butter to sink a ship. So what if fat floats?
These things shouldn’t work together. They shouldn’t taste good, and they most certainly shouldn’t taste appallingly great. But they do. My God they do…
Too many years have passed for me to say for sure if this taste exactly like the Swensen’s sauce, but it certainly tastes – and feels – like the sauce of my memory.
Hot Fudge Sauce
1/2 cup cooking cocoa
1/2 cup (125g) butter
1 heaped tablespoon flour
generous pinch salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (250ml) evaporated milk.
2 tsp vanilla essence
Sift together the flour, salt and cocoa. Mix to a smooth paste with a little hot water. Combine with butter and melt over a medium heat. Stir constantly.
When all the butter has melted add the sugar. Once simmering add the evaporated milk and vanilla and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved
Remove from the heat and decant to a glass bottle of preserving jar. Allow to cool completely before sealing. Store in the fridge.
Place jar/bottle in a bowl of hot water five minutes before using.
Pour over ice cream, or use as saucy dip for hot doughnuts and churros.