My favourite salted caramel sauce, made with a goodly amount of golden syrup, and my second-favourite hot chocolate, the sort actually made from scratch.
I’ll be straight with you: my favourite hot chocolate is a powder mix and I make it in a microwave. I sincerely love it, not just the associated nostalgia.
Now, I am aware that beautiful hot chocolate exists. Once, just once, when I was 17, I had cioccolata calda densa in a Florentine cafe. I stare longingly at high quality powdered chocolate. One time I even bought a packet for Mr. Pear, as he too is a hot chocolate fan.
But the hot chocolate I will always love is Cadbury’s, the kind which comes in a cardboard cylinder or single-serving sachet that you add to hot full-fat milk (it’s full-fat or nothing in my world). I don’t actually like Cadbury’s in room temp solid chocolate bar form; it doesn’t taste like chocolate, it tastes like Cadburys’s chocolate, which is powdery, cloyingly milky with a hint of fruit.
Similarly, Cadbury’s hot chocolate tastes uniquely of itself. It’s miles and miles away from the vile, slimy, just-add-hot-water misery you might be thinking off. This stuff is always velvety smooth. It isn’t good chocolate in liquid form; it is basically hot sweet milk which sighingly imagines the idea of being chocolate while never actually reaching that stage. And why should it aspire to more? It’s so comfortable (and comforting!) with cooked cream, vanilla, and malted milk notes. Right there in the mug, it’s already dreamy.
But you neither want nor need a recipe for such a thing, do you? No, you want an actual recipe for hot chocolate, the beautiful kind. The one I give below should fit the bill, a highly drinkable chocolate that’s perfect for sipping. In making it, you’ll find there’s smooth and then there’s smooth, melted and then really melted. Keep going until it’s perfect.
The hot chocolate is sweet and full enough on its own, but just try swirling a spoonful of salted caramel into it. Go on. Do it.
SALTED GOLDEN CARAMEL SAUCE
A scaled up liquid non-tangy version of these crème fraîche caramels.
Makes a little over 500 ml (generous 2 cups), enough to fill 1 x 500 ml clip-top kilner jar with around 3 tablespoons left over.
Tip: to weigh golden syrup, do the sugar first and leave it on the weighing tray, spread in an even layer. Pour the syrup directly onto the sugar until the weight reads 425g. Carefully tip the whole arrangement into the pan; it should slide off with comical neatness.
300ml double cream
100g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, or 1 teaspoon ground rock salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or scraped contents of 1 vanilla bean
225g white granulated sugar
200g golden syrup
If bottling the sauce, wash all your jars and lids/rings well, then place the jars only, bottoms-up, directly onto a baking tray. Put into the oven and preheat to 120° C/100 fan. Leave the glasses to dry and become sterilised for at least 15 minutes while you get on with everything else. Pat lids or rings dry with a paper towel.
Gently heat the double cream in a small pan (preferably lipped) or in a heatproof jug in the microwave. Set aside, kept warm and within easy reach. Have the butter, salt, and vanilla to hand as well, all in one container.
In a medium-large saucepan, melt the sugar and golden syrup together over a medium low heat til smooth, pushing any patches of sugar about, but not really stirring. Bring to a vigorous boil, then watch mixture carefully as it caramelises. Do not stir; swirl gently, allowing it get a lovely warm brown beneath the golden bubbles. This mixture is extremely hot, 179–182° C (355 – 360° F), so be a little cautious.
Once it’s reached that exciting stage, immediately take the caramel off the heat and add the cream, butter, salt, and vanilla all at once, whisking quickly and carefully as it’ll whoosh and spit. Once everything’s in, return the pan to a low heat and let it bubble gently for another minute or two, just so everything is smooth. It might still seem disappointingly thin, but the sauce will thicken considerably as it cools–right now you’re dealing with molten sugar and liquid fat.
Ladle hot caramel into sterilised jars warm from the oven, handling one at a time on a towel-lined surface. For screw tops, fill until 5 mm from the rims, 1 cm for clip-tops. Wipe rims and seal. Allow to cool completely.
Alternatively, leave caramel to cool slightly before using. Transfer to tupperware and keep chilled. This is spreadable at room temperature, liquid when warmed.
GINGER SALTED CARAMEL HOT CHOCOLATE
Adapted from seven spoons
Makes around 500 ml (generous 2 cups) hot chocolate, for 3 – 4 small mugs. It’s rich so you’ll probably want a little less than you think. The finished hot chocolate can be kept chilled for several days. Reheat on the hob or at medium-high in the microwave.
This is sippable hot chocolate, not the kind which is basically pudding. You can make it thicker and richer by replacing 60 ml (1/4 cup) of the milk with single cream. It goes without saying, probably, but this is still smooth and gorgeous when chilled…
3-4 tablespoons sugar (I used 3 tbsp white sugar and 1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar)
2 tablespoons best-quality cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ground ginger, or any spices you like, or indeed none
Pinch sea salt
just under 500 ml full-fat milk (2 cups)
50g/2 oz dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), chopped, or the same weight of pure chocolate powder.
1 tablespoon salted caramel sauce per serving, or more to taste
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, and ginger and cinnamon. Add a little of the milk, whisking to make a smooth paste, then add all the rest of the milk and chopped chocolate.
Set over a medium heat, bringing it to just under a simmer, stirring constantly. Keep going for a good few minutes until the chocolate has completely melted and is totally smooth and blended; it might take longer than you think for the mixture to stop looking a touch curdled, but carry on stirring.
Stir in 1 tablespoon salted caramel per serving (it’s alright if it’s still solid from the fridge), whisking well to blend. Carefully taste and add more of anything you like.
Once ready, take off the heat and pour into your mugs.
Alternatively, swirl a thin layer of liquid caramel sauce up the sides of the mug before adding hot chocolate.