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Nancy Silverton's Hot Fudge Sauce

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Christmas is sneaking up on us unusually quickly this year. Or maybe it does this every year and every year I am surprised anew at how caught unawares I am. You'd think, by now, that the relentless reliability of it wouldn't quite discombobulate me so much, but it does. To make sure that gifts arrive before I take off for Berlin means I have to be done, really, with my shopping and crafting and noodling by - well - now. And that's just a kick in the pants.

I've taken to making at least a few of my gifts for people edible ones. That way, if there's a last-minute emergency, I don't have to wait for something to priority ship, I can just run down to the store and buy more syrup or chocolate. Last year, I made cashew brittle, which was a huge hit. And so, so easy. I mean, do-it-in-your-sleep easy. That's my kind of Christmas gift. I might just make it again this year, maybe for the people who didn't get any last year.

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But I'll also be standing at my stove this year, simmering and whisking, until a thick, glossy, chocolate sauce comes together in a pot and I pour it into little glass jars, beribboned of course, to be doled out to deserving folks who need a little bit of molten chocolate to sweeten their holidays, to drizzle onto ice cream or pound cake, or simply to eat, from the fridge with a spoon, cold and fudgy and rich and complex.

Doesn't that sound like a lovely Christmas gift? Why, it's a good thing I can gift myself, too.

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This might possibly be one of my oldest clipped recipes. It goes all the way back to 1998 and is a keeper, a category-killer, so to speak. First of all, it comes from Nancy Silverton, who happens to be a kitchen goddess of mine. Is there anything that lady touches that doesn't taste good? Second of all, it, too, is easy-peasy. You melt chocolate in one bowl, then boil together the rest of the ingredients (that most of us have lying about in our pantries already, thank goodness) in the other, then stir them together for a few minutes, whisk in some brandy and, hey presto!, you've got yourself a bubbling pot of hot fudge.

I love the high-sheen gloss on this stuff. It's gorgeously rich and keeps for months in the fridge, so you can jar little glasses of it and drop them off with people who you love. You'll have some very grateful friends, I guarantee. Fudge sauce makes anything better, wouldn't you say? Even the fact that Christmas is almost here.

Hot Fudge Sauce
Makes 2 cups

7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tablespoon instant coffee granules
3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy

1. Melt chocolate pieces in large stainless steel mixing bowl (or top of double boiler) over saucepan of gently simmering water. Be sure water does not touch bottom of mixing bowl to prevent chocolate from burning. Turn off heat and keep warm over warm water until ready to use.

   2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, cocoa powder and instant coffee to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly to dissolve cocoa powder and sugar and to prevent burning on bottom of pan.

   3. Whisk in melted chocolate. Boil hot fudge for few minutes to reduce to consistency you desire. It should be quite viscous and surface should have glossy shine. Cool slightly and beat in Cognac or brandy.

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