velvety hot fudge sauce

Hot fudge sauce is super quick to make and virtually fool-proof, but it's really all you need to turn plain ice cream into the queen of American desserts--the glorious sundae. 

The word "sundae" originated in the late 1800s, probably derived from "Sunday," either because the dish was made with ice cream leftover from Sunday and sold on Monday, or because it was sold only on Sundays to circumvent "blue laws" (enforced religious standards) against Sunday consumption of ice cream (this theory also holds that the spelling was changed to "sundae" to avoid religious offense).

The exact origin of the sundae is fiercely contested (although it is definitely American), but the original sundae undisputedly consisted of vanilla ice cream, a flavored sauce or syrup, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry, served in a tulip-shaped, footed glass vase (which I don't have, but I think wine glasses feel quite elegant). The hot fudge sundae was a variation often topped with nuts. Hot fudge supposedly came from cooks who failed at fudge-making and ended up with a gooey sauce-like mixture that never set up, so they poured it over ice cream. By the 1900s, enlightened cooks began to deliberately undercook the fudge so they could use it for sundaes.

Makes 1.5 cups (enough for around 6 large sundaes)
Time: 5 minutes

1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz vegan chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional)

In a medium stainless steel saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk, maple syrup, water, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisking frequently, keep at a boil for 1 or 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, vanilla, and coconut oil, whisking until completely smooth.

To store, keep in a heatproof jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Reheat very carefully in the microwave or on the stove, stirring often.

Serve warm over vanilla ice cream, perhaps with toasted, chopped hazelnuts or pecans and vegan whipped cream. Freshly toasted coconut flakes or even a drizzle of caramel sauce are other options.


dark chocolate sorbet

If you think sorbets can't be creamy, you've never had a good chocolate sorbet. I first encountered chocolate sorbetto at one of the hundreds of gelato shops in Florence, and when The Penny Ice Creamery opened in Santa Cruz, I was ecstatic to hear that their amazing dark chocolate sorbet is a permanent fixture on the menu. But of course, I had to try to create my own because I can't always afford gourmet ice cream, and although I can't claim to have beaten Penny's sorbet, I've never met a dark chocolate lover who was disappointed.

I add a bit of coffee to deepen the chocolate flavor, but if you don't want to use coffee, replace with 1/4 cup of water.

Makes 1 pint (serves 4)

1/4 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup strong, freshly brewed coffee 
1/3 cup cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
3 oz vegan chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the agave with 1/4 cup of the water, the coffee, cocoa, and salt. Bring to a boil and let boil about 1 minute, whisking continuously. Remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate until melted, then add the vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup water. Pour into a blender and blend for a minute or two (if you don't have a blender, don't worry, but just be sure to whisk the mixture very well).

Chill the mixture for at least 3 hours or overnight. I should warn you this refrigerated mixture makes for a delicious chocolate mousse if you chill it in individual ramekins (see below), but otherwise, transfer the mousse into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. I like the frozen version slightly better because it's less sweet, so the chocolate flavor is even more intense.