Monday, June 2, 2008
The Wisdom of Fictional Characters
In an old episode of The West Wing, President Bartlet is shown enjoying (much to his surprise) a chocolate egg cream. He expresses disbelief that something so good could have come from New York instead of his beloved New England. Indeed, to most of us living outside New York City, the combination of chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer sounds. . . unappetizing. However (like in so many things), when it comes to obscure fountain drinks, it's best to listen to President Bartlet.
A little while ago, Tore's mom generously sent us some Scharffen Berger cocoa powder. Most of the year I would have used it to make brownies, but it's hardly baking weather right now. I decided instead to whip up some chocolate syrup for chocolate egg creams. The flavor is much better than store-bought, and it's dead easy to make.
Chocolate Syrup (makes enough to keep two people happy for some time)
1/4 cup cocoa power
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
pinch of salt (Don't be shy. A pinch is more than a few grains.)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine everything but the vanilla in a small saucepan till the cocoa is well incorporated. Put the pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure no cocoa accumulates in the corners. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. While it simmers, don't look away and keep stirring; it can boil over quickly. After 5 minutes, the syrup should be glossy and smooth. Turn off the heat and let it cool a bit, then stir in vanilla. Once it's mostly cooled, give it a good stir (it may have separated a bit) and pour into an air-tight container. Your syrup will keep for months in the refrigerator, but it's best when used within a week or so.
Of course, using higher-quality cocoa, vanilla, and sugar (preferably evaporated cane juice or something similar) improves the ultimate flavor, but don't go crazy. Chocolate syrup is supposed to be fun, right? You can mix it into cold or hot milk, put it over ice cream, or do whatever your heart desires. Speaking of which. . .
Chocolate Egg Creams
You'll need whole milk (yes, it's worth it), chocolate syrup, and seltzer. Bottled soda water works, but if you have a soda siphon, you'll be rewarded. About 5 minutes before you start, put the milk and your glassware of choice into the freezer. Once those are nice and cold, spoon syrup into the glass until it's about 1/5 full. (You can play with the proportions till you find exactly the mix you like.) Add milk till the glass is just below half full. Mix the syrup and the milk till combined. Throw in some ice cubes, and top off with seltzer. Now take a sip. It's a little sharp, a little sweet, and a little creamy. Strange? Certainly. But it's also a spectacular summertime dessert.