i didn’t have a childhood full of snack cakes and milkshakes.
i grew up in north dakota, where my family and i lived for over eight years. we had a gigantic garden where we planted sunflowers, potatoes, onions, carrots, and a plethora of other vegetables. a bramble of raspberry bushes lined our property, and i remember early in the summers i’d overdose on the sweet-tart gems while playing outside. mom always complained that we never had any cherry tomatoes for salads because i’d pluck them from their tangled vines as soon as they turned a brilliant vermilion. my dad hunted a lot, and we ate local game all year round.
i guess what i’m trying to get at is i was never really accustomed to eating sweets or treats as a kid. maybe that’s one of the reasons i’m studiyng baking and pastry now, who knows.
dad, always the most health-conscious member of the family (still is!), shunned soda and shied away from candy. the one exception to his crusade against all things sugary, i remember, was a brooklyn egg cream.
an egg cream, from what i can ascertain, is a dearly-beloved beverage which originated in new york city, back when soda fountains were on every corner and penny candy stores actually sold candy that cost a penny. it’s a drink that’s a complete misnomer, containing neither egg nor cream. it’s a concoction comprised of milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer, which sounds odd and puzzling, but is actually, totally, completely delightful.
dad grew up in brooklyn, and probably visited his fair share of soda fountains and penny candy stores. i imagine that his fondness for egg creams was so imbued in him from a lifetime of enjoying them that, despite his healthier-than-thou habits, their nostalgic siren song was simply too strong to resist.
dad’s occasional egg cream used fox’s u-bet chocolate syrup, which, as any jew will tell you, is the only kind of chocolate syrup one should have on hand. growing up, i remember my grandparents always had u-bet on hand, i suppose in case the nagging urge for an egg cream should arise. egg creams are a big deal in my family.
it’s a bit difficult to find u-bet around these parts, except during passover, when it’s made to be kosher with refined sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup (scary stuff). so instead, i decided to make my own.
making your own chocolate syrup is almost laughably simple, and once you’ve tasted it, you’ll swear off buying it ever again. really. it’s that good. it keeps for months in the fridge, provided that it lasts that long. as i’m sure you’re aware, chocolate syrup has plenty of uses in a kitchen, whether dripped over ice cream, swirled into a milkshake, mixed in with chocolate cake batter…you get the point.
perfect chocolate syrup
adapted from serious eats
yield: two cups
1/2 cup cocoa powder (i like dutch process)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
add all ingredients, minus the vanilla to a saucepan, and whisk constantly over medium-high heat to combine.
once the sugar dissolves and the cocoa powder is incorporated, whisk for 2-3 minutes. watch the mixture carefully, as it can easily boil over.
once the mixture thickens a bit, take off the heat, add the vanilla and allow to cool.
using a funnel, ladle or pour the syrup into a clean glass container with a tight fitting lid.
the syrup will keep for several months in the fridge.