Break 8 ounces dark, milk, or white chocolate into small pieces. Put the broken chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat 1/2 cup heavy cream in a small pan until it is almost boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is melted, and then stir in 4 tablespoons unsalted butter. Mix until smooth and runny. Serve hot or cooled, or store in a screwtop jar in the refrigerator for up to 8 days. Makes 1 3/4 cups.
Toffee or butterscotch sauce
Heat 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, and 1/2 cup light corn syrup together in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is well blended. Bring to a boil and let bubble gently for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Mix well and serve, or store in a screwtop jar in the refrigerator for up to 8 days. Makes 1 3/4 cups.
Chocolate fudge sauce
To make a delicious chocolatey fudge sauce, follow the recipe for toffee sauce but cook the butter, sugar, and corn syrup for several minutes longer until it becomes quite fudgy. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cream, vanilla, and 1/2 cup broken-up semisweet chocolate. Keep stirring until well blended and smooth. Makes 1 3/4 cups.
For a fresh berry sauce, mash 1/2 cup fresh, ripe berries with 1/4 cup (adjust to taste) superfine sugar. Then push through a sieve to give a smooth sauce. Use immediately or chill in a screwtop jar in the refrigerator for a few days.
Soft fruits such as mango, apricot, nectarine, peach, and even pineapple can quickly be made into a sauce by blitzing in a blender or food processor with sugar to taste and 4 to 5 tablespoons lemon or orange juice.
Pure caramel makes a great decoration when crushed into small pieces or carefully broken into dramatically large shards. Sprinkle 1/4 cup granulated sugar evenly onto a sheet of foil on a baking pan. Place the pan into a medium-hot (400°F/200°C) oven, turning it and swirling the sugar around once or twice so it settles evenly. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the sugar is melted and golden. Remove and cool until brittle, then break up into long shards or small pieces. Keep in an airtight container for a short time (a day or two depending on the atmosphere). For a fruit version, sprinkle small fruits such as blueberries or black currants onto the warm sugar so they settle into the sheet of caramel.
Praline is caramel with almost any type of nuts added. Try making praline with almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, or mixed nuts. It is used broken into large pieces, lightly crushed to sprinkle over ice creams, or finely ground to mix into recipes. Heat 1 cup superfine sugar and 1 cup shelled, whole, unsalted nuts carefully in a clean, heavy-based pan, while the sugar dissolves. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar turns light golden, then remove immediately from the heat and tip the praline straight onto a sheet of foil or parchment and leave until cooled and firm.