Who can resist chewy, chocolatey hot fudge draped over vanilla ice cream, or rich caramel sauce pooled beneath a portion of warm bread pudding? Certainly no one on my gift list. Dessert sauces make perfect holiday gifts. They can be packaged neatly into jars, and they hold for a good long while. And unlike the infamous fruitcake, you can be pretty darn sure everyone on your list is going to like caramel or hot fudge sauce. Each classic sauce recipe here also includes sophisticated flavor twists for more adventurous palates.
Both recipes make sizable quantities (5 to 6-1/2 cups) so that they can fill several pint or half-pint jars and provide gifts for many. You can make smaller batches, too: just halve the ingredients and remember that the cooking times will be shorter.
Since the flavoring ingredients are added after the sauce is made, you can flavor just a portion of the sauce if you like. A batch of caramel, for example, could be divided into three smaller batches so you can try the classic sauce as well as the espresso and orange-cardamom variations.
All these sauces go fabulously with ice cream. For something different, fill individual pastry shells with any of the sauces and garnish with fruit for an elegant holiday dessert. Or drizzle on dessert plates before serving slices of pie or cake.
The sauces keep for about three months in the refrigerator, longer in the freezer. To serve, bring the caramel sauce to room temperature or warm it slightly. Warm the hot fudge gently in a double boiler, a microwave, or in a heatproof jar set in a pot of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally.
Wrapping It Up
To make your gift a little more special, package crunchy toppings in small containers (look in craft stores) to give with the sauce. A few ideas: toffee pieces, chocolate chunks, crushed cookies, crystallized ginger, candied citrus zest, toasted coconut or nuts, chopped malted milk balls, or crushed peppermint candies.