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Pure Chocolate Recipes for the Holidays

Thanksgiving approaches, followed by the rest of the holiday season. In a holiday-eating preview, NPR's Susan Stamberg bypasses the turkey -- and heads right for dessert. Specifically chocolate.

Stamberg talks to chocolate expert Fran Bigelow, author of the recipe book Pure Chocolate, about all things chocolate -- chocolate sauce ("the magic of chocolate and cream"), chocolate espresso sauce (chocolate and coffee, a natural combination), and personalized chocolate chips (pick your favorite chocolate bar and cut it into small chunks).

Then, Stamberg pulls the conversation toward that certain holiday recipe that's been a Thanksgiving tradition at NPR for more than three decades. (You know, the one that "sounds terrible but tastes terrific." For details, click the link under Once More with Relish... at the top of this page.)

Below are recipes from Bigelow's Pure Chocolate discussed in Stamberg's report:

Pure Chocolate Sauce

When I was growing up, we always kept two kinds of Hershey's chocolate sauce in the house -- the thick fudgey one and the thin syrup. I much preferred the thicker kind, spooned out of the can and warmed up for my ice-cream sundaes.

This grown-up version of that fudgey, warm sauce is a tad more luxurious. It is so easy to make and such a delight to eat -- like licking a warm, liquid truffle -- that it belongs in your pantry at all times, for instant sundae-making whenever the mood strikes. Celebrate being an adult by adding a splash of your favorite liqueur to the melted chocolate. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a small saucepan, bring the cream just to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let set one minute. Stir with a heatproof rubber spatula until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Serve warm or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

To reheat, place the container in a pot of warm water until the sauce is warm and loose.

Chocolate Espresso Sauce

Seattle's weather demands great coffee -- and we have the best chocolate! In this wonderfully simple dairy-free sauce, the aroma of espresso lends an elegant edge. Serve over small scoops of ice cream or profiteroles for complete after-dinner bliss. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons brewed espresso or triple-strength coffee, room temperature

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate over low heat. Remove the top of the boiler when the chocolate is nearly melted and stir until glossy and smooth. Add the espresso all at once and whisk until the sauce is completely smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Serve warm or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Reheat gently to serve.

Chocolate-Stuffed Figs

Luscious stuffed figs speak to all the senses. They look like amber jewels, their texture feels meltingly soft in the mouth, the chocolate coating snaps when you take a bite, and the fragrance goes directly to the musky, sweet section of the brain. One glorious fig makes a complete dessert, or cut larger figs into quarters as part of a dessert tray. The very best, extra-fancy dried figs are in the market from October to March. Look for moist fruit with supple texture and full shape for stuffing. Makes 24 to 36.

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

24 to 36 dried Calimyrna figs, depending on size

1 1/2 pounds semisweet chocolate, tempered (optional)

Have ready a 9-by-13-inch or quarter sheet pan lined with parchment.

In a saucepan, heat the cream over medium-high heat just until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat. Add the finely chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth with a rubber spatula. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap touching the top, and let set for 6 to 8 hours at room temperature.

Prepare figs for stuffing by gently rolling between your thumb and fingers to loosen the seeds and soften the flesh. Insert a wooden or metal skewer in the hole in the bottom of the fig and wiggle it to enlarge the hole slightly for stuffing.

When the ganache is set, gently stir with a rubber spatula a few times. Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a small round 1/4-inch tip.

Hold each fig's stem gently between your index and middle fingers, using your thumb to support the plump fruit. Insert the tip of the pastry bag into the fig's bottom. Gently squeeze, stuffing until the fig is plump and full. Do not worry about leaks in the fig's skin. They can be fixed later.

Place filled figs on a parchment-lined pan and allow to set at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Using a sharp knife, scrape the excess filling from each fig's exterior. Stuffed figs can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Remove and return to room temperature for eating -- or dipping, if desired.

To dip, follow the tempering and dipping instructions. Holding it by the stem, dip the bottom half of each fig in dark chocolate. Place the dipped fruit on a parchment-lined pan and let the chocolate set. With a pair of sharp scissors, snip off the very tip of each stem, which is too tough to be eaten, before serving.

From Pure Chocolate © 2004 by Fran Bigelow and Helen Siegel. Published by Broadway Books.

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Nationally renowned broadcast journalist Susan Stamberg is a special correspondent for NPR.