This fudge is what holiday dreams are made of: sweet, creamy, delicious, unusual, and memorable. Your friends and family will clamor for it every year.
“Oh I can’t make it. It never works for me.” “I tried it once and it was a big grainy mess.” “I had to dump the whole thing in the garbage.” “It never set up, no matter how many times I tried to make it.” “I followed the directions EXACTLY, and it just didn’t work.”
Well, if any of these remarks sound like something you might say, you have come to the right place. For I, dear reader, am determined not to let a gooey, sticky, hotter than Hades, mass of caramel, with or without chocolate, get the better of ME. No way, no how, ain’t happening.
But lest you think I have gone off the deep end and will shortly be eating my words while crying over a batch of gritty, too hard or too soft fudge, I must confess something. I have a secret weapon.
My copy of this most excellent volume has a copyright of 1990. And that’s how long I’ve had it—without ever making one batch of fudge.
However, I made up for lost time this past week and first read every work of this book at least twice, then went straight to the kitchen and made several batches of Gingerbread Fudge. For the first batch, I used the traditional process, which Ms. Benning calls Bread & Butter Fudge.
That turned out so wonderfully well that I was encouraged to adapt it to the Marshmallow Crème process, which gave it an amazing, almost Divinity-like texture, with a lovely chewiness and magical creaminess. (From there I ventured into Chocolate Fudge, but that’s a later post.)
Now I am in the difficult position of not being able to tell you which version I prefer. They are each perfect and memorable in their own way. The first strikes me as creamy, classic, albeit non-chocolate, fudge. The second is so creamy that it borders on Divinity. I hope you’ll try them both.
But first, read through these important guidelines.
Making Perfect Fudge: Tips & Tricks
- Temperature is only an approximate measurement for fudge. Only use a candy or instant-read thermometer to tell you about how much longer you need to boil the syrup. Do not use a thermometer as your only gauge of the soft-ball stage. It is not an accurate gauge.
- When you measure the temperature of the syrup, measure at the center of the pan and do not let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan.
- The syrup is the correct density when it reaches what is called the soft-ball stage. However, this stage is described differently in numerous otherwise reliable texts. Generally, the soft-ball stage is cited as between 234° and 240°. Ms. Benning says that the average temperature at which her numerous fudge tests reached the soft-ball stage was 238°.
- Ignore fudge recipes that tell you to boil the syrup for a specified number of minutes and then proceed to cooling. The length of time it takes to drive the necessary amount of water rom the syrup varies depnding on the degreo of heat you apply. For example, I prefer a controlled boil, and thus, it may take 15 minutes or longer for my syrup to reach the soft-ball stage. Testing is the only way to accurately determine if your syrup is at that stage.
- Continue boiling the fudge while you quickly conduct a soft-ball test.
- To accurately determine if your syrup is at the soft-ball stage, drizzle 1 teaspoon or so of the hot syrup into 1 cup of ice water. (Use fresh ice water for every test.) If it dissipates immediately or forms a flat mass at the bottom of the cup, it isn’t ready. However, if the end of the pour remains elevated or protrudes above the water, you need to move fast. Quickly roll the syrup into a ball between your fingers. The syrup ball should not flatten after you remove it from the ice water, unless you squeeze it between your fingers or wait for it to soften from the heat of your hand. It should be chewy, not dissolve immediately, in your mouth.
- It is better to slightly overcook than under cook fudge.
- To control the graining of the fudge, shock the hot syrup by placing it in ½-inch cold water for 10 minutes or so as soon as it reaches the soft-ball stage.
- To further control the graining, seed the fudge by adding an alcohol-based extract, frozen butter, nuts, or chocolate to the still hot fudge.
- Do not stir the fudge between the time it reaches the soft-ball stage and then subsequently cools to 110°.
- Lazily stir, don’t beat, the fudge only after it cools to 110°. (The exception here is with fudge made with Marshmallow Crème. That must be stirred in before the fudge cools.)
- The lower the temperature at which you begin to stir the fudge, the finer the sugar crystals in the finished fudge.
- The fudge is nearing the finish line when you begin to hear a “snap” as you are stirring it.
- The fudge has candied when it become thick, loses its high gloss, becomes streaked with lighter shades, and/or suddenly stiffens.
- Stir in optional ingredients just as the fudge is about to candy.
- Once fudge has candied, pour it quickly into your prepared pan and level the top.
- Let cool completely before cutting.
- Wrap cooled fudge well in plastic wrap to store for a day or two at room temperature or with additional foil to store longer in the frig.
- Traditional fudge (without Marshmallow Cream) freezes beautifully.
Cookin’ with Gas (inspiration from around the web)
- 3 tips to Makeover Your Fudge Recipes
- Cooking For Engineers: Condensed Milk Fudge
- From Karen’s Kitchen: Tips for Making the Perfect Fudge
- Learn About the Science of Fudge
- Perfect Fudge
- The Physical Chemistry of Making Fudge
- Tips for Making Pumpkin Fudge
- What’s Special About Fudge?