Fudge–Life’s Biggest Delight
What greater delight is there in life than a delectable piece of fudge? Nothing compares to the sensation of a juicy morsel of fudge melting on your tongue and infusing itself into your very being. Even when it is not well made–whether overcooked or gooey–fudge beats all but the most exotic confections.
What, then, is the best way to make fudge? Should you opt for quick and easy or strain your muscles to achieve fudge perfection? If you add nuts, which is the best choice?
Fudge is candy at its primal essence. It is basically a blend of sugar, chocolate, milk, butter, and vanilla. All fudges incorporate these elements in various proportions, yet the resulting differences are profound.
The first and “easiest” way to make fudge is from a pre-assembled kit. One of the most notable, particularly at Christmastime, is made by Carnation. It really is not any easier in preparation than traditional “quick” fudge, but has the advantage of being pre-measured. All the ingredients (except nuts) are included. So long as you follow the directions and are careful to not over- or undercook the mixture, you will quickly get a serviceable fudge. Is it the best fudge you could possibly make? No. But as a trade-off of paying more for a kit, you get a consistently good product.
Next in difficulty, and making a fudge at least as good as the Carnation kit, is a traditional quick fudge. The recipe is readily available in most cookbooks or on the internet. The thing that makes it quick and easy is the marshmallow creme. [Carnation uses miniature marshmallows. You can do the same. It is simply a matter of choice.] This shortcut ingredient helps the fudge to gel more quickly and makes the results more predictable. However, it–and the condensed milk (also in the Carnation product)–prevents the fudge from achieving the highest level of perfection, both in taste and consistency. Still, if you want to save time and effort–and if you have only modest cooking skills–your fudge will please most people.
Finally, for the best possible confection, be prepared to invest time, patience, and some sweat into the process. The following recipe creates an unparalleled fudge.
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup whole milk
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate or ½ cup cocoa
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Note that you can substitute 2% milk and margarine for a “healthier” fudge, but it’s candy! Why would you go to all this effort to make something less than heavenly? If your heart or cholesterol level are an issue, just eat less. That said, do what you must.
Butter the sides and bottom of either a loaf pan or an 8x8x3 inch pan (depending on how thick you want the pieces to be). Then, combine the sugar, milk, chocolate, corn syrup, and salt in a two-quart saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches 234̊F on a candy thermometer or the “soft ball” stage. [You will have reached the soft ball stage if–when you remove a small amount of the mixture from the saucepan and drop it into a cup of very cold water–it forms a soft ball that flattens when you remove it from the water.]. For the best results, use a wooden spoon. This is definitely the most critical and daunting part of the process, as its temperature and consistency are vital.
Quickly remove the mixture from the heat. If you wait too long, the fudge will be too hard; not long enough and you will futilely beat the mixture without ever getting a firm consistency. Add the butter and stir until it is completely melted. Then, set the mixture aside until it cools to 120̊F (or the bottom of the pan is lukewarm). Add the vanilla and beat the mixture until it is thick and no longer glossy–about five to ten minutes. Quickly stir in the nuts of your choice. Then, spread the mixture into your previously prepared pan. Once it has cooled completely, cut it into one-inch pieces. Depending on the type of pan you used, you will get from 32 to 64 pieces of the most palate-pleasing fudge imaginable.
So far as which nuts to use, most people choose walnuts. But for a special flavor, try black walnuts. They impart an oily mystery to your fudge. Another excellent alternative is macadamia nuts.
What sets this fudge recipe apart from the others is the fullness of flavor imparted by corn syrup and whole milk rather than condensed milk (which has a “preserved” flavor) and marshmallows. It takes more effort and time, but the results will speak for themselves.
So why wait until the Christmas season? You need the practice anyway, so get started now. Cook a little piece of paradise.