Fudge (2024)

Igrew up in a household where the Valentine's chocolates were more likely to be homemade fudge than fancy boxed bonbons. Particularly when there was a snowy day in early February and schools were closed, we would get out the enameled Dutch oven and wooden spoons and turn to the fudge recipes in my mother's dog-eared Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.

Fudgemaking provided pleasant winter entertainment and -- when we children could bear to part with what we'd produced -- fine Valentine's Day presents. (One of my strategies was to give fudge only to my grandmother and other relatives who would share.)

When we were very young, my mother cooked the fudge herself -- the sugar mixture gets too hot for small children to safely handle. At about age 11, I took over the cooking job, though I still needed her help in judging when the fudge was done. Eventually, I learned to listen for the distinct snapping sound of the bubbling mixture as it boiled down and neared doneness. And I learned to "test for the soft ball stage" by dropping a bit of the mixture into ice water, then squeezing it between my fingers to check for the right consistency (see sidebar on Page F5 for tips on testing with and without a candy thermometer).

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For a fudge to "set up" -- become firm -- beating with a wooden spoon or a standing mixer is required. When we were growing up, it was a communal activity. Nobody minded taking several turns with the spoon during the 15 or so minutes required, perhaps because of the enticing aroma that came from the pot with every swipe.

When did this American favorite come into being? According to "Oh Fudge!" by Lee Edwards Benning (Holt, 1993), the first known mention of the candy is in a file in the Vassar College archives. A Miss Emelyn Hartridge, who graduated from Vassar in the early 1890s, wrote that in 1886 she had obtained a fudge recipe in Baltimore. She recalled that fudge was sold there for 40 cents a pound by a grocery store "at 279 Williams Street." She added that she made 30 pounds for the Vassar senior auction in 1888 and believed that this was its first "real introduction to the college."

In 1894, a student at another women's college, Wellesley, mentioned concocting a make-do, dorm-dwellers' version of fudge cooked over a chimney lamp!

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In doing my own research on fudge, I've discovered it made its way into cookbooks near the end of the 19th century. Recipes for two fudges and two "panocha" (brown sugar fudge, now more often spelled penuche) appear in "Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book," published in Philadelphia in 1898. Eleven years later, fudge recipes showed up on the other side of the United States in "The 1909 Tried and True Recipes of Prineville [Oregon] Ladies."

Several decades later, fudge had become such a standard in the American home repertoire that "The Joy of Cooking" advised: "The fudge pot is responsible for the beginnings of many a good cook. So be tolerant when, some rainy day, your children take an interest in the sweeter side of kitchen life." (Actually, fudge and many other candies set up better in dry weather, but it's possible to compensate on humid days by cooking to a degree or so higher than normal.)

Like caramels, early fudges were prepared by boiling sugar, milk (or cream) and butter to the soft ball stage and, like fondants, they were finished by beating or scraping on a marble slab until the candy "grained" finely and set up.

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Later, "no-beat" fudges that contained marshmallow creme or marshmallows and that set up quickly without stirring came on the scene. The taste of these is often as rich and mellow as the old-fashioned recipes, but the texture is coarser and sometimes even grainy. More recently, super-quick mock fudges that call for sweetened condensed milk and that skip both the boiling down and the beating have arrived. These can be smooth and quite tasty (especially to those who haven't had the real thing!), but since the key step, boiling down, is omitted, they lack the wonderful underlying caramel taste that is the hallmark of true fudge.

Following are recipes that require both boiling and beating, as well as a more modern no-beat version. Any of the choices would make appealing Valentine gifts.

For convenience, they can be prepared ahead, wrapped airtight and frozen for up to a month. If you have a heavy-duty standing mixer such as a KitchenAid, you can greatly minimize the effort required to make classic fudge by beating it on low speed. (The motors of some lightweight standing mixers and hand-held models aren't strong enough.)

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Of course, it's fine if you feel that using a mixer is cheating and that hand beating is an essential part of authentic fudge fun.

Classic Beaten Chocolate Fudge

(Makes about 2 pounds)

This is reminiscent of early fudge, although not quite traditional since it uses vanilla, nuts and corn syrup. The candy cooks down slowly so it develops a full, rich caramel flavor. The final result is smooth, chocolaty and, in my mind, tastes just the way fudge should.

The corn syrup reduces graininess, lends a slightly chewy texture and makes it possible to start beating before the mixture is completely cool yet end up with a smooth product.

4 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 3/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, slightly softened

1/8 teaspoon salt

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2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup (about 4 ounces) chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to hang over 2 sides of the pan by several inches.

Place the chocolate in a large bowl (if using a standing mixer, use the mixer bowl). Set aside.

In a 3- to 4-quart heavy nonreactive pot over medium-high heat, combine the cream, sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Stirring frequently with a long-handled wooden spoon, bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately cover the pot and boil for 3 minutes to allow the steam to wash down any sugar crystals from the inside of the pot (the crystals might otherwise result in a grainy consistency).

Meanwhile, wash and dry the spoon.

Uncover the pot and reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles briskly but is not at a hard boil. If any sugar crystals remain on the side of the pot, use a damp cloth to carefully remove them. Cook, stirring to scrape the bottom of the pot frequently, 12 to 15 minutes, until the mixture registers 237 to 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. (The tip of the thermometer should be under the surface of the mixture but should not touch the bottom of the pot.) Alternatively, to test using the cold water method, drop a bit of the mixture into a cup of ice water and cool for 10 seconds. If the mixture forms a slightly firm ball that flattens when squeezed, it is done.

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Immediately remove the pot from the heat. Pour the mixture over the chocolate, being sure to shake, not scrape, the mixture from the pot. Set aside to cool for 10 to 12 minutes. (This prevents a grainy consistency.)

Using the clean wooden spoon or a standing mixer on low speed, stir or beat the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated. Add the vanilla and stir vigorously or beat on low speed until the mixture begins to thicken and loses some of its shine, 12 to 15 minutes. (If at any point the mixture appears to be separated and oily, add a few teaspoons of warm water and mix until smooth again.) When the fudge has stiffened but is not completely "set up" or firm, add the nuts, if desired, and mix until blended. Quickly scrape the fudge into the prepared pan. Using a lightly buttered table knife, spread and smooth the surface. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and set aside to cool completely, about 2 hours. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 2 hours.

Using the foil edges as handles, carefully remove the fudge from the pan in 1 piece. Remove and discard the foil; transfer the fudge to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the fudge into pieces. If desired, trim the uneven edges. If stacking the fudge, be careful to place wax or parchment paper between layers. To store, refrigerate the fudge in an airtight container.

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Per serving (based on 32): 152 calories, 2 gm protein, 18 gm carbohydrates, 9 gm fat, 19 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 12 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Old-Fashioned Beaten Penuche

(Makes about 2 1/4 pounds fudge)

This fudge boasts a chewy yet smooth consistency and a distinct brown sugar flavor. In Mexico "penuche" (puh-NOO-chee) or panocha or penuchi is the word used for "raw sugar" or "coarse sugar."

Unlike most classic fudges, which need to cool down after cooking, this one is beaten hot.

2 cups light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

2/3 cup dark corn syrup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (4 ounces) chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to hang over 2 sides of the pan by several inches.

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In a 3- to 4-quart heavy nonreactive pot over medium-high heat, combine the brown and granulated sugars, cream, corn syrup, butter and salt. Stirring frequently with a long-handled wooden spoon, bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately cover the pot and boil for 3 minutes to allow the steam to wash down any sugar crystals from the inside of the pot (the crystals might otherwise result in a grainy consistency).

Meanwhile, wash and dry the spoon.

Uncover the pot and reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles briskly but is not at a hard boil. If any sugar crystals remain on the side of the pot, use a damp cloth to carefully remove them. Cook, stirring to scrape the bottom of the pan frequently, for 2 to 4 minutes, until the mixture bubbles loudly and registers 238 to 239 degrees on a candy thermometer. (The tip of the thermometer should be under the surface of the mixture but should not touch the bottom of the pot.) Alternatively, to test using the cold water method, drop a bit of the mixture into a cup of ice water and cool for 10 seconds. If the mixture forms a slightly firm ball that flattens when squeezed, it is done.

Immediately remove the pot from the heat. Quickly pour the mixture into a large bowl, being sure to shake, not scrape, the mixture from the pot. Immediately stir the fudge with the wooden spoon or beat on low speed with an electric mixer. The mixture should seem runny at first. Continue to stir vigorously or beat on low speed until the mixture begins to thicken slightly and loses some of its shine, 18 to 22 minutes. When the mixture has stiffened but is not completely set, stir in the vanilla and, if desired, nuts and mix until blended. Quickly scrape the mixture into the prepared pan; it will still be slightly fluid and very warm, even hot to the touch. Do not smooth the surface with a knife; instead, shake the pan quickly or rap the bottom of the pan on the counter to even the surface. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely, about 2 hours. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 2 hours.

Using the foil edges as handles, carefully remove the fudge from the pan in 1 piece. Remove and discard the foil; transfer the fudge to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the fudge into pieces. If desired, trim the uneven edges. If stacking the fudge, be careful to place wax or parchment paper between layers. To store, refrigerate the fudge in an airtight container.

Per serving (based on 36): 139 calories, trace protein, 23 gm carbohydrates, 6 gm fat, 12 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 18 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Peanut Butter-Peanut Fudge

(Makes about 2 pounds)

This no-beat fudge is slightly soft, sweet and has a pleasing peanut taste.

While the fudge is cooking, stir the mixture frequently and watch it carefully to avoid scorching. The peanut butter tends to thin out the fudge a bit; it's better to err on the side of overcooking rather than undercooking.

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup evaporated milk (do not use low-fat versions)

1/3 cup dark corn syrup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup marshmallow creme

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) chopped unsalted peanuts (optional)

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to hang over 2 sides of the pan by several inches.

In a 3- to 4-quart heavy nonreactive pot over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, milk, corn syrup and butter. Stirring constantly with a long-handled wooden spoon, bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately cover the pot and boil for 3 minutes to allow the steam to wash down any sugar crystals from the side of the pot (the crystals might otherwise result in a grainy consistency).

Meanwhile, wash and dry the spoon.

Uncover the pot and reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles briskly but not at a hard boil. (If any sugar crystals remain on pan side, use a damp cloth to carefully remove them.) Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan frequently, for at least 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture bubbles loudly and registers 241 to 242 degrees on a candy thermometer. Alternatively, to test using the cold water method, drop a bit of the mixture into a cup of ice water and cool for 10 seconds. If the mixture forms a slightly firm ball that flattens when squeezed, it is done.

Immediately remove the pot from the heat. Add the marshmallow creme, peanut butter, vanilla and peanuts, if using, and mix just until combined. Quickly pour the fudge into the prepared pan, being sure to shake the fudge, not scrape it. Do not smooth the surface with a knife; instead, shake the pan quickly or rap the bottom of the pan on the counter. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely, about 2 hours. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 2 hours.

Using the foil edges as handles, carefully remove the fudge from the pan in 1 piece. Remove and discard the foil. Transfer the fudge to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the fudge into pieces. If desired, trim the uneven edges. If stacking the fudge, be careful to place wax or parchment paper between layers. To store, refrigerate the fudge in an airtight container.

Per serving (based on 32): 111 calories, 1 gm protein, 22 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 15 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Cookbook author Nancy Baggett lives in Howard County. She can be reached through her Web site, www.keepsakekitchen.com.

Fudge (2024)

FAQs

What is traditional fudge made of? ›

At its simplest, fudge is a dense, soft candy, often made with sugar and dairy products like butter and milk. Nowadays, fudge is usually flavored with chocolate, but you can utilize pretty much any flavor, such as peanut butter, pumpkin, even birthday cake.

What is the secret to perfect fudge? ›

Tips for Making Fudge
  • Monitor the Temperature with a Candy Thermometer. If you end up with soft fudge that turns into a puddle in your hands or hard fudge that is a bit reminiscent of a crunchy candy, improper temperature is likely to blame. ...
  • Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer. ...
  • Beat Thoroughly.
Mar 8, 2023

Is fudge a chocolate or candy? ›

Although fudge often contains chocolate, fudge is not the same as chocolate. Chocolate is a mix of cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sometimes sugar and other flavorings and is hard and brittle. Fudge is a mixture of sugar, dairy and flavorings that is cooked and cooled to form a smooth, semi-soft confection.

What is fudge technically? ›

Fudge is a type of confection that is made by mixing sugar, butter and milk. It has its origins in the 19th century United States, and was popular in the women's colleges of the time.

Is evaporated milk or condensed milk better for fudge? ›

Evaporated milk doesn't have sugar added. The sweetened condended milk is needed as no extra sugar is added to the fudge. If evaporated milk were used then the fudge would not be sweet enough and also would still be too soft unless the fudge is frozen.

What makes high quality fudge? ›

It's the size of sugar crystals that makes the knees of fudge lovers buckle…the smaller the crystals, the less they are perceived on the tongue and the more the fudge tastes smooth and creamy. Cooking, and beating after cooking, is the key to successful fudge.

How do you make fudge creamy and not grainy? ›

Grainy Fudge

To avoid this issue, swirl the pan instead of stirring it with a spoon. You can use a wet pastry brush to wipe down any sugar that sticks to the sides of the pot.

What is the difference between English fudge and American fudge? ›

Turns out that the two are not quite the same, but they're still equally delicious. Denser and sometimes a bit more crumbly than its American counterpart, British fudge comes in dozens of flavors, and is frequently found in gift shops and at outdoor markets and street fairs.

Should you stir fudge while it's cooking? ›

Don't stir!

Once the fudge reaches soft-ball stage on the candy thermometer, remove from the heat and let the temperature drop to 110°F. Keep that spoon or spatula out of the pot until this happens. If you stir too early in the process, you'll make the sugar crystals too big and end up with grainy fudge.

Why is my fudge like taffy? ›

If the fudge is very soft and slightly chewy then it is possible that it did not quite cook to soft ball stage and next time the mixture should be cooked to a slightly higher temperature (soft ball is 112-116c/235-240F and a sugar or candy thermometer can help).

What happens if you don't stir fudge? ›

By letting the fudge cool without stirring, you avoid creating seed crystals. Stirring would help sucrose molecules "find" one another and start forming crystals. Stirring also introduces air, dust, and small dried bits from the walls of the saucepan—all potential seeds for crystal formation.

Was fudge made by mistake? ›

That appetite for fudge dates back more than a century. Food historian Joyce White says fudge is based on a recipe for chocolate caramels, which was very similar. "What probably happened is that there was someone in Baltimore, messed it up, or 'fadged' it," she said. "Fadge is a word that means you messed up.

How was fudge originally made? ›

One popular story traces the history of fudge back to the late 19th century in the United States. According to this tale, a batch of caramels was accidentally overcooked, resulting in a grainy texture. However, the candy still tasted delicious, and thus fudge was born.

What's the difference between American and English fudge? ›

The English fudge is more firm and crumbs whereas the American type is softer. Brown sugar fudge, which is known as Penuche, is the English favorite and uses brown sugar instead of confectioner’s sugar.

What makes fudge taste like fudge? ›

Fudge incorporates sugar, milk, butter, and other ingredients such as cocoa for chocolate fudge. The chocolatier then heats these products together until they melt. After this, the mixture is beaten during the cooling process. Think of fudge as a food consisting of crystallized sugar.

What is British fudge made of? ›

A recipe for clotted cream fudge, a traditional British style fudge made from clotted cream, golden syrup, and unrefined caster sugar. Delicious, easy to make, and ideal for gifting!

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