Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (2024)

What’s special about fudge?

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (1) Fudge is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that sugar crystals are not desirable in candy. Tiny microcrystals in fudge are what give it its firm texture. The crystals are small enough, however, that they don’t feel grainy on your tongue, but smooth.

While you ultimately want crystals to form, it's important that they don't form too early. The key to successful, nongrainy fudge is in the cooling, not the cooking. The recipe calls for heating the ingredients to the soft-ball stage, or 234° F, then allowing it to cool undisturbed to approximately 110° F. If you stir during this cooling phase, you increase the likelihood that seed crystals will form too soon.

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (2) A seed crystal is a surface that sucrose molecules (that's the sugar) can begin to attach themselves to—it could be a few sucrose molecules stuck together, a piece of dust, or even a little air bubble. Once a seed crystal forms, it grows bigger and bigger as the fudge cools. A lot of big crystals in fudge makes it grainy.

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.

When the fudge has cooled to about 110° F, you want to start the crystallization process. You start to stir, and keep stirring, until the candy becomes thick. The more you stir, the more crystal seeds you get. But instead of getting a few huge crystals (and grainy candy), you get lots and lots of tiny crystals, which make for thick, smooth candy.

There are two other candies that deliberately employ sugar crystals. One is fondant, a wetter version of fudge that you find inside soft-center chocolates. The other is rock candy, for which a sugar solution is left for days to form enormous crystals.

Think you get it? Try making fudge or rock candy yourself!

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (2024)

FAQs

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium? ›

Fudge is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that sugar crystals are not desirable in candy. Tiny microcrystals in fudge are what give it its firm texture. The crystals are small enough, however, that they don't feel grainy on your tongue, but smooth.

What is the science behind fudge? ›

When making fudge, heat and acid work together to convert sucrose – basic white sugar – into its two components, glucose and fructose. When these sugars are present, they prevent sucrose from turning into big sugar crystals.

What makes fudge different from chocolate? ›

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 the secret to perfect fudge? ›

You have to control two temperatures to make successful fudge: the cooking temperature AND the temperature at which the mixture cools before stirring to make it crystallize. Confectionery experiments have shown that the ideal cooking temperature for fudge is around 114 to 115 °C (237 to 239 °F).

What is the principle of fudge? ›

Heating the sugar and milk mixture allows the milk to dissolve more and more sugar, and by the time the mixture is boiling, all the sugar is dissolved. The general principle is that at a particular temperature, a given solvent (in this case, milk) can dissolve only so much of a particular solute (sugar).

What is special about fudge? ›

Fudge is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that sugar crystals are not desirable in candy. Tiny microcrystals in fudge are what give it its firm texture. The crystals are small enough, however, that they don't feel grainy on your tongue, but smooth.

Why does fudge taste so good? ›

Fudge can also include other ingredients such as nuts, dried fruits, or marshmallows for added flavor and texture. The key to making great fudge is achieving the right balance of sweetness and creaminess while still allowing the chocolate flavor to shine through.

What makes fudge hard or soft? ›

If there is too much evaporation, when the cooking time is too long, there will not be enough water left in the fudge and it will be too hard. Conversely, if the cooking time is too brief and there is not enough evaporation, too much water will remain and the fudge will be too soft.

What not to do when making fudge? ›

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels
  1. Using the Wrong Pan. All candy and confections start by melting sugar. ...
  2. Stirring the Sugar. ...
  3. Not Using a Candy Thermometer. ...
  4. Leaving Out the Parchment Paper Lining. ...
  5. Skipping the Cooking Spray. ...
  6. Scraping the Pot. ...
  7. Using a Cold Knife to Slice.
Dec 16, 2015

Why did my fudge turn out 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).

How was fudge invented by mistake? ›

Fudge creation is often attributed to a happy accident in a confectionery experiment. The story goes that a batch of caramels went awry — “fudged,” in the parlance of the time — leading to the birth of this new sweet treat. This error resulted in the soft, creamy confection we now know as fudge.

What do Americans call fudge? ›

fudge in American English

a soft candy made of butter, milk, sugar, and chocolate or other flavoring, etc.

What the heck is fudge? ›

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.

What causes fudge to set? ›

The amount of time you cook fudge directly affects its firmness. Too little time and the water won't evaporate, causing the fudge to be soft. Conversely, cook it too long and fudge won't contain enough water, making it hard with a dry, crumbly texture.

What is the process of making fudge? ›

No matter the exact ingredients you use, the fudge-making process will be similar. First, you'll heat the ingredients to dissolve the sugar and create a hom*ogenous mixture. Next, you'll cook the mixture until it thickens. Finally, you'll remove the fudge from the heat, allow it to cool, and then mix thoroughly.

What are the interfering agents in fudge? ›

Corn syrup acts as an "interfering agent" in this and many other candy recipes. It contains long chains of glucose molecules that tend to keep the sucrose molecules in the candy syrup from crystallizing.

How does fudge thicken? ›

Beating the mixture encourages the formation of small sugar crystals, which leads to the crumbly texture. The crystals may not be noticeable in themselves but the fudge mixture will thicken and turn from shiny to matte in appearance.

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