Mom’s Old-Fashioned Fudge ((A “how-to” for perfect fudge))
Nothing says home to me more than a batch of old-fashioned fudge. Not just home, but love. Where I come from, a plate of fudge can say “I love you” almost better than words. Really, fudge is the international sign for “I love you”. No one makes it better than my momma. With a little practice and her essential tips, you will be well on your way to telling someone you love them — in the best language I know, “fudge”.
I moved away from home in the summer of 1996, I mean REALLY moved away. I moved out of the house in ’92 but given the fact that I went to OU, I was only 19 minutes from home & I don’t call that “away”. But in the summer of ’96, I moved to Dallas & began working on my Masters at SMU.
I felt VERY “away”. I was alone. I can close my eyes and remember standing on the sidewalk, in front of my new apartment, deep in the heart of Dallas, as I watched mom and dad drive away. The feeling was awful.
As the weeks passed, school consumed a lot of my time and helped distract my homesick feelings. But nothing eased the ache for home more than a batch of mom’s fudge.
Somewhere in that old Dallas apartment, amid notebooks, textbooks & study sheets, I had a handwritten ((chocolate stained)) recipe entitled “mom’s fudge”. As the years passed I referred to it less and less, developing the ability to recall the ingredients and steps from memory.
Being young and poor, I never had a candy thermometer. ((A candy thermometer is essential BTW)) Without this handy, modern device, I was forced to make fudge like “they” did in the 1800’s. Coincidentally, I recently purchased a vintage German cookbook, first printed in 1909, that describes the technique I used in that tiny Dallas kitchen almost 2 decades ago.
What ancient technique does a poor grad student need to use in order to quench that homesick ache?? The “ice water method”. Now, I am not telling you this because I recommend it. To the contrary, I think you need to avoid it. Modern technology may have complicated life in so many ways – but when it comes to fudge-making, technology has helped immensely.
The ice-water method requires the cook to drop beads of boiling fudge into a small dish of ice water. If, when rolled between your fingers in the ice water, a ball forms, then the fudge has reached the proper temperature ((one assumes)). This method never worked for me. The fudge either be would be over-cooked and hard needing a chisel to break apart or undercooked like syrup and eaten with a spoon.
Whatever the state of matter my chocolate creation resided in, the flavor & aroma were close enough to mom’s that I could, for a second or two, pretend home wasn’t as far away as it really was.
Many years have passed since those dreary days in that cramped Dallas kitchen. I have not only gained a herd of fudge lovers, I have also acquired that all-important candy thermometer. Yes, life is completely different!
I have moved back into the 19 minute from home range – and have reverted to relying on momma to make my fudge. But this past weekend I asked mom to give me a fudge making refresher. She had two very important tips that led to a perfect batch of fudge ((twice in one weekend–tight pants alert))
- once the ingredients (minus the butter & vanilla) are combined, do not stir again until the fudge has cooled (between 150° & 160°)
- stop cooking at 232° (2° shy of the soft ball stage)
There you have it – the two secrets to perfect fudge are now available to you! Fly you little perfect fudge maker, fly free!
Here are the specifics: As soon as the temperature reaches 232°, remove from the flame & add butter and vanilla. Allow the fudge mixture to rest until the temperature registers between 150°-160°.
Once the desired temperature is reached, beat the ever-loving stuffing out of the fudge. Two to three minutes of hardcore mixing (by hand). This is where you earn the right to eat half of the batch.
Now this part really is perfected by experience. You will know the fudge is ready to be poured out into the prepared dish when:
- the spoon leaves a path in the fudge and the path stays for a second or two
- the bubbles formed while beating the fudge turn from round to long & skinny
You will know you beat it too long when:
- the glossy sheen disappears (oops)
- it turns hard in the pan (oops)
So stop before that happens. Okay, you stopped beating at the right time, yay for you! Now, FAST!! Turn the fudge out into the prepared ((buttered)) pan. Do not spread it because you will lose that glossy sheen. If you stirred it 2 seconds too long it will look like mine did:
Notice how it didn’t spread into the dish?? I could have spread it but I would have lost that gorgeous glossy sheen. I didn’t want to loose that! Creamy & rich – just perfect.
Really, as I learned all those years ago, there is no such thing as bad fudge ((unless you burn it — so do not burn it)). The more you make it the better you will get, like momma always says “practice makes perfect.”
- 2 c pure cane granulated sugar
- 1/3 c cocoa powder
- 2 T corn syrup
- 2/3 c whole milk
- a scant pinch of fine sea salt
- 2 T salted butter
- 1 heavy t vanilla
- extra butter to prepare dish
- It is important to note before the instructions are listed, a digital candy thermometer is essential to making a perfect batch of fudge. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of your medium saucepan, making sure the tip of the thermometer is about 1/2" from the bottom of the pan. Set the thermometer to "soft ball" stage.
- Place sugar & cocoa powder into the saucepan and whisk to combine and remove any lumps. Add corn syrup, milk and sea salt. Stir to combine. Remove spoon
- Turn flame to medium-high, do not stir the fudge anymore*. Watch the temperature closely, remove from flame when the fudge reaches 232° ((not the soft ball temp of 234°)). While the fudge is approaching temperature, butter the dish the fudge will be poured into. An 8"x8", or a 6"x8" oblong is perfect.
- Once 232° is reached, turn off flame and add butter & vanilla. Do not stir*. Allow the fudge to cool to between 150° - 160°. Once the fudge has cooled to this range, use a wooden or silicon spoon and vigorously stir the fudge for about 3 minutes. You will know the fudge is ready to be poured into the prepared dish when stir lines remain in the bottom of the saucepan and the fudge doesn't quickly run smooth when you stop stirring.
- When the stir lines ((meaning you can see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds before it runs back to smooth)) appear, pour the fudge into the prepared pan. Fight the urge to spread the fudge out smooth. If you spread it, you will lose the gorgeous glossy sheen. Allow to cool to room temperature and cut into bite size pieces as you serve, don't cut the entire pan at once or it will dry out. Cover with plastic wrap and store at room temperature on the counter.
- *Stirring during cooking and cooling will cause sugar crystals to form within the fudge,yielding a grainy final product.