Making fudge correctly is a very satisfying experience but the road to perfect fudge is fraught with peril.
If you have never made traditional fudge before, or your fudge never sets, these guides should set you straight. There is nothing wrong with “no-fail fudge” (which usually contains marshmallow creme), but my goal is to master traditional fudge.
Anybody can learn to drive, but not everyone can drive a stick and parallel park. =)
After reading it you will hopefully have a better understanding of why fudge works the way it does, and be on your way to a lovely block of fudge. Recipe links at the end of the course. If you have any questions leave them in the comments.
What is fudge?
Fudge is a creamy crystalline sugar candy. It’s soft enough to melt on the tongue but firm enough to hold it’s own shape. Fudge does not need to be refrigerated, however it will go stale and is best consumed within one week. Fudge will last longer in an airtight container with the layers separated by wax paper. If you’re giving fudge as a gift, tightly wrap the pieces in plastic wrap before putting it in a box.
What is fudge made from?
- sugar (white sugar, golden sugar, dark brown sugar)
- fat (2% milk or 35% cream, and butter)*
- an interfering agent (corn syrup, karo syrup, cream of tartar)
- something for flavour (vanilla extract, chocolate, peanut butter, et cet)
- OPTIONAL stuff for texture (nuts, fruit, liqueur)
* Some recipes use sweetened condensed milk, or evaporated milk.
How do you make fudge?
Very carefully! The science of fudge is very precise. Before getting into recipes and equipment, you need to wrap your head around the method:
- All the ingredients (except the vanilla, and optional ingredients) are combined in a pot on MED heat, and stirred frequently until the mixture begins to boil. At the first sign of a bubble, remove the spoon.
- Once it starts to boil, reduce temperature to MED-LOW
- The pot must remain undisturbed as the temperature slowly rises, until it reaches “soft ball stage” which means it’s between 235°F to 240°F, or 112.78°C to 115.55°C
- The pot is removed from heat and placed into a cold water bath to bring the temperature down. Supersaturated sugar is so hot it will keep climbing in temperature after you remove it from heat, so the cold water bath prevents the sugar from becoming over-cooked past the soft ball stage
- The mixture is typically cooled to at least 120°F – 48.88°C however I have embraced the idea of cooling to 100°F – 37.77°C
- The vanilla (and sometimes butter) is placed on top of the fudge
- The mixture is beaten until it changes colour and loses gloss
- The mixture is transferred into a prepared pan and left to sit at room temp for 4 hours to set
If you live at high altitude or in a humid climate, it really depends on the recipe. You will need to make adjustments to the temperature but how much depends on altitude and humidity, so I’d get googling before starting.
Let’s move on to Fudge 102.