Fudge 102 – newb’s guide to getting started

In Fudge 101 we covered a brief introduction of what is fudge, the ingredients of fudge, and the technique of making fudge.  Fudge 102 is aimed at the newbie who is going to try their hand at making fudge. Now it’s getting exciting.

How long does it take to make fudge:

  • about 18 min to reach boiling
  • about 40 minutes to reach soft ball stage
  • 60 minutes to cool
  • 28 minutes to beat in a KitchenAid (your time for this may vary)
  • 4 hours to set

Tips for the fudge newb:

Check the weather. If it’s humid don’t make fudge today.

You don’t need a candy thermometer, but the ball stage is difficult for a newb to judge correctly, and the window of time between under-cooked and over-cooked is razor-thin. Save yourself the tears and get a good, digital candy thermometer. I have this Taylor thermometer which is available on Amazon.com for $22., I picked mine up at the St. Lawrence Market and also use it for tempering chocolate.

Get everything ready before you turn on the stove. Line your pan with foil and grease it. Completely grease the pot you’ll cook the sugar in, right up to the edge. Grease the wooden spoon or beater blade.

Have a jug of cold water in the fridge, and a larger pan set on the counter to be the water bath.

Read your recipe thoroughly, make sure you understand when to stir and when not to. Understand at what point you add any extras like nuts or fruit (typically right before it’s ready to be poured into the pan).

Beware the recipe that tells you to chill the fudge to ensure it sets. Proper fudge will set after sitting at room temperature for about 4 hours.

Understand that cooking the fudge properly is the skirmish before the war. The real test of your mettle will occur when you beat the fudge, and learn to master the fine art of turning and pouring. And if it doesn’t work out it’s okay! Don’t give up.

What works for one person…

  • some recipes insist on cream, others use milk
  • some add the butter at the beginning, others add it when the vanilla is added
  • some people use a wet pastry brush to wipe away sugar crystals
  • some people only beat by hand, others use a hand mixer or stand mixer

Personally, I use 2% milk, because every time I made fudge with cream it failed. I add the butter at the beginning, and beat it using my KitchenAid. My fudge never turned out until I started using a water bath, and I am still mastering when to stop beating it.

Equipment:

  • digital candy thermometer, remember to calibrate it
  • heavy-bottom sauce pot, ideally with straight sides so you can clip thermometer onto it
  • sturdy wooden spoons (avoid metal which conducts the insane heat right into your skin)
  • hand mixer or stand mixer (unless you’re a masochist and you actually want to beat fudge by hand, in which case have at it)
  • 8″ square pan + one bigger pan to serve as the cold water bath
  • tin foil

OK! I’m ready to get fudging!

Just one more thing! I talked earlier about when the thermometer hits “soft ball” ( 235°F to 240°F, or 112.78°C to 115.55°C) you should remove the pot from the heat immediately and place it in a cold water bath.

Not all fudge-makers use a cold bath, but I recommend it for this reason: supersaturated sugar is so hot, it continues to cook after you remove it from the heat (like taking something out of the microwave, it keeps getting hotter). If you are removing the fudge from the stove at the top of the soft ball range, which is no higher than 240°F or 116°C , your fudge will cook itself right past the optimum temperature and no wonder it’s not going to set.

Once it starts creeping up to the ideal range, I watch it like a hawk, and as soon as it’s about to hit soft ball (it’s one or two tenths of a degree away), I take it off the stove and set it in the water bath pan.  As soon as the temperature peaks I add the cold water so that way it can’t get past soft ball. The temperature will begin to drop and now you can’t exceed the soft ball stage. Make sense?

Let the pot sit undisturbed between 30-60 minutes, until temperature drops to 100°F or 37.77°C. Some people say you don’t need to go this low, but I’ve started aiming for this temperature after reading how cooler sugar crystals stay smaller (to avoid grainy fudge).

Then, and only then, are you ready for the final confrontation.

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