ZEN and the ART of FUDGEMAKING
There's a lot of personal mastery as well as physical chemistry involved in making old fashioned chocolate fudge. The recipe calls for an eagle eye, an angels hand. Fudgemaking calls for protecting the sugar from its self, i.e. buttering the sides of the steel, copper bottomed pan, so that crystals (which sugar WAS before you boiled it,) cannot form again.
The recipe is simple. Combine 1 cup milk (or half and half), two or three squares of bitter chocolate, 2 cups sugar and a tbsp of corn syrup (to confound the crystals. TWO types of sugar mean the crystals can't easily form) Then you simme gently, at a very very slow heat until the temperature of the syrup reaches exactly 238 degrees F (at sea level, less if you're high in mts with less atmospheric pressure). At that point, you turn off the fire. Drop in the butter softly, a few tbsps, then cool it to lukewarm, NOT TOUCHING or stirring it, just cooling to 115 degrees and then adding vanilla 2 tsps, and you slide the mixture quietly, softly into a buttered bowl, or onto a buttered slab of marble, pouring only the central, smooth part of the fudge into this new, clean receptacle, leaving all the dicey, maybe-crystallized stuff from bottom of pan or sides.....(giving the contaminated pan to 'lickers,') and then beating or paddling the pristine fudge gently until the surface shine disappears and at that second, letting it harden. Some let it harden on the marble where it was paddled. Some on a buttered plate. Some have added walnuts at this point. Some have a freaking mass of sugar crystals on their hands and throw the whole mess down the drain.
If you don't follow the cautions in the recipe -- i.e . a little corn syrup,. oiling the sides of the pan, covering the pan for a few minutes early in the cooking process; taking it to exactly 238 degrees, never scraping the pan; not so much as moving or disturbing the candy until it's cooled; and not letting anything, even a speck of dust, fall into the cooling syrup -- just the butter but not stirring it, letting them cool together, and then adding vanilla, you are very likely to wind up with a coarse, gritty mass instead of creamy fudge! So FUDGE is a recipe that separates the masters from the maniacs.
Little Candymaker concepts: Sugar dissolves far less readily in cold liquids than in hot. There is no way that two cups of sugar will dissolve in a cup of milk at room temperature. 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). When the milk has dissolved all the sugar it can hold, and there is still some undissolved sugar left, the mixture is said to be saturated. The higher the temperature, the more concentrated the saturated solution becomes.
Water (and milk) boil at 212 degrees F (100 degrees C) at sea level, but the sugar changes that. In general, a solid dissolved in a liquid makes it harder for the liquid molecules to escape. Consequently, the solution has to be hotter for the liquid molecules to get away at the same rate, and the boiling point rises.
In our fudge, the rise in boiling temperature is an exact function of the amount of sugar in the solution. Consequently, we can use the temperature of the boiling syrup to tell when enough water has boiled away to give the syrup the right ratio of sugar to water. For fudge and similar creamy candies, the syrup should boil at a temperature 26 degrees F (14 degrees C) hotter than the boiling point of plain water. When it reaches that heat, some of the initial water in the syrup has now boiled away. Because the sugar couldn't dissolve completely until the mixture was near boiling, the syrup reaches saturation very soon after it starts to cool. If you've done everything right, however, sugar does not come back out of solution. Instead, the syrup continues to cool as a supersaturated solution. The solid phase -- in this case, sugar -- cannot start to crystallize without something to serve as a pattern, or nucleus. You don't let a crystal get in the mix. Like off the edges of the pan. If a single sugar crystal is present, the syrup will start to crystallize, the crystals will grow steadily as the syrup continues to cool, and the result will be very grainy fudge.
This is why most fudge recipes require that the sides of the pot be buttered or oiled early in the cooking process. Also useful, putting the lid on the pan for about three minutes during the beginning of the boiling, to allow steam to remove any sugar crystals clinging to the container walls. It is also why the recipes specify that the sides and bottom of the pan should not be scraped into the bowl where the candy is to cool. There is too much chance of scraping in a stray sugar crystal! POUR the hot fudge out into another bowl. What is left in the pan is for cooks and their children to nibble!
As the cooling syrup gets more and more supersaturated, its tendency to crystallize becomes even stronger. Even a speck of dust can start the process if all the candy contains is sugar, milk, and chocolate. Using more than one kind of sugar can counter this tendency. Most fudge recipes contain either corn syrup (which contains glucose instead of the sucrose of table sugar) or cream of tartar (which breaks sucrose into glucose and fructose). The different sugars tend to interfere with each other's crystallization and minimize the chance that the candy will crystallize too soon. They must be used in moderation, however -- too much and the fudge will remain a thick syrup forever!
The final stage is stirring the syrup when it is lukewarm to promote FINE crystallization all at once throughout the candy. Disturbing (stirring) a very supersaturated solution causes many crystals to form at once. Because they compete with each other for the dissolved sugar, none can grow very large. The result is the proper creamy texture of fudge and the change in appearance from shiny (supercooled liquid) to dull (a mass of very tiny crystals).
Do it right and your fudge will be creamy like peanut butter. Do it wrong.....it's still very tasty, just doesn't feel right on the tongue. Like beach sand kind of.
REMEDIAL FUDGEMAKING 101
You've made a batch of fudge and after cooling to room
temperature is still flows. Now you're on the internet trying to
fix the sticky situation you've gotten yourself into.
If just anyone could make fudge then everyone would be doing
it... but as you've (and I've) experienced it can be
heartbreaking. So what can be done for fluid fudge?
If the fudge is too hard then you've generally boiled too long or
didn't reduce the boiling point for your altitude (so at Las
Vegas, NV (elevation about 1500 ft) the 234°F would be reduced by
3°F so you'd stop at 231°F). Generally people don't complain if
the fudge is too hard. To soften the fudge up you can expose it
to a moist environment - like placing a moist paper towel in a
plastic bag... poke a few holes in it... then store the fudge and
bag in an air-tight container for a few days.
The recipe solution to hard fudge is to add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup
of corn syrup to the recipe (or an equivalent amount of honey)
the next time you make the fudge. These sugars act to "impede"
the crystalization process making the fudge slightly softer.
If the fudge is too soft then you're "out of ratio." Too much
liquid. The balance of solid to liquid is crucial. I generally
like to see recipes with a ratio of liquid (milk, cream, corn
syrup) to sugar ratio of 2.5 to 3.5. It's kind of a rough
rule of thumb. [For purists, I consider corn syrup and
marshmallow creme as a 'half liquid-half solid'.] So when your
fudge is soft you need to either:
A. Add More Sugars/Solid
B. Remove More Liquid/Moisture
Rarely is any one ingredient that resulted in failure. No
guarantees... but consider the following before you toss that
treasure into the waste can:
A. Prepare a 2-quart saucepan by spraying the sides with Crisco
B. Place the entire contents of the fluid fudge into the
saucepan. Warm on LOW heat for about 5 minutes.
C. Increase the temperature to MEDIUM and bring to a rolling
D. Boil for an additional 3 minutes stirring intermittently.
E. At the end of the boil add one of the following (in order of
o 1/2 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
o 1 tsp cream of tartar
o 1/2 cup powdered sugar
o 1 tsp corn starch
o 1/4 cup light corn syrup
F. Stir until creamy and let set for a few minutes. Once it
begins to thicken up then pour back into a prepared pan. The
nuts and other additives will settle to the bottom so you
may want to mix it again -- at the risk of inducing sugar
granules - after a few minutes of cooling.
A. Pre-heat the oven to 250°F.
B. Place the pan of fudge-liquid into the oven. Cook for 15-45
minutes. Stir gently every 15 minutes with a metal spoon.
C. When the fudge on the metal spoon sets at room temperature,
remove from the oven and cool quickly to room temperature.
You might be able to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear - you
may not be able to rescue a fudge gone astray. My prayers are
Failure of the fudge to set. The objective standard by which
failure is measured is this: after the fudge has cooled a
small square is cut from one corner. If after an hour the
remaining fudge has shifted into the missing square area
then the fudge is considered a 'failure.' Typically this is
the time the stories begin... What went wrong? What could I
do differently? Did anyone see me make this stuff? Who can
Fudge is meant to be sent to friends and relatives. Sure,
you make some for yourself, but really you should spread the
love around and get the fudge out to others. This means
using the US Postal Service. Fluid Fudge will make a mess of
any package in which you sent it.
Failure of the fudge to set and you try to mask the problem
by putting in the refrigerator (or freezer) in a futile
attempt to fix it. It gets firm enough to cut when cool but
then begins to resemble a squashed bug as it warms to room
temperature. This is typically (but not exclusively) the
result of way too much butter, too high a water content, or
the substitution of an inferior margarine for superior
A fudge disaster is not the same as a fudge failure... it's
something much worse. Fudge Disaster is a fudge which should
never have been made in the first place. These disasters
come in three (3) grades.
Grade I: Fudge which tastes bad but doesn't set.
Grade II: Fudge which tastes bad but does set.
Grade III: Fudge which tastes bad, sets, and was sent out by
the US Postal Service to a valued friend or relative.
Fudge which doesn't set is unlikely to be given away so it
poses little risk. Fudge which sets is at risk of being sent
out but if you taste it (be honest now) you'd never send it
out. Bad tasting fudge which sets and is sent out can be a
time bomb. Words of Wisdom: Regardless of the time, expense,
or good intent - DON'T send out bad fudge. You will regret
it. (And don't feed it to the dog, it's not good for them.
Cats won't eat fudge as they're smart. It would kill them.
THE ONLY thing to do with bad fudge is buy a quart of vanilla
ice cream, serve it to your guests, then bring the bad fudge,
heated to the boiling point in and with exclamations of great
affection, pour it over their ice cream and follow it with a great
big glob of whipped cream. These people will rave about your
cooking for years afterwards, and NOBODY will be the wiser.
False (fake) Fudge. Also called "Pseudo-Fudge" or "No-Fail
Fudge" or "Fail-Proof Fudge." Also called "Frosting" or
"melted Chocolate Chips." These are confections (and some of
them okay) which are not true fudges. A Fudge, by
definition, requires a sugar, a liquid, and a flavoring. I
could butter a Hershey bar and sprinkle sugar on it. Would
that make it a fudge? No. The broader definition requires
the Big Three components, but also requires a boil, the
creation of a 'set-able' sugar slurry, and separate flavor
base. Most of what passes for Fudge is either a Frosting, a
Fondant, or a Flavor Base (like Chocolate Chips) with nuts.
This is an icing made of sugar syrup and glucose, which is
cooked to a specific temperature and then kneaded to a
smooth, soft paste. This paste can then be colored or
flavored and used as an icing for cakes and petit fours.
This confection qualifies as a fudge in that it contains
sugar, butter, and a flavoring agent. It doesn't contain a
major flavoring agent (such as chocolate chips) but a minor
flavoring agent (such as vanilla, mint, or rum). It has a
whitish-tan cast but should not be mistaken for White
Chocolate Fudge. Optional helpers can be used as normal.
Think of this fudge as your link to the 1800's before
Chocolate Chips (and chocolate for that matter) made it to
Basically milk which has been boiled down so that there's
less water (60% of the water removed). Instead of 2% milk
consider it 6% milk (I don't know the actual percentage).
This is a convenient vehicle for the milk proteins with less
Sweetened Condensed Milk
Is like evaporated milk (about 50-60% water removed) but
with gobs of sugar added. This makes a milky slurry similar
in consistency to honey. Milk proteins, dissolved sugars,
and little water.
Made from milk fat and containing 80% fat and the remaining
20% is moisture and milk solids. Lends good flavor to baked
goods and things like fudge.
Like butter, margarine contains both fats (70-80%) and
solids (20-30%). Instead of milk fat, however, vegetable oil
is used making the consistency different depending upon the
cooking conditions. [Experiment: Take a margarine stick and
put it in a clear measuring up. Warm it in the microwave
until liquid and let settle. You'll find that 20-30% of
solids will settle in the bottom and 70-80% of liquid
(vegetable oil) will rest on top. If you do the same with
butter, you'll also get a layer of solids and a liquid layer
on top. This liquid layer is called 'clarified butter' and
is much more flavorful than vegetable oil.] MY ADVICE?
SKIP IT. MARGARINE is bad for you and tastes bad.
WHAT IS THE POINT?
The fatty layer skimmed off the top of milk and contains
20-40% milk fats. Half-and-half (Light Cream) contains less
fat, only 10-30%. Whipping cream is often used with other
milks to create a smooth, rich sugar slurry.
Cream of Tartar
This white powder is the by-product of grape fermentation
and is used to stabilize whipped egg whites, meringues,
angel food cakes, and marshmallow cremes. It is the major
component of Baking Powder.
A confection made from corn syrup, egg whites, gelatin, and
other agents. Typically dusted with powdered sugar.
Marshmallow creme is marshmallow which has not been "puffed"
to dry it's surface. Previously marshmallow was made from
the root of the Mallow plant. In today's society, no Mallows
are killed in the production of marshmallows - mini or
Corn Syrup (& Others)
Sugar in another form: corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses,
cane syrup, sorghum, and others. Instead of sucrose (table
sugar) it is another kind of sugar molecule (i.e., dextrose
and others) but doesn't meet the FDA definitions of refined
sugar so it's not called "sugar." [Substitutes: If you don't
have corn syrup you can substitute (1 cup extra-fine
granulated sugar + 1/4 cup liquid for (1 cup corn syrup).]
A boil which cannot be stirred down. In essence, the whole
solution is boiling, not just one hot part of the mixture. A
common mistake in fudge making is to call the first sign of
a boil as the beginning of the boil. Thus the mix is
under-boiled and too much water results... fudge failure.
During storage the fudge will become softer and take on a
more velvet like texture. This usually begins after the
first 24 hours. It must be kept in an air-tight container in
order for ripening to occur.
Penuche Fudge (pronounced pan-o-ka)
Penuche fudge is a basic fudge with no flavoring agents
except vanilla. What makes it a unique taste is that the
sugar is composed of a 50/50 mix of brown sugar and refined
granulated sugar. Brown sugar is the same as white sugar but
with less molasses removed.
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