First, apologies for a non-Rose recipe question, but I am in a bit of a quandry (as usual).
All of the “real” fudge recipes seem to follow the same patter: bring stuff to a boil, stirring. Bring to soft ball, not stirring. Add butter & Vanilla. Cool to approx. 110. Beat.
Ditto with all the recipes in the candy book I’m working from, “Who Wants Candy?” by Jane Sherrock.
Except the recipe I want to make, “Aunt Erma’s Legendary ‘Til it’s Done Fudge.” This recipe omits the cooling step. Directly after adding the butter, you beat it.
Isn’t the cooling to keep it from forming the large crystals (or something)—wouldn’t beating it at the higher temp be like stirring it at the higher temp? Can’t figure out if this is an errata or if it could be this way intentionally for a reason my inexperience wouldn’t be informed of.
Your absolutely correct, the cooling stage is very important in making fudge, actually more important than the cooking stage.
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.
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.
I have made alot of fudge and this is the method I always use. I am making maple walnut fudge, chocolate fudge and vanilla bean fudge this year for Christmas.
There is also fudge that you can make with marshmallows or sweetened condensed milk, and they don’t require the traditional cooling and beating stages. Being a fudge snob, I don’t consider these as fudge.
You can always try the recipe and see how it turns out.
That recipe also contains an unusually large amount of corn syrup, which tends to inhibit crystalization (invert sugar). Perhaps it’s enough to prevent large crystals from forming even if you begin beating too early.
BTW, Liza, if you happen to be checking in, what do you think of doing the beating with an electric mixer? My book advises against it, but both YouTubes I saw (one of which was Fine Cooking, FWIW) use an electric hand mixer. Also, they say not to scrape the sides when you pour it out, but don’t you basically end up scraping them when you beat the stuff anyway?
Thanks so much for your very experienced thoughts!!! Do you have a favorite repository of candy recipes?
Hi Anne…Kudos to you for attempting REAL fudge. I don’t know if this will apply to you, but adjusting for altitude is as necessary when boiling sugar as when baking. I found a small note about this in my old (1960’s era) version of ‘Joy of Cooking’, but have never seen it mentioned anywhere else. It makes a lot of sense when you remember that we’re talking about water boiling at lower temperatures the higher you get and thus sugar syrups concentrate at lower temperatures. The adjustments they suggested were 10 degrees at 3000’, 13 degrees at 5000’, and 16 degrees at 7000’. So if recipe calls for soft ball at 336 degrees, start checking when thermometer reaches 326 (for 3000’) etc.
When I first moved to Montana 20 years ago (6500’) I couldn’t figure out why my cooked sugar recipes wouldn’t work. Now I know everything I was making was being radically overcooked. As soon as I started making the temperature adjustments my sweets went back to their usual creamy selves. I also made temperature adjustments when boiling sugar for buttercreams, but found that I had a little more leeway than with fudge or candy. Thank you ‘Joy of Cooking’. I think this older version is worth finding if you don’t have it. It has much more information about working with sugar syrups and many more candy recipes (including lots of real fondant recipes..like brown sugar fondant and caramel fondant) than later editions.
Are you using the Cooks Illustrated version for your sweetened condensed milk fudge? I remember making that fudge in high school and thinking that the flavor was wonderful, but the texture was a little soft. CI claims to have solved that problem by adding a little baking soda at some point to change the PH. I haven’t tried it yet, but am curious to know if it works!
Good luck with your fudge(s). As always, you inspire me to get into the kitchen.
Hi, Janet! Thanks for all the high altitude info. I have learned that I never want to move to a place with high altitude!!!!!!
The “fake” fudge recipe I made is from AllRecipes. I was just browsing around, and when I saw it had 4.5 starts out of 307 reviews, I thought I’d try it becuase it looked so easy. It’s this one. http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Fudge/Detail.aspx. I think it came out good. I can’t really say—I’ve done too much today, so I need to get a little distance. It’s not quite as pretty as the picture on the site, though. I melted everything over the double-boiler, as I only use my microwave for storage (baking storage, actually).
The “real” fudge was a brown sugar fudge. OMG, I could barely stir it after it cooled, it was such a thick caramel sauce! After about 8 minutes, I took the mixer to it for about 5 minutes. It started to change color a little, but as soon as I stopped, it was glossy again and dark. I went back to hand mixing for fear of burning out my motor, and it stayed dark and glossy. It was about 23 minutes. I quickly googled “fudge won’t lose it’s gloss” and “troubleshooting,” and after typing it, I looked down, and it lost all its gloss and was very stiff. I have no idea if it came out or not. It’s not exactly grainy at all, but it’s not super-smooth, either. It does melt in your mouth. But I can’t really tell if it’s right.
In all, it was enjoyable, if harrowing, and I look forward to giving everything a taste in a couple of days to see what’s what!
You can definitely use a hand mixer to beat the fudge. That is how my mom does it. It just is more convienient to use a stand mixer, thats all. As far as scraping the pan…When I pour the cooled fudge into my mixing bowl I scrape just the bottom of the pan, not the sides. Scraping the sides can cause the fudge to become grainy when you are beating it.
I am trying to post a link to the fudge recipes that I use, but I’m not exactly sure how to do that. I just made the vanilla fudge and it is to die for.
My mom always makes brown sugar fudge…so so good. Her’s is not grainy , but not smooth and velvety either.
Kind of hard to explain the texture, maybe alittle crumbly. She always puts roasted nuts, either pecans, walnuts or peanuts in with it. One thing I know for sure is that it is very addictive.
Thank you, Liza! I think my brown sugar fudge is perfect then!!! I was going to ask you about it. I tried some today—it has a slightly crusty exterior, and is a little crumbly when you cut it, but when you eat it, the interior is super-melting and wonderful!!! I was kind of worried about it and working on all sorts of Plan B’s for remelting, etc., but you (and your mother) have put my mind at ease!!! I put pecans in 1/2 and left the other half plain. They’re sort of squashed ovals. I was lucky to get it out of the pan at all!!! It was a very sudden glossy-smooth to dull-fudge. I was shocked!
Fab to know about the mixer—I was comparing hand mixer to hand (as in oh my aching arms), not even to a stand, so electrically beaten is ok! Good to know!!! I did hand, and then, when I couldn’t take it anymore, did mixer. Then, when my mixer couldn’t take it anymore, I did hand. If you go all hand, do you have to literally beat it, or will a slow, painful, methodical stir suffice? I mixed in the pan itself, so next time, I’ll pour it into a mixing bowl, scraping the bottom, but not the sides.
Finally, to paste a link, as I would love to see your recipe—simply copy it from your browser and paste. it will just look like text, but when you post, it will become a link.
Glad to hear your fudge turned out fabulous! OK, I will try and paste the links for you.
This is the vanilla fudge recipe. I will have to make another post for the chocolate and the maple fudge.
Here is a recipe for a creamy vanilla fudge. It tastes astonishingly like a good vanilla milkshake. The methodology is essentially the same as the chocolate fudge recipe, except that this makes a lesser amount, so you might wish to set it up in a smaller pan. In my opinion, the key to successful fudge doesn’t lie with the ingredients, but rather with the handling of the candymaking process. Remember – gently does it.
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream (35% fat)
1 Tbsp glucose or corn syrup
45g (1.5oz) unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
2 tsps vanilla extract
seeds scraped from half a vanilla pod (optional)
1. Combine the sugar, cream and glucose syrup in a medium sized saucepan. Calmly, over a low heat, stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved and the spoon no longer feels like it’s running over grit at the bottom of the pan. This can take several minutes. Try to dissolve the sugar completely before the mixture boils.
2. With a pastry brush dipped in hot water, brush the insides of the pan to wash down any sugar crystals (if you don’t do this, these crystals can cause the fudge to go grainy later). Use as little water as you can. When the mixture boils, stop stirring and clamp a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom.
3. Allow the pan to boil without stirring, over a medium-low heat, until the temperature reaches 238F (which is one notch below the “Soft Ball” mark on my thermometer). This can take up to 10 minutes – you might need to turn the heat up a little bit, but resist the temptation to turn it up too high, or you’ll ruin the fudge. You want to keep the mixture at a rolling boil but with the smallest amount of heat you can get away with. Keep an eye on the pan to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
4. When it reaches 238F, place the pan on a heat proof surface to cool, leaving the thermometer in place. Add the butter, vanilla extract and (optional) vanilla seeds, but do not stir. Breathe and stay calm. Get a cup of coffee and unstack the dishwasher while you’re waiting for the fudge to cool.
5. When the temperature reaches 120F, check to see if a slight skin has formed on the mixture, under the melted butter. If so, scrape the fudge , butter and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer (if not, allow to cool a little longer). Mix at a very low speed, pausing occasionally, until the fudge “sets up”. The mixture undergoes a chemical change – it starts off sticky and similar to pulled toffee and seems to do nothing for a while in the mixer, then suddenly, in an instant, it changes – losing its gloss and becoming more granular and dull in colour. Here are photos of the fudge before and after it has “snapped”, to give you some idea of what I’m talking about. Interestingly, when the fudge does snap, it also releases heat (as a result of the chemical reaction), so the mix in the bottom photo was quite warm and tacky to touch (as opposed to gooey and sticky, which is how it was prior to mixing).
6. Tip the fudge into a buttered pan and work it in with your hands. When it has cooled slightly, score or cut into small pieces. It can take several hours to set completely.
3oz (90g) dark chocolate (I used 70% Callebaut)
3 cups sugar
½ cup full cream milk
½ cup cream (Australian cream is like a US heavy whipping cream)
good pinch salt
1 Tbsp glucose syrup (or corn syrup)
3 Tbsp (45g) butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Grease a square or rectangular glass pan with butter. My pan was a 7″ x 11″ (18 x 28cm) pyrex dish, but the original recipe recommended an 8″ (20cm) square one.
2. Mix together the sugar, milk, cream, glucose syrup and salt in a saucepan. Stir with a spatula over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved, then add the chocolate and stir together until melted. At this point, I used a whisk – everything needs to dissolve before the mix starts to boil, so you might need to adjust your heat accordingly. Whisk gently and try not to splash too much sugar onto the sides of the pan. Use a pastry brush dipped in a little bit of hot water to wash any sugar crystals down from the side of the pan.
3. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, stop stirring and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan, being careful not to let it touch the bottom. The pot I used was probably a little too small – be aware that the mix will rise up as it boils! Boil over a medium-low heat – if you raise the temperature of the mixture too quickly, it’s more likely to end up grainy.
4. Let the mixture boils until it reaches the soft-ball stage, 235F – 240F (113C to 115C). Stay there and watch it – don’t wander off! I pulled mine off the heat at about 238F, to make sure it didn’t get too hot. You can test for “soft ball” by putting a little into a glass of ice water and seeing if you can squeeze it together into a soft ball – if so, it’s ready to go.
5. As soon as it reaches the soft-ball temperature, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool. I put mine onto the stainless steel bench, but you might need a heat mat if your bench isn’t as resilient. Allow to cool to 110-120F (43.5 – 49C). At that point, a slight skin will have formed on top. Add the chopped up butter and vanilla, but don’t stir. Don’t try to rush the cooling time, or the fudge won’t set properly. I find cooling to 120F resulted in a creamier texture, whereas 110F gave us a firmer, more crumbly fudge.
6. Once it has cooled, scrape the fudge into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the fudge at a low speed until it “sets up”. Pause occasionally to let the fudge react (and also to make sure you don’t blow your mixer motor up). The big thing to look out for is a change in appearance – the fudge will lose its gloss and turn a dull, matt brown. It will also significantly lighten in colour and stiffen up.
7. As soon as you see this colour and sheen change, scrape the fudge into the prepared pan and press it down with your hands to flatten it evenly into the tray. Allow the fudge to cool to room temperature, then cut it into squares and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
This is the maple fudge recipe that I use. Sorry that the pictures didn’t copy.
Maple Cream Fudge
2 cups maple syrup
1 Tbls. light corn syrup
3/4 cups heavy cream
butter, for pan
optional: 1 tsp. vanilla and 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Makes about 1 lb. of fudge.
Maple Cream Fudge: Combine the syrups and cream
Clip your candy thermometer on the inside of 3-quart, heavy-bottomed pot. Be sure that it’s not touching the bottom of the pot. (If it touches the bottom of the pot, it can give you a false reading.)
Add the maple syrup and corn syrup.
Pour in the cream.
Whisk well to combine.
Your mixture should be a uniform, caramel color, like this:
Set the pot on the stove over medium heat. Whisk it constantly until it comes to a boil.
Maple Cream Fudge: Boil the mixture until it hits soft-ball stage
When it starts to boil, stop whisking. You won’t stir it again until the mixture has cooked completely and then cooled. That’s just fine.
When it first starts to boil, it will bubble up dramatically, then subside.
Boil like this, without stirring, until the mixture reaches soft-ball stage on your thermometer. (This is called “soft-ball stage” because, at this temperature, a small amount of syrup will form a ball when dropped into cold water�but will flatten when picked up.)
Mine looked about like this at this point:
Maple Cream Fudge: Cool to lukewarm without stirring
When the mixture reaches soft-ball stage, take it off the heat. Set it aside to cool in the pot. Cool it to lukewarm (about 120 degrees or so) without stirring. This took me roughly 40 minutes.
While you’re waiting for the mixture to cool, butter a standard one-pound loaf pan. Set it aside.
As the mixture cools, it may get a slight skin. That’s just fine.
Maple Cream Fudge: Beat the mixture when cool
When the mixture cools to about 120 degrees, transfer it to the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl, if you’re using a hand-held mixer.)
Beat for 7-10 minutes on medium speed.
As you beat it, it will lose its gloss, thicken, and become opaque.
After about 10 minutes, my fudge looked like this:
It should be considerably stiffer and more solid.
If you’re adding them, toss in the vanilla and nuts. Beat to incorporate.
With a wooden spoon, scrape the fudge out of the bowl. It will be stuck to the sides of the bowl. That’s just fine.
Transfer the fudge to your buttered loaf pan.
It should be moist but not overly sticky.
Using the back of a wooden spoon (or your hands), press the fudge flat.
You want it to look about like this:
Cool it completely before cutting. This will help it firm up a little more.
Maple Cream Fudge: Cool completely and enjoy!
When your fudge is completely cool, cut into squares.
The website for the Maple Fudge is the Hungry Moose. ( He He He - love the name, must be a fellow Canuck! ) There are wonderful pictures on both websites for the step by step procedures. I find that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words! If you do try them, let us know how they turned out.