Tips For Making The Perfect Fudge
Fudge is a type of confectionery which is usually very sweet and extremely rich. It is made by mixing a combination of sugar, butter, milk and flavorings such as cocoa, chocolate, maple, peanut butter, white chocolate, butterscotch, nuts, extracts or even pumpkin. Sugar, butter, and milk are heated to a full rolling boil or soft ball stage at 234°F to 240°F (110°C to 115°C), and then the mixture is beaten while it cools so that it acquires a smooth, creamy consistency. Here are some tips to help you make the perfect fudge:
Gather all the equipment needed in advance.
Have all of the equipment that will be used to make the fudge within easy reach. Once you start making the fudge, you can't stop in the middle without the risk of ruining the batch of fudge. Most recipes require a candy thermometer, wooden spoons, heavy saucepan, heat resistant bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons, baking pans, heavy-duty aluminum foil, waxed paper or plastic wrap, a sharp knife and cutting board.
Prepare the baking pan.
Line the baking pans with heavy-duty aluminum foil. This can be easily accomplished by turning the baking pan over and forming the foil over the bottom and sides of the pan. Leave at least a 2" overhang of foil to use as a handle for lifting the cooled fudge out of the pan. Then turn the pan over and slip the foil into place. You can also use about a teaspoon of butter and lightly grease the foil.
Test the candy thermometer.
Always test the candy thermometer before making the first batch of fudge. Some websites will tell you that you shouldn't make candy when it is humid, or if it rains or snows. This is not factual. It isn't the humidity that causes problems, but the changes in air pressure. Simply retest your thermometer and adjust the recipe. All recipes are written for sea level, so some adjustment for temperature may be needed to the recipe.
To test for altitude and air pressure variations, clip the thermometer to a saucepan filled with water. Heat the water to boiling. Continue boiling the water for 10 minutes. At this time, the thermometer should register 212°F. If the thermometer doesn't indicate 212°:F, you will need to accommodate for the difference in the thermometer's reading by that number of degrees when you cook the fudge.
For more information see Testing the thermometer section in the article about Candy Temperature.
Use a heavy saucepan.
For best results, use a heavy, high-sided saucepan with straight sides that holds about twice the volume of your candy recipe. A heavy pan is less likely to cause scorching, and the extra room will help prevent boil-overs.
If the recipe calls for the mixture to reach a specific temperature, choose a pan that is large enough to hang the candy thermometer on the side without touching the bottom of the pan.
Use a wooden spoon.
For safety, use a long-handled wooden spoon that won't heat up during the prolonged cooking period.
Use a candy thermometer.
It is important to heat the fudge to the temperature or temperature range indicated in the recipe. The best way to accomplish this is to use a candy thermometer. Once the mixture is stirred the thermometer can be clipped to the side of the pan so that the temperature can be constantly monitored. To ensure accurate reading, just make sure that the thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pan and that the bulb is completely covered with the boiling liquid, not just the foam.
If you do not have a candy thermometer, the mixture will needed to be tested to make sure it has reached the proper cooking stage. Once the mixture begins to boil, it will begin to thicken and darken (subtle changes). At this time, fill a small bowl with water and a few ice cubes. Pour a small amount of the mixture into the cold water. Attempt to make a ball with it with your fingers. The mixture should form a ball, but loose shape as you attempt to lift it out. If it does not form a ball, continue to boil. Repeating this process with new cold water until the ball is formed. Remove the saucepan from heat at this time if indicated in the recipe.
Follow directions exactly.
The primary tip for good fudge is to follow the directions exactly. Candy-making is the most precise of the pastry arts. External factors such as the temperature of the stove, the type of pan, the temperature in the kitchen and the weather, can affect the cooking time, but the temperature of the liquid is always the best measurement to gauge doneness. Use an accurate candy thermometer and allow the mixture to reach the temperatures called for in the recipe before proceeding to the next step. Add each ingredient in the order listed by the recipe. Fudge making is very exact, and substitutions or changes to the recipe may result in recipe failure.
Pre-measure the ingredients.
Have all of the ingredients measured out in measuring cups or small bowls before staring to cook the fudge. Once the fudge starts to cook, stopping to find a measuring cup or ingredient could ruin the batch of fudge.
Use only real butter or stick margarine.
Use only regular butter or margarine (80% fat) in sticks. Diet, soft, light, or vegetable oil spread products contain extra water or different fats, which may cause the recipe to fail.
Chop bar chocolate.
When using bar chocolate, it is a good idea to chop it into smaller pieces before cooking to allow it to dissolve at the same rate as the other ingredients.
Do not double the recipe.
Success with fudge requires steady control of the heat. When there are twice as many ingredients, it will affect the cooking and cooling rate, and may cause recipe failure.
Constantly stir mixture until it reaches the boil stage.
Once all of the ingredients have been added to the saucepan, it is very important to constantly stir the ingredients to make sure they dissolve completely and do not stick to the pan before the mixture begins to boil. Be sure to scrape the edges of the pan with your wooden spoon to incorporate all the sugar.
Bring mixture to the boiling stage over medium heat.
Bring mixture to the boiling stage over medium to medium-high heat. Fudge making is a slow process to ensure that it will have a smooth texture.
Remove sugar crystals from the sides of the pan.
For creamy fudge, remove sugar crystals from the pan once the mixture is above the boiling level. To do this, wipe the sides of the pan with wet a pastry brush, or use part of butter in the recipe to pre-grease the saucepan, or the easiest way is to cover the saucepan for 1 minute to allow steam to wash down the crystals.
Don't stir anymore after the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has reached boiling stage.
Once the fudge mixture reaches either a full rolling boil or the soft ball stage 240°F (115°C), do not stir it or even shake the saucepan. Continue to boil the mixture for the time indicated in the recipe. Then remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to about 110°F (43°C). Do not vigorous stir the mixture when it is at soft ball stage. Stirring at the wrong time can actually promote crystallization of sugar into large grains causing the fudge to have a grainy texture.
Let fudge cool gradually to 110°F before beating.
Let the fudge cool to 110°F before beating, otherwise it may become grainy. After the fudge cools undisturbed to 110°F, it is ready for continuous, vigorous beating. When the fudge stiffens slightly, it is time to add ingredients such as chopped nuts. Continue beating till the fudge becomes very thick and starts to lose its gloss.
Use care when pouring hot mixture into baking pan.
Be careful when pouring the fudge mixture into the prepared baking pan, as it can be quite hot. Spread the mixture evenly and do not scrape the sides of the saucepan. The scrapings have a stiffer, less creamy texture.
Score the fudge into squares.
While the fudge is still warm, score it into squares using a sharp knife. This will make it easier to cut after the fudge has completely cooled.
Using fudge that is too stiff.
If the fudge becomes too stiff, try kneading it with your hands until softened, then press it into the pan or roll it up like a sausage and slice it. It will still be tasty.
After the fudge has completed cooled, remove it from the pan.
When fudge is cool and firm, use the foil that was used to line the pan to lift the fudge out of the pan. Place it on a cutting board and remove the foil. Use a sharp knife and cut the fudge into squares or diamonds, or use a cookie cutter to cut it into shapes.
Store the fudge as recommended in the recipe.
The fudge should be stored as indicated in the recipe. Some recipes indicate a tightly covered container, while others indicate that the cover should be loose. Some fudge needs to be stored in the refrigerator, while others require it to be stored in a cool, dry place. Coverings can consist of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, resealable bags, or containers. Fudge can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and in the freezer for about 3 months.