Sunday, December 4, 2011

Favorite Chocolate Fudge

I'm not going to say that making fudge is tricky -- most of the time, the fudge will come out just the way you want it.  However, you have to be willing to work with it a little if it doesn't.  If you keep a few things in mind, this recipe can become a Christmas tradition, as it is in our family -- it is the best chocolate fudge!

(1) Atmospheric conditions --  try to cook this on a dry day!  You can make this recipe when it is cold or warm (using your candy thermometer as indicated in the recipe directions, Step 3), but probably should wait if it's a rainy day, humid, or low pressure (see Note at bottom of recipe).

(2)  This recipe requires a good candy thermometer (again, suggested temperatures are given in the directions, step 3),  and for consistent and best results, keep a glass of cold water next to your work area to check if the mixture has reached the soft-ball stage.  Change the water each time you perform the test so it is cold and fresh.  (What I am describing here is when you drop some of the hot mixture from a wooden spoon into the cold water.  If when you take the small piece out of the water,  it can be formed into a soft ball with your hands, then that is the result you want.  You may have to do this a few times as the mixture approaches the proper temperature.

(3) Here are some additional hints from 20+ years of making this recipe: 

Hint #1:  If you cook it too long it will turn hard when you test it in the water (hard ball stage) -- you do not want this, but may still be able to salvage the fudge by adding a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to the pot after the butter has melted, but before adding the vanilla extract and beating it.  In this case too, I would not wait for the mixture to cool to the recommended time or temperature -- I would do it right after the butter has melted. This has happened to me before, a couple of times -- and one time I actually broke off the end of a knife cutting into the fudge (it is still good to eat, just hard).

Hint #2:  If you do not cook it long enough and no matter how long you beat it, it does not turn from a hot fudge sauce consistency to something that will firm up, you can put it back into the pan and try reheating it to get the temperature up again.  In this case, I would also recommend adding a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to it while you are reheating it.  When you take it off the burner, you do not have to add more butter and vanilla (as you would have added them before), just let it sit and cool down again (20 minutes) and beat it again.  This time it will probably be a better consistency and will turn into fudge, or if the worse happens, you can always save it for hot fudge sauce -- although this worst case scenario has never happened to me. I did end up once with fudge the consistency of Tootsie Rolls, but don't remember the exact always tastes good at least!  


3 cups granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (I prefer Ghirardelli)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup chopped nuts -- pecans or walnuts, optional 
1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 Tablespoons or 1/2 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla extract


1.  Butter an 8x8" baking pan, or other plate to pour fudge onto for serving. In a large, heavy saucepan (of at least 3-3/4 cups capacity), combine sugar and cocoa.  Add salt and mix well.  Add milk and corn syrup; mix well.

2.  Start cooking over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes.  Attach candy thermometer to the pot and increase heat to medium-high.  Continue stirring with the wooden spoon.  The sugar crystals on the side of the pot can impart a grainy texture to the fudge, so if you must scrape the side of the pot, do it with a separate spatula that is dipped in a little water first. I think this helps a bit.

3.  Using a candy thermometer, cook until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (test for soft-ball stage in cold water, which will be approximately 236 degrees -- adjust to 234-236 during cold weather; 236-238 during warm weather). Remove the pan from the heat.

4.  Place the butter gently on the mixture in the saucepan and do not disturb.  Let sit for 20 minutes or until mixture reaches 110 degrees.

5  Add the vanilla (and chopped nuts, if desired).  Beat vigorously with the wooden spoon, periodically lifting spoonfuls of the mixture and letting them drop back into the fudge mixture and then continue beating.  This helps to make creamier fudge.  Beat until the mixture becomes very thick (not stiff) and just begins to lose its shine a little.

6.  Quickly spread the fudge in the buttered pan or plate and set aside to cool, about 15 minutes.

Notes:  Do not double this recipe.  Caution when cooking during humid, rainy weather or low pressure -- can cause "fudge disasters".  Try to cook on a dry day!