Friday, January 08, 2010

Fudge Follies

When I was a kid, my Mom used to make the best fudge ever. She also made fudge sauce. You may think some store makes the best fudge but you'd be wrong.

I haven't had the fudge in years. Probably decades. She didn't make it often, even when I was a kid, but when she did, it was fudgasm.

Sometime before Christmas, I began thinking about trying to make some fudge, and asked for the recipe. My Mom revealed that she'd given me one of those cookbooks women's groups put together in the 60s and 70s to raise money, the Local Schoolhouse PTA Cookbook, that sort of thing. It turns out I have four of those from different fundraising things. And my brother does, too, she says. (I guess she was thinking ahead, eh?)

I didn't get around to trying to make fudge during finals, but I took the recipe book with me to my siblings, and it sounded appealing to all. So one evening my Sister-in-Law and I started making fudge. We read the directions, mixed the sugar, cocoa, and salt well, added the milk, and started heating, stirring occasionally. We were consulting and working together.

But apparently, we weren't doing it right, or so my Mom said, when she said, no, not like that, like this, here, let me show you. And she took over, with an assist from my sibling. My Sister-in-Law and I stood by, watching, and keeping out of the way.

It took me back to being a kid, and trying to do something in the kitchen, and being told, no, that's not right, let me show you, and then I'd stand around supposedly watching and lose interest. You might think, well, B, you should have stood your ground, but I learned quickly that if I stood my ground, I'd inevitably do something imperfect, and then I'd hear about that for a good long time. So I learned to not even bother to try. (It's a bad thing to learn.)

So I have a theory about cooking with kids. It's easy for me to have a theory, since I don't have kids to test it, but here it is: it should be okay for stuff to not turn out perfectly, especially the first few times. It should also be okay for there to be a bit of a mess, so long as blood is on the inside. Again, I don't have kids to test the theory.

Back at the ranch, the fudge turned out pretty soft, too soft to really cut, and more something you'd eat by the spoonful. Eating by the spoonful wasn't a problem for me. It still tasted really good.

Towards the end of my visit, when the previous fudge was gone, my Sister-in-Law and I decided to try again. Once again, we read the directions, got out stuff, and started following the directions. This time we even found a candy thermometer. We were doing fine, and then my sibling decided that no, we weren't actually doing fine, and that we should do something different, so he took over.

It's clear that one of us bred true, isn't it.

That time, the fudge came out like a rock. We had to break it with the edge of a heavy pan and stuff rather than trying to cut it with a knife. The good thing about fudge, though, is that even if it's totally hard, it's very water-soluble, so quite easy to clean up. And even rock hard, it dissolves in your mouth and still tastes pretty darned good.

And then I left and came home.

So, that first week home, I bought a quart of milk and decided to try making fudge myself, all by myself, so that if it didn't turn out well, I wouldn't have to hear about it. It was even softer than the first fudge over break, so soft that it didn't even hold its shape when you spooned some out. It still tasted good.

So, tonight I tried again. I thought I had it, but it's still too soft.


(But it tastes very good!)


  1. In my experience, the secret to really awesome consistency in fudge is high fat. The higher the fat, the more chance it will turn out neither too hard nor too soft. This means using cream instead of milk and chocolate instead of cocoa. Added butter and/or peanut butter (at the beating stage) helps too.

    Not that I want to do the comments equivalent of taking the spoon off you and telling you you're doing it wrong, of course :)

  2. There is no better fudge in the world than spoon-fudge; ergo, you're doing it right.

  3. I don't cook fudge, but I do jams, and my become more ice cream toppings when I get impatient and take them off the stove too quickly. But if it tastes good, why complain?

  4. Fudge is one of the more difficult things to make-I've actally never had great homemade fudge.either the sugar isn't dissolved enough or it's too soft. Always tastes delish though.

    I Luke what you say about kids and cooking. I find it hard to just let my kids do it themsleves qhen I am with them in the kitchen. Better to leave the room and let them do it on their own. that's how I learned.

  5. My mom makes great fudge too, and finally she confessed to me that it was a microwave recipe. Here's the recipe:
    1 (12 oz.) pkg. milk chocolate chips
    1 can sweetened condensed milk
    1 tsp. vanilla
    1 c. walnuts or pecans (optional)
    8x8x2 inch pan lined with wax paper

    Spray large microwave bowl with Pam. Add chips and milk. Heat in microwave for 2-2 1/2 minutes. Stir melted chips together plus 1 teaspoon vanilla. After smooth add nuts. Then pour this mixture into wax paper lined 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan. Cool in refrigerator for 1 hour. Cut into small pieces for serving. Keep well covered so the fudge will not dry out.

  6. Your perseverance to make good fudge your own way is inspiring. I had the same sort of "no-that's-wrong-this-is-how-you-do-it" cooking experiences with my family, and it is probably the very reason that I loath cooking. Fortunately, my husband is a great cook. Unfortunately, he doesn't have time to cook (full-time job, plus doing freelance on the side). So we eat out a lot. It's not only bad for the pocket book, but also bad for the waist line. One new year's resolution of ours is to try to eat at home more. I think I'm going to have to spearhead that effort if it's going to work. So I will take a little inspiration from your perseverance and try, try again. But I'll be cooking chicken or something instead of fudge. Fudge for dinner DOES sound tempting though...

  7. My fudge is often too soft too, but my recipe (okay, the recipe from an exboyfriend that I pass off as my own as an Earnest "tradition") says to "let stand in buttered pans for 24 hours to ripen."

    Now, this does not mean I don't eat a ton of it anyway, but it does harden up a little (not always enough) in the ripening process. So it gets that nice hardish fudgething on the outside while the inside is ooh so delectable! You might try that. And then, of course, let us know how it goes!

  8. One of my boyfriends told me about the time he and his dad made fudge. They burned out TWO of his mother's electric mixers before having the brilliant idea of attaching the mixing implements to a power drill.

  9. Your mom as expert reminded me of a little incident over Christmas; mom and various sibs were visiting and had brought cookies to be frosted, so the boys and my Eldest Sib commenced making frosting. It was quite the event, and quite messy. Frosting sugar spewed all over the kitchen floor at one point, and then had to be swept up and the floor scrubbed, but the guilty party cleaned up without complaining.

    My mom was getting more and more bothered by the mess and rowdiness that was going on and was getting more pissed off by the minute. I finally pulled her aside and told her, "Hey, it's okay, they're little kids, of course they're going to make a mess. But look how much fun they're having!" And they were laughing uproariously at the time. She took a deep breath and shut her mouth. I was amazed, honestly, both that I actually said something and that she pulled back and decided to let it go. She would never have let us be that rowdy and rambunctious as kids, so maybe she's mellowing a bit. (I will say, though, that it's hard to imagine your mom backing out.) ;)

  10. Fudge is a fickle bitch, as far as I can tell.

    I have been making fudge with my mother since I was a wee thing, and I still manage to cock it up with alarming regularity.

    Fortunately she never seemed to mind too much. And fortunately, it would screw up for her, too (but never so frequently).

    Still, you're dead on - It always tastes good, whatever the consistency.

  11. i love your theory of cooking with kids, and can testify that it works. the rule also applies for grownups.

    my kids had a wonderful art teacher, who always told her students, "there are no mess-ups in art." she did not want them to expect perfection of themselves, but to experiment a little with techniques, and to work their way through any problems they encountered. not a bad philosophy for cooking, or for many other things in life.

  12. richard1:30 PM

    I agree with your theory of kids and cooking, too. I learned from my mother, who taught me to treat a recipe as a list of suggested ingredients and processes, and so we never worried if things turned out differently each time. And to a point I think your theory works for kids and everything else, too--focus on instilling enjoyment first, and then worry about discipline and cleanup. Too many of us grow up afraid to try anything new because we might mess it up, when we should enjoy the mess even while we learn to be cleaner.

  13. I have a good friend who lives your philosophy with almost everything (frosting cupcakes, making chocolate-dipped strawberries, lighting fires!) - even with kids who aren't hers, i.e., my boys. I have a tendency to be more like your mom, but every time I'm with my friend I resolve to learn the patience she shows. Good luck with the fudge!