by Stephanie Zonis
36 or more pieces
What is it about fudge that causes people to regard it with a mixture of fear and reverence? Everyone seems to love it, but there have been so many warnings about what can go wrong that even experienced cooks tend to shy away from making it. True, there are certain procedures that you should and shouldn't follow when making fudge, but that's the case with programming computers or dress-making or anything else, so there's no reason not to give it a try. This is a true cream-and-butter fudge, with more chocolate in it than is usual. The nuts can be omitted, if you wish. I store this in the refrigerator, but please let it come to room temperature before serving, as the fudge will have much better flavor if you do so. It also freezes nicely.
You'll need a candy thermometer, a pastry brush, a heat-resistant rubber spatula, and a heavy-bottomed 3-quart pot. If you are impatient about waiting for the fudge to cool, the way I am, you'll also need ice cubes and a pan that is longer, wider, and shallower than your 3-quart pot (I use a 15 by 11 by 2 inch baking pan). Do not make this on a humid or rainy day. Fudge is a much-loved holiday gift.
3 cups granulated sugar
1-1/3 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup light corn syrup
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, very finely chopped
3 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped, toasted, cooled pecans OR walnuts
If your candy thermometer is a clip-on type, adjust it so that the bulb rests just above the bottom of a heavy-bottomed 3-quart pot. Remove the thermometer from the 3-quart pot, and place it in a 2-quart pot filled about 3/4 full of cold water. Place the 2-quart pot over low heat on the back of the stove and let thermometer warm up gradually. If the water in the 2-quart pot begins to boil, shut off the heat, but leave the thermometer in the pot until you need it. Using unsalted butter in addition to that called for in the recipe, butter the sides of the 3-quart pot; set the buttered pot aside. Have ready a cup of very hot water.
In food processor fitted with steel blade, process sugar at highest speed in 3 "bursts" of about 15 to 20 seconds each until sugar is very fine-textured. (This step is optional, but it makes dissolving the sugar a much easier job.) Pour processed sugar into 3-quart pot. Add cream, corn syrup, and salt. Set over low heat. Stir almost constantly with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved; mixture should not come to a boil during this process, which may take 8 to 10 minutes or more. Once or twice during this process, dip a pastry brush into the cup of very hot water, squeeze the brush almost dry, then wash down the sides of the 3-quart pot, starting from the top and working down to the surface of the sugar mixture. You'll have to dip the brush into the hot water several times to wash down the sides of the pot, but you want to get as little water as possible into the sugar mixture while doing so.
When the sugar is completely dissolved, increase the heat under the mixture to medium. Add the chocolate and stir often until it is melted and incorporated. Again, wash down the sides of the 3-quart pot as instructed above. Stir occasionally until mixture comes to a boil. Remove the thermometer from the pot of hot water, shake it off briefly, then place in boiling mixture, again making certain that the bulb rests just above the bottom of the pot.
Watch the boiling mixture especially carefully for the first few minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain a rolling boil. I stir the boiling mixture every 2 to 3 minutes, alternately using my candy thermometer and a heat-resistant rubber spatula; when using the spatula, I scrape the lower sides of the pot as well as the bottom. The idea is to stir the fudge just often enough so that none of it sticks to the pot and burns. Boil the fudge until it reaches a temperature of 235 degrees F on the thermometer. Toward the end of the cooking period, wet a paper towel with hot water, then squeeze it almost dry. VERY CAREFULLY wipe down the tube of the thermometer until you can see the mark for 110 degrees—the thermometer and fudge will both be hot, but you'll need to see the 110 degree mark later. If you are going to use the ice and water, when fudge nears the end of its cooking period, fill the larger, shallower pan with about 1 inch of very cold water.
When the fudge reaches 235 degrees F on the thermometer, remove from heat. To use the ice and water cooling method, place the 3-quart pot into the very cold water, making sure none of the water gets into the fudge. Add the cold butter bits and vanilla, but do not stir in. Add 6 or 8 ice cubes carefully to the cold water, again making certain no water or ice gets into the fudge. If you are not using ice and water to cool this, remove fudge from heat when it reaches end temperature and place on pot holder or cooling rack. Add butter bits and vanilla but do not stir in. Whatever method you choose, the fudge should cool undisturbed until the temperature falls to 110 degrees F.
While the fudge cools, prepare the pan and utensils. Line an 8 inch square pan (at least 1-1/2 inches deep) with a double layer of aluminum foil. with soft butter, very lightly butter the foil. Butter a clean tablespoon or serving spoon (I use a metal spoon here) and a large, sturdy spatula. Have the nuts nearby.
When fudge has reached 110 degrees F, remove from ice and water (if used), and place pot on dish towel or pot holder on flat surface. Begin to stir/fold the fudge. This is a stiff mixture, and it will take a couple of minutes to incorporate the melted butter, but keep at it. Stir thoroughly, but it is not necessary to beat or to stir continuously. I take frequent breaks for 30 seconds or a minute at a time. Periodically, scrape the spoon, the pot bottom, and the pot sides no more than 1/3 of the way up from the bottom with the buttered spatula.
Continue stirring for approximately 15 to 30 minutes. When the fudge is ready to pour out, you'll notice several changes. The fudge will stiffen slightly and begin to lose its gloss. It will "snap" with every stroke of the spoon, and you may feel it give off heat. Working quickly, stir in the nuts just until evenly distributed, and turn into prepared pan, scraping out the bottom of the pot and the sides no more than 1/3 of the way up from the bottom. If necessary, butter your hands lightly and press the fudge out to make an even layer in the pan. Cool completely before cutting.
To cut, lift out block of fudge, still in foil, from the pan. Peel back foil sides. Use a large, very sharp, heavy, straight-edged knife to cut the fudge into 36 or more pieces; it will be necessary to run the knife blade under hot, then cold, water, then dry it off, frequently, to keep the cuts neat. I wrap each piece individually in plastic wrap so it will not dry out. Store in refrigerator for up to several days or freeze for longer storage; allow to come to room temperature before serving.
Occasionally, when I make this, after I've turned it into the 8 inch pan, a thin layer of butterfat will show up on the surface as the fudge cools. If this happens, just blot the butterfat up gently with a paper towel.
Copyright © 2000 Francesca Chocolate Productions. All Rights Reserved.
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This page created November 2000
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