A former employee used to bring in the most fantastic fudge each year for Christmas. She'd bring in two kinds: peanut butter and chocolate. Her fudge was the smoothest, mellowest, meltiest fudge I've ever had. She said the secret was something about stirring...?
I can't remember her secret, but this year I'm attempting to make fudge. I want sweet, smooth, melty fudge--NOT gritty, grainy, too-sweet, hard-as-rock-candy-like fudge.
What's YOUR secret?
Agree with Rainey. Not stirring or even bumping the pan until the mixture reaches 110 degrees is the key to not growing large sugar crystals. Then, at 110 degrees, start beating like crazy and do not let up until the mixture loses its gloss and holds its shape when a dollop is dropped onto a flat surface. Immediately pour or press into the buttered pan.
Some people swear by kneading the mixture by hand before pressing it into the pan, for a velvety, creamy texture. I use this technique when I haver overbeaten and the mixture is too stiff. Saves my fudge every time, and it does make the fudge super-velvety.
Mmmm. The pumpkin fudge that's in the kitchen upstairs is calling to me!
I agree with all of the above -- I just leave the candy thermometer in and set the pan on the back of the stove until it cools to 110. Then beat it like crazy. There's really no other way. Also, it may be obvious, but using half-and-half instead of milk will give you richer, creamier fudge.
There's really nothing quite like traditional homemade fudge. Store-bought fudge, even very good store-bought fudge, never has quite the right (to me, anyway) texture.
It takes practice and experience, though, because a lot of things will affect candy making, including the weather. I have a recipe for walnuts coated with a orange fondant glaze that I've made many times and it always worked perfectly. Then I tried to make the same recipe using Meyer lemon juice instead of orange and macadamia nuts instead of walnuts, and all three times I attempted it, the candy never set (it did, however, make really yummy confections that had a soft-caramel texture). I think it must have been the higher fat content of the macadamias.
re: Ruth Lafler
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup orange juice (I've always used fresh squeezed, since I need an orange for the orange peel anyway)
1 tsp. grated orange peel
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups walnut halves
Line a baking sheet with wax paper (or parchment, or use a silpat). Combine sugar and orange juice in a heavy sauce pan and cook to the soft ball stage (240 degrees). Remove from heat and add orange peel, vanilla and walnuts. Stir until syrup starts to thicken and looks cloudy. Quickly turn the nuts onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into a single layer. Let cool. When completely cool, break apart and store in a container with a tight-fitting lid, preferably in the fridge or freezer (I leave them at room temp., but my house is pretty cool and dry).
OK, I know some of you are fudge purists and want to do it the tried and true way. But Cooks Illustrated (this month) has a super-easy super-fast recipe for fudge that is no-fail and delicious. My sis-in-law tells me that it's pretty similar to the one on the Eagle Condensed Milk can.
Only ingredients are(please check amounts before making, since this is from memory):
One 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
18 oz. chocolate (chopped fine)- use mixture of unsweetened and sweetened, to taste
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix chocolate with baking soda and salt. Add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Melt in bowl over boiling water (or in double-boiler) until mostly melted (still chunky). Take off heat and keep stirring until smooth. Put in greased baking pan and cool in fridge for 2 hours.
They have PB and Rocky Road variations, and my sis-in-law does a peppermint stick variation.
Good, smooth, very rich. Takes all of 10 minutes, plus time in fridge.
Check Cooks Illustrated for the correct recipe!