Get perfect results every time with these tips for making perfect fudge.
One of my favorite things to do this time of the year is to make fudge. I think I have tried just about every combination imaginable. Sometimes, my fudge comes out perfectly with very little effort, and other times I am literally pulling my hair out in frustration for even attempting this batch. Does this sound like you? Never fear and read on. These cooking tips for making perfect fudge will have you getting wonderful results every time from now on.
Fudge is one of those must have recipes this time of the year and everyone has a favorite or two. One of my favorites is a lovely mosaic fudge that I make each year for my Christmas table. It is so colorful and looks “Christmasy” with the addition of the red and green cherries.This list of ingredients includes white chocolate chips and condensed milk. But each fudge recipe varies, not only on the ingredients but on the technique involved. So what is a cook to do? One size does not fit all in the fudge making department, but there are a few things to keep in mind when making a batch of fudge that do make a difference.
Lets start with the tools you will need for making perfect fudge. Pretty much every fudge recipe needs these things to have it come out correctly.
A heavy saucepan with tall sides. Fudge needs to be boiled for quite a few minutes to set well and if you choose a pan that it too small, you will ensure a “boil over” which makes a huge mess. Choose a pan that is at least three times the volume of your ingredients to avoid this. I like to use one that has a heavy bottom and is made of stainless steel, but other types work well too, as long as the size is right and the sides are tall.
Wooden Spoons or Silicone Spatulas. I used to use a wooden spoon all the time to make fudge, but with the advent of silicone products that withstand very high heat, I find that I use these more and more to make my fudge. Whichever you use, be sure that it is very sturdy. Some fudge recipes can get very thick in no time at all and a flimsy spatula just won’t do the trick.
Candy Thermometer. Making perfect fudge really boils down to one thing. Getting the fudge mixture to the right temperature. There are various ways to do this, but using a candy thermometer will make sure that you are not just guessing. If you under cook the mixture, you will end up with fudge that does not set, no matter how long you keep it in the fridge. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can use what my mother used to call the “soft ball” stage. She used to keep a clear glass of water near the pot and would drop bits of the mixture into it as she was cooking. When the mixture formed a small soft ball by rubbing it between her fingers, she knew she had cooked it enough. But even this method requires some guessing. When in doubt, use a candy thermometer!
Not all candy thermometers are rated equally. Some imported glass models are down right dangerous! This digital model from CDN (available on Amazon) is rated the most highly at 9.6 out of 10 by Best Reviews Guide.
Foil lined pan. Once your fudge has been made and has set, you will want to remove it easily. You can grease the pan, and this works okay, but one trick that I have found that works well is to line your pan with foil. I use a 9 x 9 glass pan with two wide sides. Then I extend the foil up the sides so that I have “handles” to remove it when the fudge has set. Spray the foil with Pam or another cooking spray. Use the foil handles to pull the fudge out of the pan and then just peel it away from the fudge mixture. Easy, peasy!
Tips for cooking Fudge.
Ingredients make a difference. If you are new to cooking fudge, look for recipes that contain marshmallow cream, marshmallows or corn syrup. Using these in your ingredients help to make sure the fudge does not crystallize into large particles and helps it to set well. Use good quality pure vanilla extract (not the cheaper imitation flavor) and full cream butter. These make a huge difference in the taste of the finished fudge. Don’t substitute margarine for butter, since it contains more water and the fudge won’t set as well.
Which is best for making perfect fudge – Milk or Cream? Evaporated milk has a tendency to curdle at high heat. Try to find recipes that call for evaporated milk or cream instead.
Gather your ingredients before you begin. This is a good rule of thumb for any recipe, but for fudge, which can sometimes set quickly, it is extra important. Doing this will also make sure that you have everything you need to actually make the fudge. Nothing is worse than getting to the end of the recipe and finding out that you don’t have the nuts, or chocolate chips that you were SURE were in the pantry. (Don’t ask me how I know this!)
Don’t scrape the cooking pan after the cooking is done. Sugar has a tendency to crystallize when cooked to a high temperature. If you scrape the edges of the cooking pan when you remove the fudge, it may allow these crystals to mix with the fudge ingredients and may make your fudge gritty as well.
Test your candy thermometer. Many cheap cooking thermometers are notoriously inaccurate. Be sure to test yours before you begin for best results. To test a thermometer, bring water to the boiling point and insert the thermometer into the water, being sure not to let it touch the bottom of the pan. Let the temperature rise. It should stop at 212º F.
Cool then beat the fudge. Once you have made sure to cook the fudge to the desired temperature, remove it, allow it to cool to 110ºF and then beat it vigorously. Do this before adding other ingredients such as nuts and dried fruit. One trick my mother taught me is to place water in the sink and then set the pan of fudge into the water while you beat it. Beat it until the fudge begins to thicken and has lost its glossiness.
Adding other ingredients is fine BUT. It’s fine to experiment and add other ingredients to your fudge mixture, but be careful to pay attention to their water content. If it has too much, it will affect the consistency and the fudge may not set well. Some safe ingredients to add are: nuts, marshmallows, raisins, other dried fruit, peanut butter, M & Ms, chunks of your favorite candy bars. Be sure that the ingredients go well together.
Allow the fudge to set a while before you put in the fridge. Sure, we all want a piece of that home made fudge NOW…but cooling it too quickly can cause crystallization and a grainy fudge. Allow it to cool at room temperature for a while and then place it in the fridge to set completely.
Store fudge properly. If you go to the trouble to make perfect fudge, you will want to store it properly. To keep homemade fudge at its best, cover it tightly with waxed paper, foil, or clear plastic wrap and then store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. If the recipe specifies the fridge, be sure to keep it there. Fudge can also be frozen for later use. Since fudge has a tendency to be sticky, if you store it in layers, add wax paper or parchment paper between the layers.
Fudge Consistency and why it happens.
Perfectly cooked fudge. Most fudge needs to be cooked to a temperature between 237 and 239º F. This evaporates part of the liquid and makes sure that the fudge is neither too hard or too soft.
Under cooked fudge. This has been my most common problem with fudge. And it happens when I DON’T use a thermometer. Guessing just does not work, (for me at least) for fudge. If you only allow the fudge to cook to about 110º F or so, the sugar will not be concentrated enough. If you end up this way, you can make Truffles out of the mixture and roll them in coatings. If you want to save the fudge, return it to the pan, add about 2 tbsp of cream and bring it to a boil. Let it boil until the temperature reaches 237 and 239º F.
Over cooked fudge. This means that the fudge will have reached too high a temperature. There will not be enough liquid left to form sugar crystals. The result will be more of a peanut brittle type of consistency…very hard and brittle. To save this fudge, add about 4 tbsp of cream and bring it to a boil. Then let it boil to the desired 237 and 239º F.
Fool proof perfect fudge. There are a few out there that don’t depend on a high cooking time for them to set. Some of the popular ones use confectioner’s sugar instead of brown sugar or granulated sugar. See this 10 minute Buckeye Fudge as an example. It really is fool proof even if all your fudge recipes fail!
Now that you know how to make perfect fudge, it’s time to try some new recipes. See 20 of my favorite fudge recipes here. But be careful. Once your family tastes these, you will be their go-to person for fudge making each Christmas!
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