So. Let’s talk Fudge.
First off, what is fudge?
Fudge is made of butter, sugar and cream (plus flavoring at the end) that is heated and allowed to cool to produce a crystallization of sugar molecules. This crystallization gives us a deliciously smooth texture from a firm solid fudge.
So why is it so hard to make? Chemistry. Physical Chemistry.
Especially in the cooling phase.
Let’s dive in.
1.} One of the best ways to make a fabulous fudge is to invest in a good candy thermometer. Yes, you specifically want a candy thermometer. I use one like this:
The reason I like this one the best is because of the metal frame surrounding the actual thermometer. It allows you to just set it in the pot and not worry about it touching the bottom of the pan and reading hotter than the candy actually is. Any candy thermometer will work though. They are not expensive so go get one.
You might want to test your thermometer to make sure it is working acurately before you start your fudge. Do this by boiling some water and using the thermometer to check the temperature and see if it is correct. Water boils at 212 degress at sea level and 205 degrees at 4,377 feet above sea level (Centerville, Utah 4,377 feet).
I had a faulty thermometer with this batch of fudge actually…. it read up to 220 and then started to drop a bit and then stayed there…..forever. Broken. Blagh. So pay attention and if your thermometer seems like it might be acting funny….. it might be acting funny.
Another piece of equipment you need is a good heavy pan….meaning not a flimsy thin one. Heavy pans distribute heat more evenly and are less likely to produce “hot spots” that can cause your candy to burn. Candy boils up so it needs to be about twice the volume of your batch as well.
2.} Second thing you should do is figure out what your “soft ball temperature” is at your elevation depending on where you live. If you are at sea level then you don’t need to adjust but the more elevation you gain, you will want to compensate. Let’s discuss.
I am in Utah. almost 4,500 feet above sea level.
Where I live there is a lower air pressure than at sea level.
Fact: The farther away from sea level you get….air pressure is decreased.
When you have a lower air pressure, you have less pressure being exerted on the water (and a decreased surface tension.) This causes your liquid to boil at a lower temperature (and faster) because bubbles on the bottom of the pan can escape easier than they would at a higher air pressure. This applies to any liquids you would use in cooking candy.
Conclusion: The higher elevation you live at, the lower your “soft ball” temperature is going to be.
Note: Many thermometers might say “soft ball” instead of 240 degrees (referring to sea level temps). Ignore this soft ball prompt if you need to adjust your temperature due to elevation.
So, what temperature should I be using?!
It is easy to figure this out. Put your candy thermometer in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. The reading on you thermometer is the temperature at which water boils at your elevation. Now subtract that from 212 and you get the difference of temperature (in degrees) between sea level and where you live.
From now on, all of your candy recipes should be adjusted down by this difference.
For example. Water here in Utah boils at 205 degrees
212 (sea level)-205 (Utah) = 7 degrees difference
My soft ball stage will be:
240 (soft ball at sea level)-7 (difference at my elevation) = 233 degrees
3.} When your candy is boiling, wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. This will wash the sugar crystals into the candy while it is still cooking. If these sugar crystals are allowed to get into the candy after you have reached soft ball stage and finished your cooking, it is then called a “seed”. “Seed” meaning it will start a sequence of crystallization and will cause a few large crystals to form in your fudge (Bad).
4.} Next tip for making fudge is to consider “agitation”. This might include anything from stirring to vigorous swirling. Agitation after your sugar has reached soft ball stage temperature will actually promote crystallization (or connecting) of the sugar molecules. Crystallization is good because that is what forms the structure to your fudge, HOWEVER, by stirring before it cools you are promoting a fast crystallization of large crystals.
Large crystals = Grainy Texture
Grainy Texture = Bad
Small Crystals = Smooth Texture
Smooth Texture = Good!
Vigorous stirring after soft ball stage and while the candy is still hot is Bad!
Wait until the candy has cooled down to about 110 degrees before you stir. The cooling prevents seed crystals from forming. Read on…
5.} When pouring your candy out of the pot, don’t scrape the sides because it likely has chunks of sugar on it and these chunks will act as seeds (Bad).
6.}Next up, Marshmallow!
You may notice that a lot of recipes call for marshmallow creme! What the heck?
Well, the marshmallow creme is used as the support (and a kind of fluffy “seed”) of the fudge and coats the dissolved sugar molecules to stop them from turning into large sugar crystals.
Corn syrup also helps with this. It contains different types of sugar molecules (glucose, fructose and maltose) than sugar (sucrose) and it interferes with the crystallization of sucrose by stepping in between the sucrose molecules, therefore it does not allow large chunks of sugar to be formed easily.(Good!)
If too much of this ingredient is added then the fudge will not set up and become solid. (Bad)
So why do I need to let it cool? The candy actually becomes ‘supersaturated’ as it cools. It is not fully saturated at 240 degrees (or your adjusted temperature). As it cools, this solution becomes highly unstable and will crystalize at the drop of a dust particle! This is what allows the sudden stirring to produce a million tiny little seed crystals all at once. If you were to stir the candy while it is hot, you would produce few large crystals and they would get bigger as they cool, creating a grainy fudge.
7.} After you let your fudge cool to lukewarm (touchable), your liquid candy is in a “super-saturated” state meaning it can no longer absorb any more sugar. This liquid is so packed with sugar and so saturated that it is just waiting to start crystallizing (to become a more stable solution….chemistry term). So, let the stirring commence. This starts the crystalization process all at once throughout all the candy. Continuous stirring at the appropriate time (now) allows a bunch of mini crystals to form at the same time and start the crystallization properly. All of these little starts are competing for more sucrose molecules (the dissolved sugar) to attach on to but they can’t grow very large because of the competition from other crystals that were started at the same time. This creates a lot of tiny crystals and remember:
Small Crystals = Smooth Texture = Good
The candy will change from shiny to dull as you stir. Once it is fairly dull, this means the crystals are well formed and it is time to stop. This usually takes a few minutes.8.} Allow fudge to cool at room temperature. DO NOT REFRIGERATE or try to speed up the process. Doing this will encourage large crystals and a grainy texture for the same reasons described above.
If you think this is awesome like I do and want to read more about the physics and chemistry behind fudge, see the article below for a more indepth view.
So now you know the secrets to making fabulous fudge!
Go make some for gifts!
Just grab a gift box of any size and stuff it full of fudge.
Wrap it with a pretty bow and voila!
Happy people are soon to be!
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ¾ cup eggnog
- Pinch of salt
- 10½ ounces white chocolate morsels (plus extra for
- marbling if desired)
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- One 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
- 1 teaspoon rum extract
- Line an 8-inch square pan (or any other similar size you want) with
- parchment paper and let it hang over the side to act as a handle. Set aside.
- In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, eggnog and salt over medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.
- Continue boiling for 8 to 10 minutes only stirring if needed to prevent scorching, until a candy thermometer reaches your soft ball stage (233 degrees F for me at roughly 4000 feet elevation). During the boiling, brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve all the sugar crystals. Once to soft ball stage, remove from heat.
- Using a wooden spoon, work quickly to stir in white chocolate morsels and nutmeg until chocolate is melted and smooth. It will be very thick at this point. Stir in the marshmallow creme and rum extract. Stir until well blended and uniform and then pour into your prepared pan. If desired, put some white morsels into a zip lock bag and with the bag open microwave at short
- intervals, mixing each time, until chocolate is melted. Then close the top and
- snip off the corner tip. Draw lines across the fudge parallel to each other
- about 1-2 inches apart. Take a toothpick and drag perpendicular to the line
- from one side to the other. Switch directions and drag the opposite way about
- an inch away. Repeat until done. Let stand at room temperature until cooled and
- firm (hours). Do not refrigerate.
- When firm, cut into squares of your desired size. Store in a covered container. If keeping for longer than few days, refrigerate covered for weeks.
Adapted from RecipeGirl
Adapted from RecipeGirl
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