Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Homemade Fudge: Love & Olive Oil's February 2014 Kitchen Challenge

For a while now I've been meaning to take part in Love & Olive Oil's monthly Kitchen Challenge series, so when I saw that this month's challenge was homemade fudge, I knew I had to participate. My grandma used to make fudge for me, starting as far back as my memory goes. Before I was tall enough to see what was happening on the stove, she would let me stand on a chair in the kitchen and watch as she cooked the sugar, milk, butter and chocolate together. I loved knowing that at any time she could whip up this incredible treat using a few basic ingredients that were always in her kitchen. And I was fascinated by the process - never one for technology, my grandma used the soft ball test to determine when the mixture was ready to leave the stove and be poured into the pan to set. This is incredibly tricky - if you don't cook fudge long enough it just makes a thick, sticky sauce - but cook it too long and it forms a grainy, crumbling lump. These days, most people use thermometers to remove the guesswork. I tried using one, once, and despite cooking it to the exact specified degree my fudge came out on the overcooked lumpy side. Which if my Grammy could have seen, I'm sure she would have given me one of her "you should've listened to me" winks. Although she wasn't perfect herself; on several occasions her fudge turned out as "chocolate soup" - but she never stressed about it. She would just blame it on the weather and then serve it over ice cream. I never complained.
This is not my Grandma's recipe, mostly because she didn't use recipes. She would just pour a little of everything into a pot and mix it - because that's how her Grandma taught her. Apparently my OCD came from a different side of our family, because I need recipes. I also developed a pickier palate when it comes to chocolate, so instead of relying on cocoa powder as she did, I use real chocolate. This recipe was developed by a chef I used to work with, which is why it's measured in grams. If you don't have a kitchen scale, this is a great excuse to buy one!
Chocolate Fudge
563g Sugar 
150g Butter
225g Evaporated Milk
13g Vanilla Extract
337g Chocolate
75g Marshmallows
1 Pinch of Salt

A few notes about this recipe: This is not marshmallow fudge. The marshmallows melt and you wouldn't know they were there at all. I'm honestly not sure what purpose they serve, I just know that this recipe makes perfectly creamy fudge, so I'm not going to mess with it. I use mini marshmallows but regular size will work if they are chopped into small pieces. You can use whatever kind of chocolate you like, just make sure it's also chopped or is in chocolate chip form. I buy Ghiradelli 60% Chocolate Chips in bulk, and they're perfect for this.
Method: Prepare a medium square or rectangular baking pan greased with butter; set aside. In a pot over medium-high heat, mix together the sugar and evaporated milk until the mixture is consistent. Add the butter, chopped into small pieces, and the vanilla extract. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Continue cooking until it starts to darken and thicken. Have a few shallow glasses of cold water ready for the soft ball test. I put ice cubes in the water up until I'm ready to test, to make sure it's cold. To conduct the soft ball test: drop a spoonful of the boiling mixture into a glass of cold water. If the mixture sticks together and you're able to form it into a ball with your fingers, it's ready. The three glasses shown below are a ball test at different stages of cooking. You can see the glass on the far left has very cloudy water and not much color concentrated on the bottom - that means it hasn't cooked long enough. The middle glass is still a little cloudy and the test didn't quite form a ball on the bottom. The glass on the right with the most color concentrated on the bottom was last test, when I knew it was ready. The mixture formed into a ball that I could remove, which is shown below on the white plate. (I know it looks gross).
Once your ball test is positive, remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the chocolate, marshmallow and salt until everything has melted together. When the mixture is consistent, pour it into the prepared pan and let it cool. It will continue to harden for about an hour. If you're really impatient (like I always was) you can put the pan in the refrigerator - or on your front porch in the winter like we did - to speed up the process.
Check out Love & Olive Oil for information on their monthly challenge. You don't need to have a blog to participate! Anyone can submit photos. 

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