Tuesday, February 3, 2009

100. Brown Sugar Fudge (p. 695)

My one-hundredth recipe! I've still got a looooong way to go, but it's a milestone just the same. And to celebrate, how about something sweet?

Growing up, most holidays involved someone bringing out a white cardboard box of chocolates and fudge from Priscilla's Candies in Lawrence. I always went for the chocolate fudge, and turned my nose up at the favorite of the older folks ... penuche ("puh-noo-chee"). Now that I'm older myself, and a bit wiser, I've grown to realize that this sweet, rich, caramel-y fudge should not be overlooked.

The Book refers to this confection by it's Southern name, Brown Sugar Fudge. Because I'm a New Englander, I'll call it by its (proper) regional name, penuche. Whatever you call it, you make it by bringing some light brown sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt to a boil and then simmering it until it reaches 238 on a candy thermometer - soft ball stage.

The words "candy thermometer" and "soft ball" were almost enough to make me pass this recipe by. I've never made candy before, and my candy thermometer is an old-school, hand-me-down mercury thermometer encased in a brittle-looking glass tube. But, heck, I'm a man on a mission, and I have to make this eventually. And, anyway, what's the worse that could happen?

So, I cooked the sugar and milk mixture until the thermometer was around 240 degrees (there was no way to know for sure that I was at exactly 238 on my antique thermometer). As it cooked, I kept testing it according to the advice in The Book, drop a small amount in a bowl of cold water, if it holds a soft ball when pressed together, it's ready. The first few of my tests resulted in blobs of caramel dissolving in the water. I was getting discouraged, when all of a sudden, there it was, a soft ball!

Then I transferred the hot sugar and milk mixture to a bowl and beat in some vanilla extract and confectioner's sugar. Finally, I stirred in some toasted chopped walnuts into the fudge. This step is not in The Book's recipe, but the Priscilla's penuche I remember from my childhood had nuts, and that's how I was going to make it. So there!

I spread the fudge into an 8-inch square baking dish and put it in the refirgerator for about an hour. Before I spread the fudge in the pan, I lined it with a piece of heavy-duty foil with the ends overlapping the sides of the pan to form a little sling that I'd be able to use to lift the fudge out of the pan after it chilled .... a little trick I learned from an episode of America's Test Kitchen. After it was nice and hardened, I lifted the fudge out of the pan using the foil sling, and I cut it into 64 pieces.

This fudge was awesome! It was sweet, decadent and creamy. The toasted nuts gave it a nice crunch and additional flavor dimension. Even though this fudge was very rich, it was so good that we couldn't help eating piece after piece. It was a good thing that I brought the fudge to my in-law's house for my wife's grandmother's birthday dinner, otherwise, the two of us could have eaten all of the fudge ourselves ... probably in one sitting.

Since this fudge turned out so well, I'm looking forward to making the other candy recipes in The Book, but not until I get a proper candy thermometer.

Date Cooked: January 17, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A


The Mediocre Cook said...

Congrats on the your 100th post! I love fudge but never thought to try and make it myself. I have an "antique" thermometer myself and I understand the challenges it can pose. Maybe I'll try to make this myself one day, of course I imagine that will be the day I begin my life long battle with maintaining my weight :)

Hope all is going well with cooking and the little one!

Michelle said...

100 recipes! Great milestone. Wait, how many more to go?

Adam said...

Oh, only about 1,200 more, but who's counting. At the pace I'm going, we'll be having Classic Foie Gras Terrine (p. 24) for Jack's tenth birthday.