So, fudge eh? That's why you're here isn't it?
What do you mean you were looking for the weather? Never mind, pull up a pew. Let's take a look at the fascinating world of fudge.
What is fudge?
Fudge is a delicious and silky treat made from various combinations of butter, milk and sugar.
You can find infinite recipes online for all different types. Some will use things like chocolate or condensed milk, or even marshmallow fluff or pieces. Typically, these have a role in helping the fudge to set. Some also will use liquid sugars such as glucose syrup or corn syrup to help keep the fudge smooth.
Some recipes even allow the microwave to be used. Now you might be able to do this, and you'll get something out of it. If you like it great, but it's not as nice as good, wholesome and traditionally-made proper fudge made on the stove.
As we shall come to see, when it comes to fudge - you can do everything right and it still tells you to piddle off when it comes out and either refuses to set, or sets harder than your mum's homemade bread.
What's the ideal texture for fudge?
This is very much a personal decision. Some fudge can be grainy, and people love it. Some can be smooth; almost like eating butter. Some fudge can be soft and squidgy and some can be hard; like rock. A bit more related to the Scottish tablet sorts of sweets. It really is whatever you like the best, plus who says you can only like one kind? It's the current year, people!
For FudgieChunks, we try and hit a nice medium. Smoothness is our main goal, but with some flavours that have a higher content of some ingredients, they may set a bit firmer or a bit softer. That's the fun of fudge though. There are so many ways and varieties and recipes, why not try all variations?
Can I make fudge myself?
Of course you can! Just make sure you have the doors and windows closed so people can't hear your tears (of joy, we're sure) or swears (eureka!).
It's not hard to make fudge, but it is hard to make good fudge. The balance of flavours, the texture, the feel - it all has points along the way of the process where, if you go wrong, you can really muck things up. However, it's still fun and you can always eat the remains or convert them into a sauce!
So if you want to have a go, search Google for a nice, simple recipe that you have the stuff for and get to. Who cares if it goes wrong? You can either try again or buy some made by FudgieChunks here. Then, smash it up a bit and pretend you made it. Job done.
What equipment do I need to make fudge?
On a domestic scale, you probably have the majority of it already. You want a nice big-bottomed pan (they make the fudgin' world go round). Some say to use copper, some say aluminium, some say stainless steel, some say every idea known to man. We would recommend aluminium or stainless steel for a cost-effective approach. Copper pans tend to be a little 'all the gear, no idea' for small scale fudge making. If you want one though, go for it. Why not?
A sugar/candy thermometer - you need to know your temps.
Several silicon spoon/spatulas - ones that can take high temps.
Greaseproof paper - any will do. Saves messing about later.
A nice tin/container - the fudge can sit in to set
An easy recipe - caution, ignore any that state it all by times only. We'll revisit this later.
I tried to make fudge, it went wrong. Why?
Welcome to the world of fudge-making. There's so many things to think about, so put whatever you made to one side, grab a cuppa and let's take a look at some of the more common issues and problems when it comes to making fudge:
- Fudge was too soft/too hard
Fudge is a very rotten little beast at times. There's no compromise. You have to take it to what is known as the soft-ball stage. This is typically anywhere between 114 degrees celsius - 118 degrees celsius, and most agree that the ideal is typically near to 116 degrees celsius.
Now there are various ways to test this. You could guess, you could ask the cat to let you know (we don't recommend this, ours ignored us quite rudely), or you could use a candy or sugar thermometer. They tend not to be too expensive and they come in handy for all kinds of cooking and baking, including jam-making.
If you don't have a thermometer, we recommend getting one. The method advised, if you absolutely cannot wait until the postie brings you one, is the soft-ball test.
This includes putting a bit of fudge into a glass of cold water, when you think you are close to coming off the heat, and then rolling it about to see if it makes a ball. However, there are lots of areas that you could go wrong with this method and we definitely do not advise relying on it.
You could have the strength of the Hulk and manage to make a ball out of soft fudge with sheer pressure. You could spend so much time faffing, that the fudge has increased even higher in temperature and now it has over-cooked, or you might guess wrongly and bring it off at the wrong time.
Get. A. Thermometer.
- My fudge has set too soft. Will it harden if I leave it?
No. If your fudge has not set after a couple of hours and it still moves like lava, it won't. You can put it in the fridge and lean your whole weight against the door, or put it in the freezer and promise it the world, but it won't set. Your appliance will just feel sorry for you.
However, all is not lost! You can melt it down and make it a lovely sauce, or you could use your fingers to salvage what you could for brownies, ice-cream, yoghurt, smoothies...the list goes on.
You could also start again by mixing it with water, letting it all dissolve and trying again. Watch your temps carefully though, as this is more sensitive than if you were on your first attempt, and the fudge could set up grainy.
- My fudge is rock hard. Can I make it softer?
The thing we love with fudge is the respect it commands. It does what it wants, no matter how much you stare at it hoping it will change. If your fudge has set too hard, the likelihood is that you went too high in temperature before removing it from the heat, and it's now a new rock formation. You've made toffee. Congrats!
First things first, try it. It will be hard, and more like Scottish tablet or if you really went for it; toffee, but that doesn't mean you won't like it! Again, you could use it in other recipes as an addition such as for cake, or decoration, or you may wish to take it back with water and try again. Once more, watch your temps as it will be a little bit more sensitive.
- My fudge tastes like a crumbly sugar ball. What's happened?
We're going to assume you don't like how it tastes, as some do and will happily sit there eating their fudge rubble until the cows come home.
Another issue with fudge, not issue, quirky trait shall we say? Yes, a quirky trait of fudge is that it is made of sugar. Lots of lovely sugar. One of the favourite things sugar likes to do is return to its original state - crystals. Now, this is why you may recall some people use marshmallow, chocolate or liquid sugars in their recipe to try and reduce this crystallisation. You can also add things like Cream of Tartar to help inhibit the crystals, but be careful as it can leave an odd after-taste.
When sugar crystallises, the size of the sugar particles is what determines how smooth your fudge is. Nice and small, the fudge will be smooth on the tongue because the particles are harder to detect. Big and large, your fudge will be gritty and rough on the tongue. Neither are wrong, but usually people tend to prefer smooth, perhaps with a little bit of bite, but smooth wins the day.
- How do you stop fudge from crystallising?
Sugar does not like to help you. All it takes is one sugar crystal to enter your mix, and the chain will start forming. Throughout the whole process, you want to try and keep this in your mind at all times. When you first start, keep stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolving in the mixture. You will feel it on the bottom of the pan like grit in a fish tank, and slowly this will disappear until it feels smooth.
When you hit the boiling stage, you will find a lot of recipes tell you not to stir. Now, whilst the idea is sound because less agitation means less likelihood of a sugar crystal chain forming, if you don't stir, you might burn the mix.
Keep stirring. Just do it mindfully, like us eating these chocolate peanuts whilst writing this.
When you remove the fudge from the heat, there are two schools of thought here again. One is to stir right away. One is to let it cool for a period of time until a skin is formed, and then stir. It's all to do with the crystals.
When the syrup is boiling hot, the bigger crystals are favoured. You can stir, and this will stretch the sugar particles somewhat, but this method will favour a more crumbly, granular fudge as the heat helps the bigger crystals form. If you wait until it has cooled, the smaller crystals take preference, and again the stirring will help stretch and break the crystals so you have a better chance of smooth fudge.
Just remember, when you stir - any crystal in the mix can encourage crystallisation so it's often recommend not to stir the sides, only the bottom of the pan. When cool, you can scrape the sides to have a little fudge shaving treat. Perks of being the chef.
- Why is my fudge greasy?
This can be rare, but when it happens, it is annoying. The likelihood is that at some point, your fudge mix got too high in temperature too quickly, and the fats from the butter leached out. They then rise to the top and, though they will cool, they leave a greasy feel.
It won't improve. Again, it's an ingredient for another recipe or take it back to the start with water again with a steadier increase in heat. See? Fudge is quite the temperamental sausage.
- How do I stop my fudge from burning?
The obvious answer might be to lower the temperature, but only to a point. Fudge, helpful as ever, will burn if the temperature is too high. However, it also has a set time for the correct chemical processes to happen. If your temperature is too low, you might find you miss this set-time and your result is poor, possibly inedible. Aim for a medium heat and then modify future batches based on your equipment.
How long do I beat the fudge for?
This can be tricky until you have made a few batches, but if you beat until the shine is gone and the fudge is less glossy whilst it is still able to be poured, then you're onto a winner. This is a very important step, and by this time, you might be knackered and wishing you'd gone for a Victoria sponge instead, but hold hard...you're almost done.
If you under-beat, the fudge will still look like gravy, won't hold its shape, and you risk a less than preferable texture. If you over-beat, it will go like over-whipped cream and be like soft wet sand and it will set like rubble. You want to aim for somewhere in the middle.
FudgieChunks' Top Tips for Making Fudge
1) Use a heavy-based saucepan
2) Use a sugar/candy thermometer
3) Stir, stir, stir.
4) Leave it to cool before your final stir
5) Beat until the gloss has gone
6) Avoid any recipes that tell you to do the stages by time, for example: boil for 5 minutes. You're using a different set-up completely, so you've no idea if that time will work for you.
After all of that...
Firstly, if you made it this far - well done, you're hard.
Secondly, if you want to try fudge without having to worry about all of the palaver, you can buy a wide variety from us, FudgieChunks, right here.
Lastly, if you do make your own fudge, tag us in on our Instagram so we can see! We'd love to have a look.
Good day to you and yours.