With Valentine’s Day just around the corner (if you’re into that sort of thing), chocolate, while certainly always the culinary rage, takes on a special significance right now for a variety of reasons. So, here is recipe you can make for your beloved (or even just well-liked) that’s easy & quick. Plus, you won’t look like one of those crazed and desperate people rushing around the grocery store picking over the remains at 7pm on The Day.
And, hey, let’s admit it. That resolution to lose weight didn’t last past the 3rd week of January. If it has, congratulations. Keep it up. But let yourself indulge on this one day.
Fudge is an American invention. According to some food historians, the invention of fudge can be dated to February 14, 1886; however, the exact origin and inventor are disputed. Most stories claim that the first batch of fudge resulted from an accident with a bungled (“fudged”) batch of caramels, when the sugar was allowed to recrystallize; hence the name from the interjection, “Oh fudge!”
One of the first documentations of fudge is in a letter written by Emelyn Battersby Hartridge, then a student at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She wrote that a schoolmate’s cousin made fudge in Baltimore in 1886 and sold it for 40 cents a pound. She obtained the recipe, and in 1888, made 30 pounds of it for the Vassar Senior Auction. Word of the confection spread to other women’s colleges. Wellesley and Smith developed their own versions of this “original” fudge recipe.
The original fudge recipes were famously delicate: Precise measurements, cooking time and constant stirring were crucial for perfect fudge. The recipe looks simple—heat a mixture of sugar, butter and milk or cream to the soft-ball stage (224°-238°F), then beat it to a smooth, creamy consistency while it cools.
The “Original” Fudge Recipe
From Emelyn B. Hartridge of Vassar College:
- 2 cups granulated white sugar
- 1 cup cream
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter
Combine sugar and cream and cook over moderate heat. When this becomes very hot, add the chocolate. Stir constantly. Cook until mixture reaches soft-ball stage (234°-238°F). Remove from heat and add butter. Cool slightly, then mix until fudge starts to thicken. Transfer to a buttered tin. Cut into diamond-shaped pieces before fudge hardens completely.
Because of the difficulty and time needed for the “old school” fudge recipes, “foolproof” recipes were developed for the home cook that included corn syrup, which prevents crystallization and produces smooth fudge. Later recipes substituted sweetened condensed milk, marshmallow creme, or other ingredients for the milk/cream that were better guarantees of a perfect fudge texture.
I have gone with a simpler, or “new school” recipe here. I know that some of the more traditional candy makers view these types of recipes with no small amount of skepticism, but it is quick & easy and a perfect gateway to the wider world of candy making.
A few notes:
1. In this post, I used semisweet chocolate chips. Chips save me the hassle of chopping the chocolate and they’re a bit easier to work with. If you do decide to use regular chopped chocolate, be aware that it will behave differently than the chips. Because of the way chips are made – with milk and emulsifiers – the fudge won’t harden (it will become firm, just not as firm as if you use chopped chocolate) the same way or as quickly once it’s been taken off the heat after melting as it will with regular chopped chocolate from a bar. So, there is less room for error if you use chopped semisweet chocolate. Chips are a little more forgiving; which is good if you’ve never made candy before.
2. You can use milk chocolate chips in this recipe if you like but the fudge will take a little longer to set up. If you want to use bittersweet, do a mix of semi- and bittersweet. Bittersweet chocolate will be too dry to use on its own and won’t give you the chewy texture you’re looking for. (Despite the fact chocolate does form a liquid when melted, it is considered a dry ingredient. The higher the cocoa solid content, the drier the chocolate.)
3. My own personal preference, nut-wise, is for roasted unsalted almonds. You can use whatever you like or even a variety. If you like to use salted nuts, go for it.
4. Sweetened condensed milk: do not use 2%. With the chocolate, butter, and marshmallows, I don’t know why you would anyway.
6. Be sure to stir constantly when melting the chocolate. You don’t want it to sit too long without stirring because it will burn very easily. Also, make sure the heat stays at medium. Low and slow is the key here. You just want to get everything hot enough for the chocolate to melt. (If you are nervous about melting the chocolate over direct heat, put the chocolate, milk, butter, and salt into a medium bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water to make a double boiler. Stir frequently just until the chocolate melts. It will take longer, but the chocolate won’t burn. Be sure to wipe off the bottom of the bowl as you take it off the boiler so you don’t get any water in the fudge.)
7. When you take the fudge out of the pan, there may be a thin film of spray on the bottom and on the sides of the edge pieces. I get rid of that by placing the fudge on paper towels for a few minutes. Works like a charm.
12 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped or chips
2 tbsp. butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. almond or vanilla extract
1 10-oz. package miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 c. lightly roasted almonds (or any nut you prefer), either left whole or roughly chopped
1. Line a medium baking dish with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Set aside. Pour the marshmallows into a large bowl and set aside. Pour the almonds into a medium bowl and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix together the chocolate, condensed milk, butter, and salt.
Stir constantly just until the chocolate is melted, the ingredients are well combined, and the mixture is smooth. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the extract.
3. Pour the fudge into the bowl with the almonds and mix together thoroughly.
Continue stirring almost constantly for about 5 minutes. This will help dissipate the heat and keep the fudge from setting up. When the bottom of the bowl feels comfortably warm (essentially body temperature), it has cooled sufficiently.
4. Pour the fudge-almond mixture into the marshmallows and mix thoroughly.
5. Pour the fudge into the prepared baking pan, spread evenly, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours. When the fudge is set, cut into 2″ pieces. It will keep in an airtight container for about a week.