Fudge and Friendship

chocolate fudge web

I love to cook, but I don’t love cooking that involves a lot of work. I seldom make a recipe that takes more than an hour or so to prepare. I figure I have better things to do with my time than linger in the kitchen–like watching reruns of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” on TV.
One exception to this “no fuss, no lingering” rule is a culinary form perfectly suited to the winter months–candy making. In this mode of food preparation, taking your time is the whole point.
When I think of making candy I picture cool, crisp nights and soft, powdery snow. I also think of friendship. Candy is best made with others.
I grew up in a candy-making household. When I was little my mother frequently organized taffy pulls for my birthday, which fell (and still falls) at this time of year. Carefully supervised taffy tugging kept small hands busy and provided treats for party guests to take home.
During my teenage years I spent what now seems like hundreds of happy hours with friends gathered around the stove waiting for fudge to reach the soft-ball stage. As we watched the confection form, our friendships took on more lasting form as well.
Candy making has always seemed to me an ideal social tool. With its long waits and pauses, it is structured to foster conversation.
You don’t dare to leave the kitchen while you’re waiting for your sweets to reach just the right temperature. Instead you chat with those around you.
Candy making also encourages teamwork in those frenetic moments when you’re beating or pulling your treats.
The creation of confections is a delightful ritual with its own pace. Somehow even in its busiest moments it seems to epitomize leisure.
Today as an adult I still relish making candy with my family members and friends–and with my friends’ spouses and children.
The ritual fills winter evenings with warmth and conversation.
It even takes advantage of the cold weather: one of the quickest ways to cool candy to the right temperature is to stick your pan outside (well covered to discourage animals from sampling) in the December air.
This week I made fudge to send to friends in far-away places. One recipe I used, for a basic chocolate fudge, appears below.
Before we get to it, however, here are a few candy-making hints:
1. Testing candy by hand (to see whether it makes the appropriate type of ball in cold water) is great, but I like to use a candy thermometer as well just to be certain. If your candy comes out a congealed mess, chances are you need a new thermometer; they don’t last forever.
2. Always use a wooden spoon to beat fudge. And really beat your fudge hard. My grandfather, whose only culinary accomplishment was fudge-making (unless you count mixing Old Fashioneds, Martinis, and Manhattans as cooking!), always said that the secret of good fudge was in the beating.
3. Aim for relatively dry weather; candy forms best when the air isn’t too humid.
4. Be sure to invite a sizeable crowd to share in your candy creation. Not only will you have livelier conversation and easier labor; you’ll also end up with fewer calories ingested by any one candy maker. Just make sure that someone is delegated to keep an eye on the candy thermometer while everyone else talks.
5. Never try to rush your candy. It will be done when it is good and ready! Relax, and concentrate on the friendships simmering around your stove.

Your Basic Chocolate Fudge
3/4 cup rich milk (milk with cream added or half & half)
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons sweet butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
Line a 9-by-9-inch pan with aluminum foil, and butter the foil.
Place the milk in a medium saucepan, and heat it until it is warm. Stir in the sugar, salt, chocolate, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring.
Cover the fudge and cook it for at least 1 minute over medium heat (watch to keep the pot from boiling over) to absorb any sugar crystals that are on the sides of the pan.
Uncover, and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees). This could happen fairly quickly (it did the last time I made this fudge) so watch the pot!
Remove the fudge from the heat, place the butter and vanilla on top, and cool without stirring until the candy is lukewarm (about 110 degrees).
At this point, beat the fudge until JUST starts to thicken, and pour it into the pan. (Be careful, or it will get too thick!) Sprinkle with festive sprinkles if desired. Cool and cut into squares.
Makes about 16 pieces.
This week my companion in fudge making was my mother--always good company in the kitchen!

This week my companion in fudge making was my mother--always good company in the kitchen!


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4 Responses to “Fudge and Friendship”

  1. Molly says:

    Hooray for fudge – and cooking with family! My father’s mother always sent up a big box of fudge from Tennessee at Christmastime, and I would love to learn how to make it so I can take up that tradition. I’m going to try this out with my son Joe, who inherited my chocoholic gene!
    Thanks, Tinky!

  2. Eric says:

    Great post, Tinky. As you have strongly implied, fudge does not have nuts!

    Also, Connecticut is a far-away place, isn’t it?

  3. vicky says:

    Your Mom looks adorable!! I love fudge, but also have never made it..I shall now use your directions and make my own fudge.. MMMmmmm. Happy Holidays…

  4. tinkyweisblat says:

    I’m happy to inspire people!

    If you want to try making fudge and don’t want to spring for a thermometer yet you may in fact test by hand.

    Have a small bowl of cold water near the stove. (You may have to refill it a few times!)

    To test the fudge, drop a little of it into the bowl. If you can easily form it into a small bowl or blob (if it stays together and is malleable), it’s ready…….

    Have fun, and happy holidays right back!

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