The Fudge Fantasy

I’ve successfully avoided attempting fudge for over a decade now due, in part, to my consistent lack of success making the easiest fudge in the world–Fantasy Fudge–from the label of the marshmallow creme jar. However, this year, my step-daughter, Hannah, (husband’s from a first marriage) specifically requested that we make it. Her mother makes it, and though that typically is my signal NOT to make something requested, I figured I would give it a try. I began my search for a traditional recipe that looked manageable. Enter “Old Fashioned Chocolate Fudge” from allrecipes.com.

Two attempts later, I’m determined to make this work. My earlier failures both are due to lack of attention, which clearly is the biggest issue with candymaking. I made candy successfully years ago, so I know how to read a candy thermometer, but I’ve had four or five in the last 20 years, and each one has slightly different markings. My challenge with the newest thermometer was to determine where, exactly, is 250 degrees because the distance from 200 to 250 is much smaller than the distance from 250 to 275 and 300. Easy to figure out, I guess. The higher the temperature, the more critical it becomes to cook to EXACTLY the right temperature, right? I’m thinking that the larger print and greater distance in the higher temperatures simply makes it easier to read. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Wrong.

I stepped away from the first batch and asked my husband to watch the temp. for me. I thought I had determined my thermometer destination. A minute or two after my return, I read the temp. and said, “Oh, it’s at 230 (238 was the target). Hannah said, “Oh, it’s gone down then. Daddy said it was 235 a moment ago.” Reread thermometer! I’m thinking:  “Wait, is that 225 or 250? Oh, no! If it’s 250, then it’s overcooked!” I pulled it off the burner completely and added the butter and vanilla as instructed, but clearly, it was not going to turn out. It makes truly excellent hot fudge sauce, though. We enjoyed it on ice cream last night.

On the second attempt, I analyzed the thermometer and made sure I knew the target on the thermometer. I removed it from the stove in time and poured it in the prepared pan…while talking on the phone with a girlfriend. Big mistake, BIG. Never talk on the phone while making candy. Very bad idea. While I was chatting away happily, I realized I had forgotten to add the butter and vanilla. I yelled into the phone, “Oh, no! I have to go! Bye!” I poured the fudge back into the pan, added the butter and vanilla, and returned it to the prepared pan. I could tell right away that it would be fine, but I should know better. Through the course of several text messages back and forth (the modern kitchen), I apologized, explained my error, and received the “no worries” reply.

Now my thinking is that the pan is too large, the fudge too thin. I want thicker, moister fudge. Slightly gooey in the center…you know the kind. The Seattle Fudge kind of fudge. So, my quest continues with one more attempt this morning…correct temperature, correct direction-following, smaller pan, NO chatting on the phone. Perhaps I’ll be back online searching for just-the-right recipe this afternoon. Though, I’m not reassured after reading Paula Dean’s Dummy Fudge recipe. Wondering if it’s possible to learn some new tricks, or if I should stick to what I know.

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