i don’t like fudge. it has always been one of the few sweets i could decline without feeling deprived. until now.
my undoing was innocently orchestrated by an eighty-eight year old great-grandmother. she’s not my own great-grandmother, but she is a great-grandmother who has spent much of her life cooking and baking for legions of family, friends and strangers. we got to talking one day about making maple syrup, which led her to mention her maple syrup fudge, which led to an invitation to make it with her sometime, which led to me discovering my (until now) unknown weakness for homemade fudge.
i’ve always filed candy making away in the ‘too intimidating’ category. boiling sugar, thermometers, the soft-ball/hard-crack/went-too-far-and-ruined-the-pan stages have always seemed a little too subjective yet critically important for me to bother with, and anything you mustn’t stir makes me suspicious.
my anti-fudgeness is also due to the fact that i don’t really care for treats that are cavity-inducingly sweet. straight-up sugar and artificial flavourings repel me (and make IDS positively cringe) but…pure maple syrup and butter and cream? wow. the first bite, when it was still warm, was incredible – smooth, creamy and robustly mapley without being cloyingly sweet.
the technique, it turns out, couldn’t be simpler: mix ingredients in a sturdy pot, slowly bring to a boil and wait patiently (the specifics are detailed below). the hardest part was not stirring – it took significant willpower to resist diving in with a wooden spoon (i’m sure some of you cooks and bakers can relate). it is also taking significant willpower to resist making another batch right now. i’ll try to hold off until our own maple syrup is ready (the season came early so we’re not quite prepared for gallons of sap just yet).
it’s not as if i needed another vice, but i was sent home with a bag of peanut butter fudge, too. peanut butter anything brings me to my knees, and pb fudge is even creamier and smoother than its maple syrup cousin, with a comforting and not too sweet pb base. swoon. (i also scored that recipe – i’ll post it when i try making a batch of my own).
thank you, surrogate great-grandmother, for generously sharing your kitchen and your kitchen wisdom with me – such sweet lessons! and now, if you’ll excuse me, i must go for a post fudge-binge run.
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eva’s maple syrup fudge
2 cups pure maple syrup
3/4 cup 10% cream
2 tbsp butter (i’m not sure if we used salted or unsalted, but a little salt might be nice)
bowl of cold water on stand-by
8″ square pan, greased (great-grandmother [GGM] used a small glass pie plate)
•gently mix syrup and cream in a heavy saucepan, then drop in the butter. affix the thermometer, making sure it isn’t resting on the bottom of the pan. bring mixture to a boil over medium heat.
•continue to boil, without stirring, gradually reducing the temperature to avoid too vigorous a boil (that’s the tricky part…i’d say you want a perky but not hysterical boil – we eventually had it down to ‘2’, or just above minimum) until it reaches 236°f-238°f (this took a good 45 minutes. you don’t need to hover, but do check it every five minutes or so to monitor the rate of boiling closely).
•when the temperature is right, drizzle a few drops of the syrupy mixture into the bowl of cold water (GGM used fridge cold water), then play with it a bit – you should be able to form it into a soft ball and squish it easily between your fingertips.
•cool, without stirring, until lukewarm, officially, that is 110°f (GGM placed her pot in a sink of cold water to cool it, then repeated before leaving the pot to cool).
•when lukewarm, beat with a spoon until creamy – it will start to thicken then start to stiffen up slightly, you want to pour it into the pan while it is still liquid enough to pour. you will have to scrape the sticky mess off the bottom of the pot initially – don’t panic – just scrape and keep stirring, it will all work out.
•pour into the greased pan and set aside until it’s cool enough to handle, then cut into squares (i strongly encourage you to try a piece while it’s still warm). enjoy your new addiction!
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