I don’t give fudge enough credit. It’s on a short list of foods that I never think to eat, but then when I do have it I’m like “damn, where have you been hiding all my life??” I was recently in Pacific City, Oregon for a project and had some fudge from a little market near the beach at Cape Kiwanda. It reminded me how much I love the stuff, and I figured we should make some!
A lot or recipes out there for “fudge” are really just a thickened, sweetened ganache. That is, simply a mixture of dairy and chocolate that is melted and sets thanks to the content of cocoa and cocoa butter in the chocolate. This style of “fudge” is often much sweeter than the real thing, and while it’s damn tasty, it isn’t what we’re tackling in this post.
We’ll be making authentic, old fashioned fudge; a sugar confection that is cooked as a syrup and then cooled and thickened. These days the term is synonymous with chocolate but in reality fudge doesn’t have to have any chocolate at all. Except then what’s the point? The American variety of fudge, popularized in the late 1800’s had cocoa powder and chocolate added to it and a star was born.
Sugar confections (also known as candy) require a bit of additional know-how to nail, so be sure to check out the recipe notes below before getting started!
Creating fudge is all about controlled crystallization. Crystallization is a topic large enough for its own post (coming soon) so for now I’ll just say that we will be creating a sugar syrup and by agitating that syrup while it cools we’ll create tiny crystals that are strong enough to set the fudge and make it firm, but small enough to avoid detection with your tongue, resulting in a smooth texture.
I add sea salt to this fudge after it has been cut. Be sure to use a good quality sea salt, not the iodized or kosher stuff you usually bake with. Because I add sea salt, I have cut the salt in the fudge itself in half. If you don’t want to add sea salt at the end of the recipe, double the quantity in the fudge (2g instead of 1g).
the rules of candy crystals
A lot of people get nervous when it comes to making candy and controlling crystals, but like everything else in the world of pastry, as long as you know some basic rules and stick to them, you’ll be just fine.
Rule 1 – Give the sugar plenty of time to dissolve in the liquid. You don’t want any large sugar crystals present when the syrup starts to thicken, so warm the syrup over low heat and stir it often to ensure all of the sugar fully dissolves before the syrup comes to a boil.
Rule 2 – Keep things clean. Crystals need a base of operations to start forming (known in the nerd-dom as a nucleation site). Specs of dust or dirt on your cooking utensils can do the trick, so make sure everything is squeaky clean before getting started. While you’re making the fudge, continue to keep your cooking pot clean, because nothing is as tempting to a crystal than another crystal. Specs of sugar on your thermometer or the side of your pot can quickly create a chain reaction of crystallization that will seize your fudge into a chunky mess.
Rule 3 – Respect the temperatures. The cooking temperature of fudge is specific because it represents a point at which your syrup has just the right percentage of sugar to water.
Rule 4 – Be prepared. When fudge is ready, it’s ready fast. Have your mold or pan ready to go long before it’s time to pour the fudge in it. Even the brief amount of time it took me to film the step put me in a bit of a bind in getting the fudge in smoothly (don’t worry, I avoided disaster thanks to some tricks I’ve learned from messing this recipe up many times in the past)
some notes on your equipment
Make sure to be precise in meeting your final cooking temp. The best way to do this is with a digital probe thermometer (they’re good for lots of cooking, including savory, so it’s worth the small investment). I would avoid classic candy thermometers, the kind with a wooden ball on it that clip to the side of the pan. They are often inaccurate, can’t easily sample temperatures from all over the pot, and the little ball almost always chars thanks to indirect contact with the burner below the pot.
You’ll need a pastry brush to wash down the sides of the pot during the cooking process. Don’t use the brush you use to baste ribs. Any oil in the bristles from past recipes will potentially ruin your fudge, so make sure it’s a clean brush, preferably new (and one you save for all future sugar needs). I like this one.
The best type of sauce pot to use is one with straight walls, because heat transfers most evenly up the sides, as opposed to a beveled wall pot. If the beveled kind is all you have, that’s fine. No need to go out and get a new one unless you plan to make lots of fudge.
old fashioned fudge with sea salt
170g whole milk
190g heavy cream
50g light corn syrup
60g butter unsalted
20g vanilla extract
40g cocoa powder Guittard Cocoa Rouge cocoa powder
140g chocolate, 64% Guittard L’Harmonie
sea salt as needed
Prepare a baking pan or mold before starting. I like to use a little butter to grease the mold and then place a layer of plastic wrap down. The butter will hold the plastic wrap in place and make unmolding easy (more on that later).
Combine the sugar, salt, butter, whole milk, heavy cream and light corn syrup in a sauce pot and begin to heat it over low heat, stirring often. Brush the sides of the pot down with clean water to remove any undissolved sugar that builds.
When the liquid is hot (usually when the butter has fully melted), whisk in the cocoa powder. At this point wash down the sides of the pot with your brush and clean water.
Bring the mixture to a boil, and STOP WHISKING! Whisking while the syrup is boiling can create premature crystallization, which would ruin the recipe. I generally give a final brush around the sides of the pot at this point.
Let the mixture cook to 234ºF/112C. Just make sure the syrup doesn’t go over 240F/116C or you’ve entered into the next stage of sugar syrup concentration and will likely end up with grainy fudge.
Remove the sauce pot from the heat and let it sit for 30 seconds to allow the boiling to settle. This will also give the mixture some time for carry-over heat to bring the temperature up a few degrees.
Pour the fudge into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and add the chocolate.
Begin mixing on the slowest speed. While the fudge is mixing, take a moment to clean your spatula. You don’t want any crystallized pieces of syrup being incorporated to the cooled fudge or it can set of a chain reaction and leave you with dreaded grit.
Mix the fudge on low speed until it thickens and just starts to lose its shine. This is going to take about 10min. depending on the batch size, speed of the mixer and temperature in your kitchen. Once the proper stage does occur, you’ll have to move quickly.
Pour the fudge into the baking pan/mold. I let it set for just a minute or two and then cover it with another layer of plastic wrap to touch so it doesn’t form a skin while setting.
Let the fudge set in the fridge for 30min to 1 hour. To remove the fudge from the mold, I run the mold upside down under hot water, which warms the layer of butter I added and allows you to remove the fudge easily.
Trim the fudge and cut as desired. Coat the top of the fudge with a light coat of the sea salt and gently press it into the fudge.
Keep the fudge well wrapped at room temperature. Enjoy!
- 574 g sugar
- 1 g salt
- 170 g whole milk
- 190 g heavy cream
- 50 g light corn syrup
- 60 g butter unsalted
- 15 g vanilla extract
- 40 g cocoa powder Guittard cocoa rouge
- 140 g chocolate, 64% Guittard, L'Harmonie
- sea salt as needed
- Prepare a baking pan or mold before starting. Brush the mold with a thin layer of butter and place a layer of plastic wrap into the mold.
- Combine the sugar, salt, butter, whole milk, heavy cream and light corn syrup in a sauce pot and begin to heat it over low heat, stirring often. Brush the sides of the pot down with clean water to remove any undissolved sugar that builds.
- When the liquid is hot, whisk in the cocoa powder. Wash down the sides of the pot with your brush and clean water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, and stop whisking, which can create premature crystallization.
- Let the mixture cook to 234ºF/112C.
- Remove the sauce pot from the heat and let is sit for 30 seconds to allow the boiling to settle.
- Pour the fudge into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and add the chocolate.
- Begin mixing on the slowest speed until it thickens and just starts to lose its shine. This is going to take about 10min. depending on the batch size, speed of the mixer and temperature in your kitchen.
- Pour the fudge into the baking pan/mold. I let it set for just a minute or two and then cover it with another layer of plastic wrap to touch so it doesn’t form a skin while setting.
- Let the fudge set in the fridge for 30min to 1 hour. To remove the fudge from the mold, I run the mold upside down under hot water, which warms the layer of butter I added and allows you to remove the fudge easily.
- Trim the fudge and cut as desired. Coat the top of the fudge with a light coat of the sea salt and gently press it into the fudge.
Bettyanne Green says
No wonder Grandma Proctor’s fudge was gritty (which I liked as a child because it was all I knew!) Very thorough description and visuals — gives me confidence to try it myself!
Judy Godsey says
Ingredient measurements are so
Confusing. No metric. What is U S
In my experience, the easiest way to measure ingredients is using the metric system (grams), since it is a base 10 system. US Imperial measurement are the cups, tablespoons, etc. you see in most American (and British) recipes. I don’t endorse this measuring system at all, as it is inconsistent, inaccurate, and can be very confusing! Check out my post on gram scales for more info!
Cheers – Chef Scott
Alexandra Wasser says
Hi Chef! I just made a small batch of this fudge. It’s currently sitting in the fridge. The scraps on the side taste great so I can hardly wait for the final result! I was wondering if I could adapt this recipe to be white chocolate fudge. Would I just leave out the cocoa and use white chocolate?
Thanks Chef, you’re awesome!
I hope you love the fudge as much as I do! For white chocolate fudge, you can indeed substitute white chocolate for the dark and remove the cocoa powder. Keep in mind that the white chocolate does not have the same solid content as the darker chocolate and you will be missing the solid content of the cocoa powder too. This means you will have to increase the quantity of white chocolate. Off the top of my head I’d say increase the quantity by about 10-15%. Let me know how it works!
Cheers – Chef Scott
Yael Fischmann says
Hi there! I have two questions:
1) Where I live (Chile) it is not easy to find light corn syrup. Is it ok to substitute with glucose syrup?
2) How long would these beauties keep? Refrigerated or room temperature?
Thanks and I absolutely love the nerdy/ technical way you explain your recipes Chef 😉
1. Absolutely. I actually always prefer glucose to corn syrup so you can use it in a 1:1 substitution.
2. At room temperature they will keep in an air tight container for 3-5 days. I would keep them refrigerated for a shelf life of about 2 weeks and you could also freeze them if you wanted.
You’re welcome! Thanks so much for checking out and supporting the blog!
Cheers – Chef Scott
This is the first fudge I’ve made in 30 years and the first ever “real” fudge. It is magnificent! I used 100% cacao baking chocolate and added toasted pecans. It was really easy too.
The instructions didn’t say when to add the vanilla; I added it with the haking chocolate.
I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! I like the addition of pecans too, I may have to do that next time I make it. I’ll be sure to add the step regarding the vanilla, too.
Cheers – Chef Scott
Hi I’m curious that there is no cool down step. Many recipes suggest cooling to 110F/43C before beating.
Good question! Fudge is created when super saturated sugar crystals reform in the chocolate mixture, creating the semi-solid texture of fudge. This only happens once the sugar molecules have cooled down (they are still in suspension in the hot liquid) and recrystalize. My guess is that other recipes may recommend cooling to that temperature first as it represents the point at which sugar crystals will generally begin to form. I’ve never found a need for that step (and I like doing away with extra steps when I can!) and by mixing right away you begin the agitation process while you cool! At the end of the day, I think you’d be ok doing either/or, and it really comes down to whichever method gives you your favorite fudge 🙂
Cheers – Chef Scott
Brian Gogal says
Alcohol – I know I can add Kahlúa or Baileys to he syrup mixture as it boils and still retain most of the flavor, but I understand the alcohol evaporates. If I want to make a boozy fudge, can I add it to the stand mixer while the beating the fudge? Other than trial and error, how many grams (ounces) of alcohol do you figure the mixture in this recipe will hold?
You could definitely add the kahlua or baileys to the syrup, keep in mind that while the alcohol may evaporate out, the milk/cream components of those two particular products will remain (although those too will boil out to reach the final temp. – just a good practice to think of all the ingredient components and what they will do during a recipe). Unfortunately the best answer I can give you is trial and error. If I was making a boozy fudge, I would likely add the alcohol during the beating of the fudge, and probably use higher proof spirits so less liquid needs to be added to impart flavor. I would avoid using Kahlua or Baileys specifically in the mixing stage as it has more liquid than just alcohol which will remain and may affect the final texture. It’s always a delicate balance between using enough alcohol in chocolate confections to impart flavor while not damaging the final texture. As a loosely-educated guess only, I would try adding 30-50g of alcohol to this size recipe as a starting point and see where that gets you. Let me know how it goes!
Cheers – Chef Scott
Brian Gogal says
Thanks for the tips, Scott. Okay, so I ran off a batch of this fudge today. I scaled everything out and followed the recipe exactly as given except I subbed out glucose for the corn syrup and took the syrup up to 238*F on my instant read. I figured if I evaporated a little more liquid on the front end I could add a little more on the back end. I also eliminated the vanilla which freed up another 15 grams of liquid. I replaced with 2 oz ( ~ 60 g) of Jack Daniels 80 proof (40% alcohol). So this now fell right in the middle of the 30-50g of alcohol you suggested to start with. The fudge had no problem taking up this liquid. I let it set in the fridge for 8 hrs and it firmed up nicely. Of course, not as firm as it would without the alcohol, but I’d say similar to a marshmallow fluff fudge. Was easy to slice with a warm knife. All in all a great recipe. If a person follows your recipe as given there won’t be any problems.
As you suggested, no need to cool the fudge before beating. Just pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl and don’t scrape the pot out. Only use what pours out and forget about anything stuck to the pot. It’s not clear in your recipe, but if using vanilla, it goes in at the beating stage. And make life easier for yourself – forget the candy thermometers and get an instant read. Wash the probe off in warm water every time after you take a reading in the syrup as sugar crystals will be stuck to it. That’s about it. I was quite pleased with the results. Only other thing is I couldn’t taste the Jack – the chocolate masks it. But one bite and you know something potent is lurking in the fudge!