To me, winter is the season of fudgemancery.
Among other things, of course – there is a lot more to winter than fudge. It is more that fudge is so much more of a winter dessert than one for the rest of the year – I neither crave its rich sweetness when it is hot out, nor do I want to deal with the heat of the molten sugar in summertime. Besides, things you could have year-round, but normally don’t, the sorts of things reserved for holidays, are all the more special for that. My homemade fudge is one of those things.
I make several sorts of fudge, usually some dark chocolate, and some white, and some plain sugar-and-butter fudge with booze in it, too, but this year I ended up making two batches of the white chocolate in a row, and even managed to photograph them before they were all gone. And so, it was fated that I would write the recipe for the white chocolate fudge here.
Actually, it was my friend Niklas’ fault. I’d tasked him with finding and bringing me evaporated milk (not a commodity easily found in Swedish supermarkets), and he gleefully returned with about 3x the amount I’d asked him for. Broadly hinting that… there should be more fudge in everyone’s life. Including his. Obviously.
I’ve read countless fudge recipes which tell you that you can’t, can’t, can’t do it without a candy thermometer. Frankly, that’s bulls**t. I own a meat thermometer as of recently and I do not own a candy one – which interferes with me making fudge not at all. It is very easy to test fudge syrup for doneness – all you need is a glass of cold water on the stove next to your pot. Drip a drop of syrup into the glass – if it forms a nice ball, which is soft when poked with a finger, you are ready to go. If it splats and dissolves – not yet. Simple.
I’ve also read and tried to use several recipes for fudge with mix-ins (dried fruit, etc.) which have failed miserably. I am not naming any names, as usual, but please, people – think! If your syrup is just right and you mix in something which has liquid in it (such as dried apricots or not-entirely-dehydrated raisins), it will change its temperature – and the % of water in it! This recipe corrects for that, again, without any fuss.
This recipe is adapted from a supermarket (Tesco) magaine that I’d picked up a couple of years ago in the UK. Most of the credit for it being fuss-free and
fool- Veronika-proof goes to them.
So, without further ado – how to make white chocolate fudge right on your stovetop, without a thermometer.
Note about working with molten sugar syrup: DO NOT TOUCH IT WITH YOUR HANDS, OR GODS FORBID, DO NOT LICK THE SPOON!!! The sugar syrup always looks rather cool, and drips slowly but it is at over 120°C at that point. Please be careful, and do not be tempted to touch it with your fingertips or anything you want unblistered.
Equipment you will need:
- Apron. Or a high-necked top. You don’t want chest splattered with molten sugar, trust me!
- Your glasses or goggles of some sort (recommended for all work with molten sugar – I use chemistry laboratory glasses).
- A stainless steel or other non-reactive pot. I do not recommend teflon as it’s neither needed, nor likes too-high temperatures.
- A silicone spatula or spoon. Or a wooden one.
- A baking form (such as a cake form).
- Baking parchment.
- Scale and measuring cups. Though I guess you could approximate the sugar amount by taking 1/3 of a 1kg bag plus 2 tablespoons. Or use one of those measuring cups that has sugar marked in grams as well as volume. In any case, you want this to be fairly precise.
- Timer and a glass of cold water.
- 300g white chocolate (It must, must, must be real chocolate – not cake coating, not “bakers’ block”, but real chocolate – dessert-making grade from the bakery isle is fine, but make sure it is chocolate and does not contain starches or other thickeners, or your fudge will be ruined!)
- 350g white caster sugar
- 25g unsalted butter
- 175ml (one small can or measure out of a large can) evaporated milk (this is not the same as condensed milk and will not work interchangeably here!)
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar (I use real vanilla vanilla sugar) or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 100g of whatever you like to mix in (dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots work really well with white chocolate)
- Alternatively or in addition to mix-in, you can zest 1 orange and use the zest as flavoring
- 1 tablespoon of your favorite liquor (optional)
What to do:
- Line the bottom of your cake form (I use a springform pan for easy side removal) with baking parchment.
- Put on your apron or top. No I am not kidding. In fact, if you’ve got glasses put them on. I use my chemist’s eye protection gear when I work with molten sugar. I’d like my chest and eyes not burned by a stray splat, and I know I am clumsy.
- Put butter, sugar and evaporated milk into a pot and heat on medium-low heat, stirring gently from time to time, until all sugar is dissolved.
- Allow to come to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Once the mixture is boiling steadily, set timer to 5 minutes. Keep watching and stirring.
- After 5 minutes, test syrup by dripping into cold water. It should ball up. If it doesn’t, boil another 2 minutes before retesting.
- Once the syrup has reached soft ball stage (as above), mix in first your vanilla extract, then liquor (if using), and then zest (if using), and the mix-in (fruit etc.). Note: sugar will boil up and splat a second or two after addition of liquids. Stand back a little and don’t put your face over the pot when you pour in.
- Mix and boil another 1-2 minutes. Retest syrup. It should ball up. If it does not, boil and test at 1-2 min increments till it does. Do not worry – last time I made fudge, I had to retest 2x times (boil 4 extra minutes) before the mix-in, but it turns out fine.
- Turn off the heat and drop in the chocolate. DO NOT STIR! Stirring white chocolate as it melts will cause it to seize. Don’t. Just stare at it for a bit. You can poke the pieces which are on top of the syrup deeper into the syrup with a spoon.
- When you see that most of the chocolate has dissolved (top pieces are getting meltey at the edges), take that spatula or spoon and stir the heck out of the mix. It should become homogenous after one or two vigorous stirs. Stir a few seconds more till the mixture begins to lose gloss (this will happen very quickly), and then pour into the prepared parchment-lined form.
- The mix should start to set almost immediately. Do not touch the form as it will get very hot. Let it cool and set for 3-5 hours or overnight before unmolding and cutting.
- Unmold your fudge and gently peel off the parchment (it comes off easily). Cut it into bits of desired size with a sharp knife, wiping or washing the blade if it becomes too sticky.
- Spread fudge pieces on some baking parchment and let dry a few hours to a couple of days until dry to touch before putting into cellophane bags and giving away. Or, you know, just eat it all. Only… don’t eat it all at one sitting. I don’t speak from personal experience, oh no. I’m virtuous like that.