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Old 12-05-2011, 12:33 PM   #1
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Fudge?!

I've been working on improving a fudge recipe for weeks, and I *still* can't get it right.

I feel like the main problem is that I don't really understand what all the ingredients do specifically, and why you would or wouldn't include them, as well as the amounts/ratios of all of them.

I know for a fact that if I boiled some sugar and water for a while and then left it to cool, that it WOULD create something resembling fudge. So why does every recipe have other ingredients in it?! And how and why can every recipe have a different ratio between everything, even between the sugar and the milk - surely the most fundamental part!?

So, I would be incredibly grateful if anyone could answer any or all of these questions:
- What ratio should the milk and sugar be in? How much difference does it make, and what would happen to the finished product if you made it with an extreme ratio, would it boil down until it was the same anyway?
- What does the butter do when it is added to the recipe? Is it just for flavour? Either way, what amount of butter should be added (how much butter to sugar/milk)?
- Should the butter be added before or after boiling? Every recipe seems to say different, so in other words, what difference does it really make?
- What effect does using different kinds of sugar have? Why do some recipes have a mixture of different sugars, is it just flavour or something else?
- What heat/burner should the fudge be cooked at and for how long? I have a thermometer but it always seems to end up burning or taking a stupidly long time to cook.
- Does the weather *really* make a difference? Some things say that if the humidity is different the fudge will be different, but is it just a matter of taking a different time to cook and turning out the same anyway or something?
- Any other advice?

Please note - I'm not looking for a fudge recipe, I'm trying to learn what fudge IS so I can understand it and be able to do it myself - that's just how my brain works :p

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Old 12-05-2011, 02:38 PM   #2
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Sugar, milk, and salt boil down to caramel, not fudge. The milk moderates the flavor, and adds a small amount of fat to the candy. The sugar melts and browns, giving it the characteristic caramel flavor. The longer it browns, the more intense is the flavor. Milk adds water to the candy as well. It is the ratio of sugar to milk that determines the texture of the candy. Temperature is used as a gauge to determine the texture. Boiling liquid remains at the same temperature until most of the water is evaporated. As the temperature increases (use a candy thermometer to determine the caramel hardness) the sugar becomes more concentrated in the mixture, and the water and have less of an effect in the candy.

Fudge, on the other hand, is a mixture of sugar, milk, fat (usually butterfat), and flavors. It may contain beaten egg white and starch as well. So, basically, you are creating a caramel that is made texturally more complex, and softer by adding a signigicant amount of fat, and air to the mixture. This creates a soft treat that melts at body temperature, and carries the flavor you want.

As to different rations in different recipes, consider this. Honey has no fat in it, but a lot of flavor. A honey based fudge would combine the flavor of honey, with the caramel texture of cooked sugar, milk for fat and water, and the fat from butter to create a rich, buttery, and sweet fudge. A little salt would round out the flavor profile.

Vanilla fudge is the same. It uses vanilla as the flavor, milk for flavor and water, butterfat to make it soft, and rich, and salt to enhance the flavor.

Chocolate fudge made from chocolate chips contains a significant amount of fat from the chocolate chips, and so requires less added fat to make it creamy-smooth. But still, some is required, along with the above players.

If you are using marshmallows in your fudge recipe, then you need only cook the sugar syrup to the right temperature (given in the recipe), and add the other ingredients. The marshmallows add air to the fudge, which again makes it smooth and creamy. If you don't add marshmallows, then the fudge should be worked to incorporate air into it.

Peanut butter, like chocolate, contains fat. So peanut butter fudge doesn't require as much butter.

So, fat combines with the sugar syrup to soften the fudge, and cause it to litteraly, melt in your mouth.

Salt, and flavorings make it taste good.

Milk adds fat and water to the caramilized sugar to turn it into a syrup, or candy, depending on the temperature that the mixture is cooked to.

As with all types of cooking, follow recipes until you are comfortable making them. Then start altering them so that you can understand what the alterations do. After a while, you will be able to create your own fudge recipes with the knowledge you obtain.

Any fudge masters out their, correct me if I've errored in any of this. But make sure that the corrections are born of knowledge, not because someone told you that "that's just the way it's done".

Seeeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
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Old 12-05-2011, 05:33 PM   #3
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Thank you so much! That all helps a lot :D *bookmarks for future reference* :)
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Old 12-06-2011, 05:03 PM   #4
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Anyone else got any tips?
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Old 12-06-2011, 06:23 PM   #5
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Also, another thing is - should you stir it or not while it is boiling/simmering? Because when I've made it before, if I stop stirring for even a second while boiling it, it burns on the bottom and ruins the batch. So how are you supposed to leave it for 20 mins+ while it reaches the right temperature, and yet without it burning on the bottom? :S
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Old 12-06-2011, 11:41 PM   #6
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Are you using a double boiler?

Double boiler - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 12-07-2011, 03:10 AM   #7
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I'm not.. would that prevent the burning if I stopped stirring while it boiled? Would it be able to be hot enough?
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Old 12-07-2011, 08:23 AM   #8
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Yes, to both questions. You don't have to kill yourself stirring for 20 minutes straight and it keeps a more even heat on the pan. I just use a metal bowl that fits on the top of a medium saucepan.
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Old 12-07-2011, 12:00 PM   #9
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Definitely a double boiler. Until you are experienced enough to use a bowl over a pan, I would invest in one. It will come in handy for custards, and so many other foods. And the good ones often will have a steamer top for veggies. I bought a Revereware one about 40 years ago and it still serves me well. And to heck with polishing that dang copper bottom. My pans are out of sight, so who is going to see my nice shining pans. And I don't cook my foods on the bottom outside of the pan. Pure logic.
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Old 12-07-2011, 01:21 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by PrincessFiona60 View Post
Yes, to both questions. You don't have to kill yourself stirring for 20 minutes straight and it keeps a more even heat on the pan. I just use a metal bowl that fits on the top of a medium saucepan.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Addie View Post
Definitely a double boiler. Until you are experienced enough to use a bowl over a pan, I would invest in one. It will come in handy for custards, and so many other foods. And the good ones often will have a steamer top for veggies. I bought a Revereware one about 40 years ago and it still serves me well. And to heck with polishing that dang copper bottom. My pans are out of sight, so who is going to see my nice shining pans. And I don't cook my foods on the bottom outside of the pan. Pure logic.
Thanks :) Addie, what exactly *is* a double boiler? I thought it was just the name for what you do when you put a bowl over a pan..?

PS - When you put the bowl over the pan, is it meant to make the pan airtight, so there is no gap around the outside? And should the bottom of the bowl be touching the water or not?
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