Facts about Fudge

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From the simple act of combining milk, butter, and sugar comes many great flavors. Fudge is the result of this combination heated to a soft-ball stage and beaten while cooling into a smooth consistency. The addition of other ingredients can take alter the flavor, from simple peanut butter fudge to shop specialties.  

Fact 1: Fudge containing chocolate is called American-style fudge, and was first recorded in 1886. This record is a letter talking about getting a fudge recipe to sell at the Vassar College Senior Auction. Other women’s colleges began making their own fudge, and toward the end of the 19th century, Mackinac Island, Michigan, shops began to sell chocolate fudge to summer vacationers.

Fact 2: Fudge, chocolate or otherwise, is thought to be a descendent of Scottish tablet. Taiblet, the Scottish name for tablet, is made the same was as fudge, though it was flavored with vanilla. Tablet is a medium to hard sweet, somewhere between fudge and hard candy. Besides being harder, tablet also has a grainy texture, such as might be found in peanut brittle.

Fact 3: Properly cooked fudge is said to be in the soft ball stage, heated to approximately 234º F. The names come from the testing phase, as a small spoonful of the mixture is dropped into cold water. The resulting lump indicates the concentration of sugar in the syrup. If it forms a ball, that means the mixture still retains enough of its molecular structure to cause it to stick together. Caramel does not form a ball, and all of the molecules in that batch of sugar have been heated into changing structure.

Fact 4: Even though it is smooth to taste and mouthfeel, fudge is a crystalized candy. Boiling water absorbs twice as much sugar as room temperature water, resulting in a supersaturated sugar solution. Controlling the crystallization of the sugar is what determines what the end product will be.

Fact 5: Fondant is made by allowing the supersaturated sugar solution to cool, forming lots of tiny crystals before stirring. The crystals will be of a similar size, giving a smooth mouthfeel. If this solution is agitated as it cools and crystal formation is delayed by the presence of milk fat, smooth fudge with small sugar grains will result.

Fact 6: The sugar crystals need to be small enough to give fudge a firm texture without making the fudge feel grainy.

Fact 7: When the fudge has cooled from 234º F to 110º F, that is when stirring begins.

Fact 8: Stirring or agitation encourages the growth of seed crystals, and starts the crystallization process.

Fact 9: Airtight packages of fudge can be frozen and stored for up to a year without losing any of the flavors. To defrost, leave the wrapped package of fudge out until it is room temperature all the way through. If the fudge is unwrapped before it is at room temperature, the top will become soft and sticky from absorbing moisture in the air.

Fact 10: It is believed that someone was making caramel when they ‘˜fudged’ up the recipe. The result was delicious, but the name stuck even as fudge grew in popularity.

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