project wedding dessert bar: part 3 (fudge)
It’s time for some more wedding dessert bar preparation. This time around, instead of baking, there will be candy-making.
[Queue the oooohs and aahhhs.]
Waiting … waiting … AHEM! … any minute now … What’s that? You already know how to make fudge? Fine. But won’t you be sad if you miss out on the quirky commentary, and additional tips and observations – like the fact that fudge freezes well for 3 months if tightly wrapped? Thought so.
Now that we’ve settled that … first, clean up that kitchen, little piggy! (I really let things go this week. Just wasn’t feeling the whole sponge-and-soap thing. Or even the at-least-soak-things-in-water thing. Pretty much a total mess all around. Good thing I didn’t get a good shot of the sink’s contents, much less the rest of the apartment.)
Now that I’ve cleaned everything up (mostly), it’s time to pull all the ingredients out and clutter the counter again. I’ve said it before and will repeat it every time I share a candy recipe, but you know that whole mis en place concept you hear all over cooking shows that normally is helpful but not entirely necessary? Yeah, it’s actually essential when making fudge or any other type of candy. Candy cooks up fast, especially towards the end when time is of the essence.
So open those bags and containers, and measure out those ingredients to lessen the chances of burnt candy tragedies. Seriously. I’ve done it. Multiple times. First world problem, perhaps, but I still cried.
Don’t forget to line the pan(s) too. Preferably parchment paper, but foil works too. Make sure the edges of the parchment or foil go up and over the pan so it’s easy to lift the fudge out once it sets.
I once forgot this step, and as it turns out, fudge sticks pretty well. Luckily, I was making it for friends, so we just scooped it out with our spoons instead. Not bad macgyvering, but it sure wasn’t pretty.
And for the love of sweets, bring butter to room temperature. Or the microwave equivalent of room temperature – you know, if planning ahead just didn’t happen.
But manipulate microwave buttons carefully and proceed cautiously, or the result may be a butter puddle instead of a softened stick. Let’s just say it’s been known to happen, especially when distractions abound.
Better place for a butter puddle? In the pot. By the way, that’s only 1/6 of the sugar – because for some reason that’s when I decided to take the picture.
Side note / Time for a rant: I never understood why evaporated milk is “evaporated” and not just “condensed.” Sure, about half the water in regular milk has been “evaporated” out of it, but the end result is still a liquid product. And why not just have “condensed” milk and “sweetened condensed” milk? The consistent but differentiated names might clear up some confusion in the baking aisle, not to mention that it makes no sense that all “condensed” milk must necessarily also be “sweetened.”
… But I was smart enough to have already opened the marshmallow creme containers, and now was the time to warm up a spatula in some hot water. A hot spatula makes it easier to scoop the creme out of the containers by reducing the super-sticky factor.
Watch that thermometer closely. When it hits 234F, it’s go time.
It’s Go Time!!!
Add a whole lotta dark chocolate. Some in chunks; others in chips. No judgments here. Use whatever you have on hand, as long as it’s decent chocolate.
Maybe throw in some of that unsweetened Valrhona cocoa powder. You know, the stuff you lugged back from Paris in no lighter than a 3 kg. box.
Stir your pants off.
Now stop … Vanillatime!
You know, like Hammertime? Except it’s Vanillatime? Because, well, M.C. Hammer has nothing to do with this fudge recipe, but vanilla does and for some reason that song came into my head right as I was adding the vanilla and … never mind. I can see this isn’t going anywhere productive.
A cramped forearm later, finally! The smooth brown color we’ve been looking for.
Pour the still-super-hot contents of the pot into the prepared pan(s).
In the meantime, check out the remnants left in the pot. In the interests of protecting our wedding guests from any untasty flops, it’s probably time to taste.
Oh dear … Taste test gone wild! Must destroy evidence of multiple finger swipes.
I didn’t expect the tasting to get so totally out of control. Better go throw on some Hammerpants to hide the rest of the evidence.
Fudge (from my previous post on fudge, which has much better pictures and includes macadamia nuts)
Makes 3 pounds, although I tripled it and divided among 3 pans for dessert bar purposes
**One change I made for the dessert bar was to add a few tablespoons of unsweetened Dutch-processed Valrhona cocoa powder to deepen the chocolate flavor. Not entirely necessary if you don’t have any on hand, but if you do, it helps pack a more complex and chocolatey punch into the fudge.
For any candy making, it’s extremely important to get all ingredients out and measured before starting because those last few minutes are both quick-moving and crucial to the end result. This is even truer for fudge because, after the sugar, butter, and milk reach the appropriate temperature, you must quickly stir in the chocolate and marshmallow creme before the mixture begins to harden, and then mix in the vanilla and chopped nuts before pouring out into the lined pan. It’s a lot to do in a fairly short period of time, but if you’ve already prepped everything, these last steps will be much less hectic.
I would also recommend heating the spatula you intend to use to scoop the marshmallow creme out of the jar by running hot water over it for a couple minutes beforehand, as this keeps the creme from sticking too badly to the spatula and eases its removal from the jar itself.
One more tidbit of advice is that this fudge easily makes enough for two separate occasions. When I made this last holiday season, I was hosting dinner one night and then bringing dessert to a friend’s house the next, so I lined two 6-inch pans instead of one 9-inch pan to keep the fudge still pretty, intact and fresh!
3 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter, room temperature
5 oz. (about 2/3 c.) evaporated milk
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
7 oz. marshmallow creme
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 c. macadamia nuts, chopped (optional – or other nuts of choice)
1 tsp. vanilla
Line 9-inch pan (or two 6-inch pans) with parchment paper or foil so that it hangs over the sides.
Over medium heat, bring butter, sugar and evaporated milk to boil. Stirring constantly, continue cooking until fudge reaches 234F. Remove from heat, and instantly add chocolate and marshmallow creme, stirring vigorously until completely melted. Stir in nuts (if using) and vanilla until evenly distributed, and immediately pour into prepared pan. Cool for an hour or two at room temperature, and allow to set completely in the refrigerator for another hour or so.
Do ahead: fudge can be prepared to this point, cooled, and stored: (a) at room temperature in an airtight container for 1 week; (b) in refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks; or (c) in freezer, if double-wrapped in plastic wrap and sealed inside a freezer bag or other airtight container, for 2 to 3 months. Make sure to defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cutting into it.
Lift overhanging edges of parchment carefully to hoist fudge out of pan. Carefully remove parchmentfrom edges of fudge, and transfer fudge to serving plate. Cut into small squares, as this treat is very dense and rich.