Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Love Disguised As Fudge

This whole daylight savings thing is messing with me. We set our clocks back an hour this past weekend, so it's dark earlier here. I have been ready for bed since 7:00! Now here it is, almost 10:30 PM and I am still up. It's great though, this time of night. Kids are in bed, Mr. Wannabe is reading, the lights are (almost) all off. I have a glass of wine (a new local favorite!), a newly reorganized and much more inviting bedroom, and fudge. Creamy, decadent, melt in your mouth, old school fudge. Not the kind you make with chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and a microwave. I'm talking the kind of fudge that requires time, a big pot and a wooden spoon, a stool to sit on, maybe a light read, and patience. Something we as a society lack these days. Start to finish, this fudge took about 3 hours. Worth. Every. Minute.

Mr. Wannabe grew up eating this fudge at holiday get togethers, made by his Grandma Norma. She and her sisters Gayle, Nelda, and Norine, learned to make it from their mother. To this day, Gayle still uses her mothers old Revere Ware pot, her "secret ingredient." No one really knows where this recipe came from prior to that, but that's not what matters. What matters is that someone in the family learns how to make it so that the tradition continues. Which is where I come in. I am big on tradition. I love sharing the things I loved as a child with my own children, and few of my memories are as sweet as those that involve food. Nothing warms my heart more than spending time in the kitchen with my daughter, showing her how to make something my own mom taught me when I was her age, and I can only hope that she has a daughter of her own someday to share her kitchen with. I love watching her eyes light up when she picks a new recipe and watches in amazement as it unfolds into this magical, edible creation. Or the way she actually listens when I tell her stories of how I learned to cook, and how she values and cares for the cookbooks I have given her, a couple of which were mine when I was her age. I know without a doubt that I am planting seeds within her that will grow as she ages and eventually need to be shared, starting traditions of her own. One of the many precious joys of being a mother.

So last week, I drove over to Aunt Gayle's (the last of the Thoden sisters) to observe, learn, and snap a few photos. I did just that, but I walked away with much more than 5 lbs. of fudge. I left with the knowledge needed to re-create something that is much more than a confection. It's a tradition. A small piece of Mr. Wannabe's childhood. Of my father in laws childhood. Of our family. But what I learned in Gayle's kitchen, and what I will share with you, is science. You have to put your soul into it and make it your own, or it will be just fudge. And this isn't just fudge, this is love. 

Love Disguised As Fudge....aka The Thoden Family Fudge

6 cups sugar
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups light Karo syrup (must be Karo, according to Gayle)
6 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Hershey's)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
nuts, optional

Mix together all ingredients except vanilla and nuts in a large, sturdy (5 quart) pot using a wooden spoon. 

Sugar high, anyone?

The good stuff.

Add caption

This is actually quite pretty. Especially when you swirl it.

Heat slowly on medium until it reaches a low, steady boil (this took us about 20-25 minutes). Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring very frequently and paying close attention to avoid boiling over, until it reaches a soft ball stage. You can turn the heat up slightly  if needed.
Patience is a virtue.

For those of you that have never made candy before and are unsure of how this works, it is actually quite easy. It took us close to 2 hours to reach this stage, and will vary based on your stove, altitude, humidity, temperature, etc. So the key is to check often and be patient! When you feel it is getting close (you will notice the changes in consistency and texture), fill a cup or small bowl with cold water, and using a spoon, drop a small amount of the fudge mixture into the water and allow it to cool . When ready, you should be able to scoop it out, mold it into a ball, and have it be soft but still keep it's form. If it starts to collapse at all, it is still not quite ready. But again, check often!
Not quite ready!

Yes, patience is still a virtue.


When the fudge mixture has reached the soft ball stage, fill your sink with cold water, and place the pan in the sink for 5-10 minutes to cool it off some. Add the vanilla, and nuts if desired. 

Now the fun part. This is great for those with pent up aggression or frustrations, or those who simply want to strengthen their arms. Or for those who simply want fudge, and will work hard to get it. Take a wooden spoon and beat the fudge by hand (stir hard, continuously) until it loses it's glossy appearance. This takes several minutes. Have a seat. Get angry. Let it out. It's ok, the fudge will forgive you!
Just beat it, beat it....

No one likes to be defeated....hey, it's late. Humor me.

When finished pour, scrape, or dig fudge out into a buttered 9x13 pan or baking sheet. 
See how it lost much of the shiny "wet look?"

While still warm, score with a sharp knife and then break apart when cooled. 

Store in an airtight container between pieces of waxed paper. 

Makes 5 lbs of love. Enjoy.

Happy Almost Tuesday!
Mrs. Wannabe