When I was a little girl, Sunday nights were special “family” nights. We would all gather in the living room after dinner to watch TV together. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was first and then Bonanza. We often would make popcorn – the old-fashioned way, in a pan with oil, shaking it until it stopped popping. But on special occasions or when we begged enough, my dad would make us fudge!
He made it the same way his mother (Mimi) had taught him, from scratch, using cocoa powder, sugar, milk, butter, and corn syrup. We would watch him as he carefully measured each ingredient and placed it in the same large pot each time. Then we had to wait until it cooked to the soft ball stage, smelling the wonderful aromas of cooking chocolate candy.
Then came the really hard part – especially when you are a young child with a horrific sweet tooth! Dad would sit in his chair with the pot on a towel on his lap. He couldn’t start beating the candy until it was cool enough to hold in his hands. He never used a thermometer for this part, it was pure instinct. I would sit next to him, constantly asking, “is it cool enough yet?” He never got cross with me, understanding my impatience and laughing at my eagerness.
Finally it would be cool enough and then the real work began. My dad would use a heavy wooden spoon and beat that candy as hard as he could, for up to 10 minutes. He never let anyone else help him with it because only he could tell when the color changed enough and the candy got harder to beat. Then we would run to the kitchen and get the candy poured into the buttered pan before it set.
Of course I couldn’t wait another second and always begged to be the one to “clean” the pot and spoon, LOL. There was never anything better than his homemade fudge, still warm in the pot, melting on my tongue. Then we would each be given an equal share of the candy. That was one thing I always could count on, my parents always divided everything evenly among us so there would never be any fighting over who got more. As an adult I realize how incredibly smart that was. They stopped any fights before they had a chance to start.
The second half of today’s story belongs to my mother. When she was pregnant with her first child, my oldest brother, she had a few unusual cravings, but the one that lasted the rest of her life was a passion for Rocky Road. It didn’t matter if it was the candy or ice cream, if she saw it she had to have it. And another of her favorites was root beer. She grew up making root beer floats for her friends at her dad’s drug store soda fountain.
So, when I saw the recipe for Root Beer Float Fudge in the Culinary Institute of America’s “Chocolates and Confections at Home” book, it struck a chord for me. And by combining it with their recipe for Chocolate Fudge, I knew I would have a confection that would merge two of my sweetest (forgive the pun) memories. This fudge tastes like a cross between a chocolate malt and a root beer float, with touches of Rocky Road thrown in for good measure. I love the combination and hope you do to.
Happy Chocolate Monday!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Using a candy thermometer whenever you make candy is paramount to success. Attach it to the side of your saucepan, making sure that it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan but is deep enough to have the mercury bulb submerged in the cooking candy.
Kitchen Skill: How to Get Evenly Sized Pieces of Fudge
One challenge of fudge is cutting it cleanly and evenly. The easiest way to do this is to line the pan with parchment paper that is long enough to drape over both ends, creating “handles.” When the candy is cool, lift the “handles” removing the slab from the pan in one piece.
Then using a long slicing knife, cut a thin strip from each side of the piece of fudge, evening up the edges. Slice the remaining slab into even pieces, wiping off the blade between each cut.
- 2 lb (4 cups) granulated sugar
- 6 oz (1/2 cup) light corn syrup
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) heavy cream
- 8 oz (1 cup) milk
- 6 oz (1 cup) unsweetened chocolate, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
- 2 tsp root beer flavoring (see Keys to Success)
- 8 oz (2 cups) chopped toasted walnuts, peanuts, or pecans, optional
- 4 oz (2-1/2 cups) mini marshmallows
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup, cream, milk, chocolate, and salt in a 4-quart saucepan. Cook over moderate heat to 236°F while stirring constantly. Use a candy thermometer attached to the saucepan for accuracy.
- Pour the mixture into a 9x13-inch baking pan or other pan that will allow it to spread to create a thin layer. Leave candy undisturbed to cool to room temperature for 20 minutes.
- Butter a 9-inch square baking pan; set aside.
- Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl or into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, root beer flavoring, and nuts, if using. Mix on medium speed, or by hand using a wooden spoon. If using a mixer, it will require approximately 3 minutes of mixing. If mixing by hand, it will require approximately 6 minutes.
- When the fudge begins to lighten in color, lose some of its shine, and thicken slightly, stir in the marshmallows and stop mixing.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset palette knife. Allow the fudge to crystallize for 1 hour or longer at room temperature. Cut into the desired sized pieces and serve.
- Fudge should be stored tightly covered at room temperature. It can be refrigerated, tightly sealed, for longer storage or frozen for maximum life.
- Yield: 1 (9-inch) square slab
Keys to Success
- Root beer flavorings vary in strength. Vary the amount to your taste.
- Be careful to cook the batch accurately; this will determine how firm the fudge is.
- If you like fudge slightly harder, cook the batch 2°F to 3°F higher. For softer fudge, cook a couple of degrees less.
- Do not stir the fudge during the cooling step.
- Stirring fudge is more of an art than a science. No clock can tell you when it is finished. The fudge should start to lighten in color, thicken noticeably, and lose a bit of its shine before you pour it into the pan.
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