Fudge is a sweetheart of a tradition, especially chocolate

By CAROL ANNE BLITZER For AP Weekly Features Published:

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Making homemade fudge is a cherished tradition. Thats because fudge can include everyones favorite ingredients chocolate, butter, vanilla, sugar and nuts. What could be better?

With Valentines Day in prospect, especially if youre planning some sweet token giving, you may wish to brush up your fudge-making skills.

Even though chocolate has been around since Central American Indians were growing and using cocoa beans more than 2,000 years ago, it is believed that the first fudge candy was made in the United States little more than 100 years ago.

John F. Marianis Dictionary of American Food and Drink traces the origins of fudge to several womens colleges in New England. He cites a 1921 letter in the Vassar College archives written by alumna Emelyn B. Hartridge, who said that fudge as I knew it, was first made in Baltimore by a cousin of a schoolmate of mine ... (and) sold in 1886 in a grocery store for 40 cents a pound. ... I secured the recipe and in my first year at Vassar, I made it there and in 1888 I made 30 pounds for the Senior Auction, its real introduction to the college, I think.

The women of Vassar had their special fudge recipe, while women at neighboring colleges also developed their own fudge recipes. Many of these recipes are still passed down by students and alumnae.

There are dozens of fudge recipes using chocolate in a variety of forms. Many of the older recipes use cocoa, which was introduced by Milton Hershey in 1894. Some of the later recipes use unsweetened chocolate squares or semisweet chocolate chips.

The milks vary, too, with different recipes calling for whole milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk or even cream.

The Advocates food section tested several fudge recipes and came to the conclusion that the old cocoa and whole-milk recipes have a very fudgy taste, while the recipes made with evaporated milk and chocolate chips are slightly creamier.

Its a matter of personal taste.

Years ago, the Hersheys cocoa can contained a famous recipe, Hersheys Rich Cocoa Fudge, which called for cooking the ingredients to the soft-ball stage. Most home cooks now have candy thermometers, which make determining the soft-ball stage much more accurate. Earlier in the 20th century, when Hersheys recipe was one of the few fudge recipes around, cooks generally relied on testing the softball stage in a cup of cold water.

That could be tricky. If the recipe wasnt cooked long enough, you could end up with chocolate soup, but if it was cooked too long, it could harden in the pot.

The candy thermometer is a worthwhile investment that takes the guessing out of candy making. Note: As with all candies, recipes must be followed exactly.

Following is a selection of recipes for homemade fudge to make and offer with love.

This is Hersheys original cocoa fudge recipe.

Rich Cocoa Fudge

(Advocate-tested recipe)

3 cups sugar

2/3 cup Hersheys Cocoa or Hersheys Special Dark Cocoa

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter foil.

Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in heavy (4-quart) saucepan; stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full rolling boil. Boil, without stirring, until mixture reaches 234 F on a candy thermometer, or until a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water forms a soft ball which flattens when removed from water. (Bulb of candy thermometer should not rest on bottom of saucepan).

Remove from heat. Add 1/4 cup butter and vanilla. DO NOT STIR. Cool at room temperature to 110 F. Beat with wooden spoon until fudge thickens and just begins to lose some of its gloss. Quickly spread into prepared pan; cool completely. Cut into squares. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 36 pieces or 1 3/4 pounds. (For best results, do not double this recipe.)

Variation: Nutty Rich Cocoa Fudge: Beat cooked fudge as directed. Immediately stir in 1 cup chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts and spread quickly into prepared pan.

(Recipe from Hersheys Kitchens)

Foolproof Chocolate Fudge

(Advocate-tested recipe)

3 cups (18 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)

Dash of salt

1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Line an (8- or 9-inch) square pan with waxed paper, extending the paper over the sides of pan.

In a medium-size, heavy pan, over low heat, melt chips with condensed milk and salt, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Spread in pan.

Chill 2 hours or until firm. Turn onto cutting board, remove waxed paper and cut in squares. Store covered in refrigerator.

Makes 2 pounds.

(Recipe from Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk)

Microwave Fudge

(Advocate-tested recipe)

4 cups sugar

12-ounce can evaporated milk

Pinch cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

18 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans

Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with three sheets of waxed paper, extending the waxed paper over the sides of the pan.

In a large microwavable bowl, combine sugar, evaporated milk, cream of tartar and salt. Mix well. Microwave at 70 percent power for 7 minutes. Open microwave and stir. Microwave at full power for 6 minutes. Remove from microwave. Add chocolate chips and butter and stir until both are melted and mixed in well. Add vanilla and stir in well. Add nuts and stir in. Pour into prepared pan. Place in refrigerator and allow to cool completely for several hours. Cut into squares. Store covered in refrigerator.

Makes about 4 dozen squares.

(Recipe from Kay Hawthorne)

Dark Chocolate Fudge

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup half-and-half

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped

Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with aluminum foil and butter the foil well.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, half-and-half, cream and salt in a heavy-bottomed pan and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Brush down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in warm water and remove from heat.

Stir in chocolate until melted and smooth. Brush down sides of the pan again, then set pan over medium heat, place a warmed candy thermometer in pan and cook, without stirring until it reaches 238 F.

Remove from heat. Add, but do not stir in, the butter and vanilla. Cool the candy to 110 F by placing the bottom of the pan in cold water to stop the cooking. When cool, stir with wooden spoon just until it snaps and begins to lose its sheen. Stir in nuts. Turn into pan. Use spatula dipped in hot water to smooth.

Let stand for at least 1 hour, then score into 1-inch squares. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours. Remove fudge from pan, peel off foil and finish cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container. Fudge keeps for up to 10 days at room temperature or up to 1 month in refrigerator.

Makes 11/4 pounds.

(Recipe from The All New, All Purpose Joy of Cooking)

Philly Fudge

6-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips

Two 3-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons milk or cream

4 cups sifted confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Butter a 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan well and set aside.

Melt chocolate chips in double boiler over hot, not boiling water. Blend cream cheese and milk in large electric mixer bowl, beating at high speed until smooth. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and beat at low speed until creamy. Blend in melted chocolate chips, vanilla and salt, beating until smooth. Stir in nuts.

Press mixture into pan, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight or until firm. Cut in 11/4-inch squares.

Makes 51/2 dozen (11/2-inch) pieces.

(Recipe is from Jean Andersons American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century)

(Carol Ann Blitzer is a feature writer at The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.)

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