Proper, traditional, soft & creamy real vanilla fudge.
That’s what we’re talking about today. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of flaky, grainy, unpalatable batches of supposed fudge to find the winning recipe. One thing to be clear about from the start is this is fudge, not tablet. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have made that mistake when searching for the magic method to deliver creamy fudginess so let me explain. Tablet is a Scottish confection which uses double the quantity of sugar that fudge does but otherwise, the method is often very similar. Problem is, if flaky, crumbly textures make your teeth itch like mine, then you are going to be disappointed in the extreme! There are plenty of recipes out there for tablet and many, many lovers of the stuff but for me, the perfect fudge is soft and luscious, without a grain in sight. I want it to melt in the mouth like butter, but have more substance – it should be creamy, rich and make you groan with pleasure as you eat just one more chunk. Fatal mistake, there is no such thing as only one more chunk of fudge…
If you have ever Googled or rooted around Pinterest looking at glorious images of fudge of every possible flavour, with additions such as chocolate, crumbled cookies, marshmallows, fruit, nuts you name it, the combinations have been well documented. Problem is, the word “fudge” has been sullied and now is awarded to confections which include microwaving chocolate and condensed milk together then leaving it to set, or doing the same in the slow cooker or adding a few extra bits like butter and more sugar on the hob. Now it isn’t to say that these aren’t delicious sweet treats, it’s just that after you’ve made as many batches as I have that you’ve had to give away after your first chunk as the texture is all wrong for you, then you’ll see why the pedant in me emerges and I become rather fussy!
Traditional fudge is a mix of demerara sugar, double cream, a little liquid glucose and butter. You heat it to the soft ball stage, which is between 113-118˚C (I take it off at 116˚C to prevent it over heating) then allow to cool down a touch before you beat the beejeezus out of it. This helps align the sugar crystals and lays the ground work for a perfectly set fudge. If you have a stand mixer, the manual labour intensity is minimal – use the flat beater/K-beater attachment and if you have a metal bowl, use that rather than a plastic one as fudge is hot, hot, hot! You can simply beat it with a wooden spoon if not, scraping up the bottom and sides to make sure every last little bit gets a sound thrashing or you will have grainy bits in your fudge (grains make Hulk angry!).
I go off piste only to add a little milk to my double cream, mostly because cream is sold in 300ml pots in England and it makes me happy to not have to open a second pot. It makes the fudge only ever so slightly less rich but let’s be honest, it otherwise plenty rich enough with all that sugar and butter! If you want to be extra decadent then you could use a small pot of clotted cream (usually 227g each) and make up the volume with double cream or milk. It will possibly be the creamiest confection you’ve ever had. This recipe is pretty plain bar the addition of a little vanilla extract (have you ever made your own?) but it is an excellent base to add in whatever additions you like. Just do so as soon as it’s reached the correct texture to scrape into the tin and bare in mind, chocolate may melt a little as it is still going to be around 60˚C at this point.
My top tips for fudge making are:
- Have your butter, cream and milk at room temp before starting
- Use a trustworthy thermometer – I’ve never found a more reliable and instant read than my Thermapen they are around £36 in most places and can be used for confectionery as well as meat so you’ll get your money’s worth quickly
- If you can use a stand mixer to beat it, then do so!
- The liquid glucose really does help with the texture, don’t be tempted to skip it
- Never, ever, ever leave the fudge unattended as it cooks as molten sugar is dangerous and will scald you
- Don’t be tempted to leave the fudge to beat in your mixer as you may go beyond the point of no return, whip in too much air and have grainy fudge (been there, done that!)
- Don’t refrigerate your fudge – cover with a clean tea towel and leave to cool on the counter top over night – it’s too moist in the fridge and it won’t set.
- Fudge will keep in an airtight tin for upto 2 weeks (if you don’t eat it all before then!)
- 450g demerara sugar
- 100ml milk
- 300ml double cream
- 50g butter
- 1 tbsp liquid glucose
- Seeds of a vanilla bean or 1 tsp extract
- Line an 8x8 inch square tin with greaseproof paper.
- Place all the ingredients in a deep saucepan - you need room to let the boiling fudge bubble up during cooking.
- On a medium-high heat, bring the fudge to a temperature of 116˚C. Keep the thermometer submerged in fudge throughout. Stir all the time scraping up the bottom regularly to prevent it catching and be careful - it will scald you it's so hot.
- Take off the heat and leave to stand until temperature reaches 110˚C.
- Add in the vanilla.
- At this point, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and using your flat beater, start beating slowly building up the speed to medium and watch the fudge - you are waiting for it to turn matte and thicken quite considerably.
- As the mixture cools and you beat it to prevent crystallisation, you'll hear the stand mixer motor start to struggle. Stop beating to check the temperature - once it is at 60˚C it is read to scrape into your prepared tin.
- Leave to cool and set over night at room temperature. Cut into squares as big as you like.
- When beating your fudge, you want to stop before you incorporate so much air it starts to become grainy and crumbly. I don't recommend leaving the fudge unattended at any point in this recipe (both in the cooking and the beating) as it could bubble over and burn you or you could miss the perfect stopping point for creamy, smooth, soft fudge!
- I recommend doing this in a stand mixer but you can do it by hand - it will take a lot longer though and give your arms one heck of a workout!