I thought I had given you all of my holiday recipes, but it turns out that I forgot the most important one of all. Fudge!
As you know, I make fudge every holiday season without fail. No Christmas is complete without the requisite fudge-packing jokes. This particular fudge recipe is the same one I’ve been making since high school. My dad brought home a plate of holiday cookies from a company party in the late eighties, and I immediately zeroed in on the fudge. For weeks, I badgered him to get the recipe. I nagged him as only a 16-year-old adolescent female with a cocaine-like chocolate addiction can (count your blessings, Dad). Finally, he tracked down the source of the fudge, and she wrote out the instructions. I still have her original hand-written note, though I never got her name. With the secrets to delicious fudge in my possession, I could presumably get back to the important business of shellacking my entire head in a candy-like shell of Aqua Net.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized there was a slight error in the recipe. The following was written in the ingredient list: "¼ cup (1 stick) butter." Since I’m a parenthetical kind of girl, I used 1 stick. Well, ¼ cup is actually half a stick of butter, but my high-school self didn’t catch the mistake. My early-thirties self didn’t either, so I’ve been making this stuff extra delicious for years! Still do.
I hesitate to use the word foolproof with any recipe, especially for fudge. Especially on the Internet. I mean, anything can fail if you try hard enough. This recipe is no different. But it’s certainly more forgiving than most fudge recipes. The small dose of corn syrup from the marshmallows prevents the sugar from recrystallizing in a coarse, grainy fashion, ensuring a nice, creamy texture. If you’re good at stirring, then you can make this fudge. You don’t even need a candy thermometer. (Now before you write off this recipe as substandard because it doesn’t use a candy thermometer, I’ll have you know that I made a batch yesterday WITH a candy thermometer just for kicks, and guess what? It still works. As long as you live at sea level and don’t double the recipe, five minutes of hard boiling will get you to the soft-ball stage.)
Now that I’m older and snobbier, it has occurred to me that maybe I should move to a fancier, non-marshmallow-based recipe. But why? Everybody loves this fudge. They tell me it’s the best fudge they’ve ever had. I, for one, can eat a whole pan on my own. I certainly pay my dues with the other candy I make this time of year, a time-consuming and finicky praline-ish butter-pecan fudge (also known as Boston cream candy). I figure I’ve been making this version of chocolate fudge for 20 years and I’m probably not going to change. Not unless you can direct me to a recipe that calls for two whole sticks of butter!
Happy New Year!
The better the chocolate you use, the better the resulting fudge.
1 cup (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
2¼ cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (or half!)
¾ cup evaporated milk
16 large marshmallows
¼ tsp. salt
Line an 8-inch square cake pan with foil. Get your handheld electric mixer at the ready. Also, have some oven mitts nearby.
To a large bowl, add chocolate chips and vanilla. Set aside. In a medium, 4-quart saucepan, add sugar, butter, milk, marshmallows, and salt. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, bring to a boil over medium heat. You want the marshmallows to be just about melted by the time the bubbling starts. If they’re not, reduce the heat a bit until they do. Bring mixture to a heavy boil and, always stirring, set the timer for 5 minutes. Careful—hot mixture can spatter. Use an oven mitt if necessary. After 5 minutes, the temperature should be in the soft ball range (235°F-240°F).
Remove pot from heat immediately, and carefully pour hot mixture over chocolate chips. On a low speed, blend with mixer until uniformly brown. Blending on high speed will introduce lots of air bubbles, which you don’t want. Quickly pour fudge into your prepared pan. Let cool until firm. Makes 2 lbs.