I’m feeling smug today…not only have I found a way to accelerate the fudge-making process, but I’ve also managed to solve one of my thorny white-chocolate fudge problems.
So far I’ve made lavender-lemon-white chocolate fudge, and coconut-lime-mint-white chocolate fudge (which tastes better than it probably sounds – think coconut-vanilla with a hint of tart mintiness). In previous years I had terrible trouble with the milk solids in the white chocolate burning – this year I finally had a bright idea and thought, “What if I add the milk chocolate at the end?”
Fudge, you see, is a game of sugar-crystal size. In its simplest form it’s just sugar, water, butter, and some corn syrup, boiled to the softball stage, cooled to 110 degrees, then beaten to form lots of small sugar crystals simultaneously, resulting in a velvety and somewhat soft texture. (If you don’t create all those sugar crystals simultaneously, you get big crystals, and then your fudge is grainy.)
You can add stuff to fudge, the two most common additions being milk (or cream) and chocolate. Adding cream increases the fat content, which retards crystal formation, which is a good thing – reduces the chances of the fudge crystallizing before you’re ready, producing gritty fudge. Up to a point, adding more cream/butterfat makes the fudge moister/creamier.
Chocolate is a common flavor addition, being composed of cocoa (flavorant) and cocoa butter. The cocoa butter is a fat, so behaves very similarly to the cream in inhibiting crystal formation. You can (and I often do) punch up the chocolate flavor by adding extra cocoa, though very few recipes seem to do so. (Silly people.)
I like adding acids to my non-chocolate fudges, which poses another problem. Acid curdles milk proteins. What to do? I boil my fudge a little longer than usual (so it has a lower moisture content than usual) and then add the moisture back in as lemon or lime juice, at the very end so it doesn’t cook with the milk solids and coagulate them. In practice this seems to come down to “cook to firm-ball stage and add an extra tablespoon of lemon juice at end”. Works pretty decently for me.
So, in sum, to create my lavender-lemon-white-chocolate fudge:
1 tbsp dried lavender flowers, stripped from stems and lightly crushed between the fingers
1-1/3 cup half-and-half
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp lemon juice (from Meyer lemons if you can get them)
4 oz white chocolate
Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then toss in lavender flowers. Steep 2-3 minutes, until the cream has a moderate lavender flavor. Strain out flowers.
In 2-gallon pot, combine sugar, corn syrup, and lavender-flavored cream. Boil to just below firm-ball stage. Pour into mixing bowl and put in cool water bath (do NOT use ice water, cool water from the tap is perfect).
Line 9×9 pan with parchment paper. Melt white chocolate in microwave.
When the outside of the mixing bowl feels somewhat warm to the touch (as opposed to hot), remove mixing bowl from the water bath. Add white chocolate and lemon juice, and IMMEDIATELY start mixing with a stand mixer or powerful hand mixer. Mix until the mixture starts to thicken and lose its gloss. Pour into pan (or pack into pan) and let cool. Cut with a knife before fudge hardens fully.