Last February Mom and I undertook the Love & Olive Oil Kitchen Challenge for Fudge. Real, old-fashioned fudge. With a long history as good southern women, we knew we were fudge masters. As my blog post extolls, even masters can have their disasters. I also must admit we have not attempted fudge since the last debacle.
However, while we were visiting family in Arkansas for Christmas we found trip fell over Dale’s birthday! What better way to end 2015 and celebrate his special day than by having a fudge taste-testing challenge?! Earlier in the year the video below circulated on Facebook and my cousin, Maria, announced that we should do a “fudge-off” challenge and see which recipe was better… old-fashioned fudge or microwave fudge. Also, we figured that there was no way we could go wrong with Dale at the helm of the old-fashioned fudge ship… he is the one that has perfected the art of hand beating the fudge mixture into absolute chocolatey bliss!
To be honest, I was more than skeptical. There is nothing even comparable to well-made, old-fashioned fudge. But in the interest of kitchen science I was willing to accept the challenge. So we selected candy-making teams… Team Microwave: Maria and I and Team Real Fudge: my mom, Jean, and Dale.
Dale arrived with the missing real fudge ingredients, candy thermometer, and a variety of wooden fudge-beating spoons (it is important to note that while he was collecting his cooking implements he was unable to locate his favorite fudge spoon, Mistake #1). Maria and I took this as our cue to head to Walmart in search of our two ingredients: chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Little did we know, while we were on our quick shopping trip, mom and Dale plotted to have everything boiled up and almost ready to go by the time we got back… Mistake #2.
Microwave Fudge: Easy, Simple, Beautiful
I will say this for the microwave fudge: it really was as easy as 1… 2… 3…
There you have it. In under 2 minutes Maria and I had a pan of fudge chilling in the fridge while mom and Dale’s fudge hadn’t even reached the necessary boiling point stage.
Old-Fashioned Fudge: Rocket-Science Needed
We’re lucky that Dale is a CPA. Because his candy thermometer clearly took more than just simply reading the digital read out. It required math. Also luckily that this math had been previously calculated and handily written on the thermometer’s instruction leaflet for future reference… a detail that my mother and I would have talked about but probably failed to execute. With the candy thermometer calibration secured we were sure there was no way that this fudge could fail!
Before the fudge mixture reached the newly magical 230 degrees, my mother started to prepare the ice bath in the sink.
Dale: What are you doing?
Jean: Making the ice bath to cool the fudge.
Dale: Oh no… we don’t do that. We just let it cool on it’s own!!
Hmmm… another twist in Dale’s fudge success!! No ice bath!!! Let’s review, Dale’s got three things going for him that we do not employ:
- The amazing hand-beating method (which we already knew about but haven’t been able to execute on our own).
- Handy-dandy math skills to properly calibrate his candy thermometer.
- Allowing fudge to self-cool; not inflicting a terribly cold and torturous ice bath on the poor fudge mixture.
So, the fudge continued to cool on it’s own… for awhile… and a little while longer… In the meantime, the microwave fudge was completely cooled, cut up and looking beautiful on it’s plate.
When the magic “108” degrees reached, we all rushed into the kitchen and Dale commenced beating the fudge. We all jockeyed for a position to “get in his light” to ensure that the proper consistency was reached with maximum efficiency. To our surprise, Dale announced that the fudge was coming along fast… and that it was ready! Wow!! It hadn’t even been 5 minutes of hand-beating… I wasn’t too sure, but hey, who am I to challenge the master???
So Dale started to pour the fudge out on the platter… but something didn’t look quite right… it looked tooooooo shiny….
I recall someone saying not to worry, that it would set up. So we waited. And then poked the fudge. It kind of jiggled and definitely didn’t look set up. After a bit of contemplation, we decided the only option was to REBEAT the fudge. So we found another bowl, scraped the fudge into it and Dale commenced to beating again – new spoon and all.
This time, the fudge really did set up super fast! And it got so hard so quick that Dale snapped the handle of the wooden spoon when he was trying to make one of his rotations. There was nothing to do but get it spread onto that platter FAST. So fast, in fact, that mom was still buttering the platter while Dale started pouring!! Well, pouring might have been a bit of a stretch. At this point the fudge had completely passed the liquid phase and had begun to set into the almost concrete phase.
To the Victors Belong the Spoils!
Even if old-fashioned fudge has turned into “fudge rocks” it still wins the taste test hands down. But Maria and I certainly took home the prize for “prettiest” fudge….
Really we were all winners since we had such a good time celebrating Dale’s birthday. And who’s not a winner when you have two plates of fudge to eat?!
- Microwave fudge is fun, fast, but not superior to old-fashioned fudge… even if it looks prettier on the plate.
- You can save a batch of fudge, but you shouldn’t expect it to look pretty.