For Successful Fudge Every Time | RICARDO (2024)

Fudge is one of those must-have holiday treats. Everyone has a favourite recipe: Aunt Lucille makes her fudge in the microwave, Grandma adds maple extract and, why not, Ricardo adds white chocolate to his!

Despite every conceivable alternative, the preparation method must pass through the same three unavoidable steps: ingredients are cooked on the stove or in the microwave, cooled and stirred. And, voilà, fudge! Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why does fudge turn out smooth and creamy sometimes, and hard and grainy other times? Follow us to better understand the steps to making perfect fudge.

Cook until the correct temperature

You have to control two temperatures to make successful fudge: the cooking temperature AND the temperature at which the mixture cools before stirring to make it crystallize.

Confectionery experiments have shown that the ideal cooking temperature for fudge is around 114 to 115 °C (237 to 239 °F). The cooking is intended to evaporate a part of the liquid and concentrate the sugar. The temperature of the cream/sugar mixture (called syrup) rises as water evaporates. At a cooking temperature of 114 to 115 °C (237 to 239 °F), there is just enough water left in the syrup to ensure it is not too hard or too soft.

Too cooked

This fudge was cooked to a temperature of 118 °C (244 °F). At this temperature, the sugar is too concentrated and there is not enough water left to form syrup around sugar crystals. The result is hard and brittle fudge. To save the fudge, put it in a saucepan with 45 to 60 ml (3 or 4 tbsp.) of 35% cream and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely melted. Then let it boil without stirring until the thermometer reaches 114 to 115 °C (237 to 239 °F).

Undercooked

This fudge was cooked until the temperature reached only108 °C (226 °F). At this temperature, the sugar is not concentrated enough... there is too much leftover water in the syrup and the resulting fudge is soft. To save the fudge, put it in a saucepan with 15 to 30 ml (1 or 2 tbsp.) of 35% cream and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely melted. Then let it boil until the thermometer reaches 114 to 115 °C (237 to 239 °F).

Cool before stirring

After cooking, the mixture must cool before being stirred in order to make it crystallize. This cooling period is essential: this is what determines the size of sugar crystals which, remember, should be as tiny as possible. Ideally, the syrup should cool to a temperature of around 43 to 50 °C (110 to 122 °F).

Beating before cooling

This fudge was beaten immediately after cooking, while it was still very hot. Its crystals are so big that it has practically reverted back to a sugar state! What happened? Beating the syrup caused the formation of crystallization nuclei, anchor points to which sugar molecules attach to form crystals. Few crystallization nuclei will form in syrup that is still hot, and sugar molecules will readily attach to them. The crystals grow so easily, and the result is really grainy fudge. Better to toss it and start all over!

Beating after cooling

This fudge cooled until it reached 43 to 45 °C (109 to 113 °F) before being beaten. It has a smooth and creamy texture, just how we like it. Here's why: syrup becomes quite viscous (thick) while cooling, and this slows the movement of sugar molecules. When you start to beat it, billions of crystallization nuclei suddenly form, but the crystals stay tiny as sugar molecules have a hard time sticking together.

Sugar crystals

Fudge is a crystalline confectionery, due to the fact that it contains sugar crystals. The smaller the crystals, the less we perceive it on the tongue, the smoother and creamier it is in the mouth. As is the case with many sweets, making fudge is all about the details and seemingly simple steps (see "Our tips to making successful fudge"), which have a major impact on the final result. The better you control the size and growth of crystals, the greater the chance the fudge will succeed. And it all begins first and foremost with temperature control.

How to check the temperature?

You should ideally check the temperature with a candy thermometer or probe left in the saucepan throughout cooking. You don't have a thermometer? You can always do the 'cold water test': drop a small amount of hot syrup in a glass of cold water. As it falls to the bottom of the glass, the syrup cools and forms into a ball. Remove the ball from the water and check its consistency with your fingers. For perfect fudge, the syrup should form a soft ball that can be picked up, but easily flattened. If the syrup is undercooked, drops of syrup will sink to the bottom of the glass in threads or simply dissolve. If the syrup is overcooked, the ball will be hard and difficult to flatten with your fingers. Repeat the test every two or three minutes until you obtain the desired consistency. Use a clean spoon every time you scoop up a bit of syrup.

Our tips to making successful fudge

1 › Calibrate your thermometer
To do this, boil water and take its temperature with the thermometer. It should read 100 °C (212 °F). If it doesn't, take the difference into account during cooking.

2 › Make sure sugar crystals are dissolved at the start of the cooking
Start cooking over low heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Don't stir for the rest of the cooking.

3 › Pay attention
The syrup temperature rises slowly at first, but a lot faster after 104 °C (220 °F). Don't get distracted! One or two degrees can make all the difference.

4 › Allow to cool without stirring
The syrup can cool down slowly, by staying in the saucepan at room temperature, or you can speed up the process by putting the saucepan in a sink filled with cold water. Don't use ice water. Syrup at the saucepan's edges will cool too quickly while the centre remains too hot.

5 › When the mixture cools, beat it continually
… until it starts to crystallize. If you beat it by hand with a wooden spoon, crystallization can take between 5 to 15 minutes. The process is much faster with an electric mixer, just 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture is ready to be poured into a pan when it has visibly thickened and lost a bit of its luster.

For Successful Fudge Every Time | RICARDO (2024)

FAQs

What is the secret to perfect fudge? ›

You have to control two temperatures to make successful fudge: the cooking temperature AND the temperature at which the mixture cools before stirring to make it crystallize. Confectionery experiments have shown that the ideal cooking temperature for fudge is around 114 to 115 °C (237 to 239 °F).

What is the secret to smooth fudge that is not gritty? ›

Once a seed crystal forms, it grows bigger and bigger as the fudge cools. A lot of big crystals in fudge makes it grainy. By letting the fudge cool without stirring, you avoid creating seed crystals.

What consistency should fudge be before it sets? ›

The fudge is ready when a candy thermometer reads between 112°C to 114°C (234°F to 237°F) or the mixture forms a soft ball in cold water. Let the mixture cool before beating.

Is fudge supposed to be hard or soft? ›

The trick to good homemade fudge is to cook the ingredients to the right temperature to form a sugar syrup, and cool the mixture properly so the texture of the fudge turns out smooth and firm, but soft enough to cut.

What not to do when making fudge? ›

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels
  1. Using the Wrong Pan. All candy and confections start by melting sugar. ...
  2. Stirring the Sugar. ...
  3. Not Using a Candy Thermometer. ...
  4. Leaving Out the Parchment Paper Lining. ...
  5. Skipping the Cooking Spray. ...
  6. Scraping the Pot. ...
  7. Using a Cold Knife to Slice.
Dec 16, 2015

Should you stir fudge while it's cooking? ›

Don't stir!

Once the fudge reaches soft-ball stage on the candy thermometer, remove from the heat and let the temperature drop to 110°F. Keep that spoon or spatula out of the pot until this happens. If you stir too early in the process, you'll make the sugar crystals too big and end up with grainy fudge.

How to firm up fudge? ›

The amount of time you cook fudge directly affects its firmness. Too little time and the water won't evaporate, causing the fudge to be soft. Conversely, cook it too long and fudge won't contain enough water, making it hard with a dry, crumbly texture.

How to keep fudge creamy? ›

Smooth, creamy, and decadent fudge relies on proper technique, so keep these tips in mind when whipping up your next batch.
  1. Monitor the Temperature with a Candy Thermometer. ...
  2. Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer. ...
  3. Beat Thoroughly.
Mar 8, 2023

How long should I beat fudge for? ›

Allow the fudge mixture to rest until the temperature registers between 150°-160°. Once the desired temperature is reached, beat the ever-loving stuffing out of the fudge. Two to three minutes of hardcore mixing (by hand). This is where you earn the right to eat half of the batch.

Can you redo fudge that didn't set? ›

OPTION 4) If you think the reason it didn't set was because you didn't heat it to the right temperature, you could try putting it back into the pan and re-cooking.

How to tell when fudge is at the soft ball stage? ›

You can also test for soft ball stage by using a glass of cold water. When the fudge has boiled for about 10 minutes start to test by dropping a little of the mixture into a glass of cold water. If the mixture forms a thread as it sinks into the water then it needs cooking for a little longer.

Why won't my 2 ingredient fudge set? ›

The main reason is that your Fudge has not reached the optimum temperature. If your mixture only reaches 110 or 112 degrees Celsius it will always be soft. That's why we recommend investing in a sugar thermometer. Another reason your Fudge is not setting is that the ratio of liquid to sugar is too high.

What makes high quality fudge? ›

Candy that isn't cooked long enough will end up too soft; overcooking makes fudge crumbly or hard. High-quality fudge has many small crystals. If the process of crystallization begins too early, fewer crystals form and they become much larger.

Do you refrigerate fudge to set? ›

The ratio of chocolate to condensed milk needs to be just right, otherwise you might end up with fudge that is too soft or too hard. Do not freeze the fudge to set it. Best way is to just be patient for a couple hours and set it in the fridge. If your fudge hasn't set, then you've gone wrong somewhere else.

How to cut fudge so it doesn't crumble? ›

Put both knives into a large measuring cup, add boiling water onto the knives, and before cutting the chocolate or the dessert into pieces, wipe the knife with a towel. The warm knife will easily cut through without cracking.

What gives fudge its firm texture? ›

The key to creamy, luscious fudge is controlling crystal formation. If the sucrose (table sugar) crystals are small, the fudge will feel creamy and smooth on your tongue. But if the crystals are large, the fudge develops a crumbly, dry, or even coarse texture.

What does cream of tartar do in fudge? ›

Cream of tartar is used in caramel sauces and fudge to help prevent the sugar from crystallizing while cooking. It also prevents cooling sugars from forming brittle crystals, this is why it's the secret ingredient in snickerdoodles!

Can you beat fudge in a stand mixer? ›

Pour the mixture over the chocolate, being sure to shake, not scrape, the mixture from the pot. Set aside to cool for 10 to 12 minutes. (This prevents a grainy consistency.) Using the clean wooden spoon or a standing mixer on low speed, stir or beat the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated.

Can you overbeat fudge? ›

Beating the cooled batter is one of the crucial steps of fudge-making, but overbeating can turn fudge hard as a rock. Pay close attention to the change in appearance and only beat the fudge until it loses its glossy sheen.

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