Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (2024)

What’s special about fudge?

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (1) Fudge is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that sugar crystals are not desirable in candy. Tiny microcrystals in fudge are what give it its firm texture. The crystals are small enough, however, that they don’t feel grainy on your tongue, but smooth.

While you ultimately want crystals to form, it's important that they don't form too early. The key to successful, nongrainy fudge is in the cooling, not the cooking. The recipe calls for heating the ingredients to the soft-ball stage, or 234° F, then allowing it to cool undisturbed to approximately 110° F. If you stir during this cooling phase, you increase the likelihood that seed crystals will form too soon.

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (2) A seed crystal is a surface that sucrose molecules (that's the sugar) can begin to attach themselves to—it could be a few sucrose molecules stuck together, a piece of dust, or even a little air bubble. 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. Stirring would help sucrose molecules "find" one another and start forming crystals. Stirring also introduces air, dust, and small dried bits from the walls of the saucepan—all potential seeds for crystal formation.

When the fudge has cooled to about 110° F, you want to start the crystallization process. You start to stir, and keep stirring, until the candy becomes thick. The more you stir, the more crystal seeds you get. But instead of getting a few huge crystals (and grainy candy), you get lots and lots of tiny crystals, which make for thick, smooth candy.

There are two other candies that deliberately employ sugar crystals. One is fondant, a wetter version of fudge that you find inside soft-center chocolates. The other is rock candy, for which a sugar solution is left for days to form enormous crystals.

Think you get it? Try making fudge or rock candy yourself!

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (2024)

FAQs

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium? ›

Fudge is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that sugar crystals are not desirable in candy. Tiny microcrystals in fudge are what give it its firm texture. The crystals are small enough, however, that they don't feel grainy on your tongue, but smooth.

What is the science behind making fudge? ›

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.

How does fudge relate to chemistry? ›

Most fudge recipes contain either corn syrup (which contains glucose instead of the sucrose of table sugar) or cream of tartar (which breaks sucrose into glucose and fructose). The different sugars tend to interfere with each other's crystallization and minimize the chance that the candy will crystallize too soon.

What makes fudge different from chocolate? ›

Although fudge often contains chocolate, fudge is not the same as chocolate. Chocolate is a mix of cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sometimes sugar and other flavorings and is hard and brittle. Fudge is a mixture of sugar, dairy and flavorings that is cooked and cooled to form a smooth, semi-soft confection.

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

Grainy Fudge

To avoid this issue, swirl the pan instead of stirring it with a spoon. You can use a wet pastry brush to wipe down any sugar that sticks to the sides of the pot.

What makes fudge special? ›

Fudge is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that sugar crystals are not desirable in candy. Tiny microcrystals in fudge are what give it its firm texture.

What is the secret to good fudge? ›

Tips for Making Fudge
  • Monitor the Temperature with a Candy Thermometer. If you end up with soft fudge that turns into a puddle in your hands or hard fudge that is a bit reminiscent of a crunchy candy, improper temperature is likely to blame. ...
  • Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer. ...
  • Beat Thoroughly.
Mar 8, 2023

What is fudge technically? ›

Fudge is a type of confection that is made by mixing sugar, butter and milk. It has its origins in the 19th century United States, and was popular in the women's colleges of the time.

Why is fudge a crystalline candy? ›

Crystalline candy usually has fine sugar crystals and a lower sugar concentration than non-crystalline candy. To make crystalline candy, the sugary syrup is stirred continuously as it cools to ensure the sugar crystals remain small. Fudge is an example of a crystalline candy.

What is the science behind candy? ›

In general, candy is made by dissolving sugar into water to create a solution. Granulated sugar, the most common type used in candy-making, is sucrose, a disaccharide molecule made up of glucose and fructose. When you force these two molecules to break apart, a very tasty reaction occurs: caramelization.

Is fudge healthier than chocolate? ›

Fudge typically contains more sugar than chocolate, so it may not be the best choice for those looking to limit their sugar intake. On the other hand, dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants and can provide health benefits when consumed in moderation.

Why is fudge so good? ›

Between its deeply rich flavor and its silky texture, fudge makes a brilliant treat to pair with coffee. The sweet and bitter flavors complement one another perfectly, making for an unstoppable combination.

Why do they call fudge fudge? ›

Chocolate Fudge: An American Invention

Culinary legend has it that fudge was invented in America. On Valentine's Day, 1886, a confectioner and chocolate maker in Baltimore, Maryland "fudged" a batch of French caramels. The delicious result? The very first batch of "fudge" ever.

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

Why did my fudge turn out like taffy? ›

If the fudge is very soft and slightly chewy then it is possible that it did not quite cook to soft ball stage and next time the mixture should be cooked to a slightly higher temperature (soft ball is 112-116c/235-240F and a sugar or candy thermometer can help).

Why is my old fashioned fudge not hardening? ›

Fudge usually behaves this way when it's not cooked to a high enough temperature (due to oversight or a faulty candy thermometer).

What is the process of fudge? ›

10 STEP FUDGE PROCESS
  1. BATCHING. The first step in making Michigan's Best Fudge is to collect all the raw ingredients into perfectly portioned batches. ...
  2. COOKING. Once we have our batch together, it's time to pour it all into our copper kettle. ...
  3. POURING. ...
  4. COOLING. ...
  5. CREAMING. ...
  6. LOAFING. ...
  7. SETTING. ...
  8. CUTTING.

What is fudge explained? ›

fudge, creamy candy made with butter, sugar, milk, and usually chocolate, cooked together and beaten to a soft, smooth texture. Fudge may be thought of as having a consistency harder than that of fondant and softer than that of hard chocolate.

Is making fudge considered baking? ›

Fudge is always a no-bake dessert and can be completely stove- and oven-free if you follow our method for how to make microwave fudge. That means it's a chocolate dessert idea that will keep your oven cool on even the steamiest days of summer.

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