Secrets to Successful Fudge | RICARDO (2024)

For many, homemade fudge and the holidays go hand-in-hand. Even if each family has its own recipe, making fudge isn’t always easy. So we've put together a comprehensive guide for you with proven, science-based tips and tricks for successful fudge, every time!

Fudge basics

Ingredients

“Real” fudge is nothing more than white sugar, brown sugar and, you guessed it, cream. A bit of vanilla or maple extract for flavour, nuts if you desire, and you have that sweetest of sweet treats found in so many Canadian homes. Other ingredients can be added depending on the recipe you’re working with: icing sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, evaporated milk, marshmallows. Ricardo even adds white chocolate.

Desired texture

What do you look for in a piece of fudge? It should hold together well without being too hard and, above all, has to be melty and silky in your mouth. It’s the size of sugar crystals that makes the knees of fudge lovers buckle…the smaller the crystals, the less they are perceived on the tongue and the more the fudge tastes smooth and creamy. Cooking, and beating after cooking, is the key to successful fudge.

Cooking

Cooking is necessary to dissolve sugar crystals and to evaporate part of the water in the cream. The length of this step has a direct impact on the firmness of the fudge. As water gradually evaporates, sugar is concentrated and the temperature of the mixture rises above 100°C (212°F). If there is too much evaporation, when the cooking time is too long, there will not be enough water left in the fudge and it will be too hard. Conversely, if the cooking time is too brief and there is not enough evaporation, too much water will remain and the fudge will be too soft. A temperature of 112°C to 114°C (234°F to 237°F) must be maintained. This will ensure the fudge has the ideal concentration of water and sugar.

Candy Thermometer

Fudge is difficult to make. Don’t rely on recipes that tell you to boil the fudge mixture for a specific amount of time. There are too many unknowns to set an exact time. Cooking time depends on the size of your pan—the bigger it is, the more evaporation will occur—plus the heat intensity or power level of your microwave. The best way to check if it’s done is to measure with a candy thermometer or do a cold water test.

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Silicone Thermometer Spatula

Valuable tips for successful fudge

1. Don’t stir during cooking

Fudge can be cooked on the stove or in the microwave. The advantage of using a microwave is that the mixture will not stick to the bottom of the pan during cooking. In both cases, sugar and cream must be brought to a boil by gently stirring, then—and this is very important—refrain from stirring again throughout the rest of the cooking process. Sugar crystallization causes a chain reaction: If a crystal is present in the mixture, other sugar molecules will attach to it and the mixture may seize and become grainy.

2. Avoid crystallization

During cooking, sugar crystals can stick to the sides of the pan. If you stir the mixture, these crystals could fall in and crystallize a part of the sugar again. To work around this issue and dissolve all crystal traces, brush the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in water at the beginning of the cooking process.

3. Let cool before beating

After being cooked, the sugar must crystallize again to create fudge. This stage will determine the size of the sugar crystals. The sugar should ideally form small crystals that are barely discernible on the tongue. To achieve this, let the mixture cool for 15 minutes before beating it. It will thicken as it cools, so when you beat the mixture, sugar molecules will have a tough time clinging to one another (it’s like trying to swim in molasses!). The result: crystals that form will stay small. Experience has shown that you should beat the mixture when its temperature ranges from 43°C to 45°C (110°F to 113°F), which normally occurs 15 minutes after the pan is removed from heat. The fudge is warm, but not burning hot.

4. Beat the mixture

After letting the fudge cool, it’s time to beat it. It is important to stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to thicken and its surface starts to look dull or matte. Now is the time to stop beating and pour the fudge into a mould. Another tip: Do not scrape the sides of the pan or the spoon used for stirring. They are often covered with a grainier layer of fudge.

In Summary

  • • Use a heavy pan that distributes heat well or the mixture may stick during cooking. This advice does not apply if you are making fudge in the microwave.
  • • Brush the sides of the pan with a wet brush at the beginning of cooking to dissolve sugar crystals stuck to the sides.
  • • Never stir the mixture during cooking or sugar could crystallize again. The mixture may seize and become grainy.
  • • Use a candy thermometer or conduct a cold water test to check if the fudge is done. Do not rely on the cooking time indicated in your recipe. 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. The temperature at this point should be 43°C to 45°C (110°F to 113°F). The fudge should be warm but not burning hot.
  • • Stop beating when the surface of the mixture starts to look dull or matte. Pour immediately into a mould that has been buttered or lined with parchment paper and let cool completely.

The cold water test

Even without a candy thermometer, you can still check if the fudge is cooked by doing a cold water test. Drop a piece of hot fudge into a glass filled with ice water. It should form a soft ball that can easily flatten between your fingers. Repeat this test every two minutes, each time using a clean spoon, until the fudge has the desired consistency.

Ready to make some fudge? Here are a few recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth:

Maple Fudge

Maple Syrup Fudge

The best

Maple Fudge (The Best)

ALLERGY-FRIENDLY

Dairy-Free and Nut-Free Sugar Fudge

GOURMET GIFTS

Creamy Fudge with Peanuts

Secrets to Successful Fudge | RICARDO (2024)

FAQs

What is the secret to good 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 causes fudge not to get hard? ›

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. Pay attention to the timetable specified in the recipe, and you'll get the hang of it after a batch or two.

What gives fudge its firm texture? ›

The main difference is the texture, which is determined by two things: the size of the sugar crystals in the candy, and the concentration of the sugar. Toffee is smooth with no sugar crystals, whereas fudge has tiny crystals that give it that texture.

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

What makes high quality fudge? ›

It's the size of sugar crystals that makes the knees of fudge lovers buckle…the smaller the crystals, the less they are perceived on the tongue and the more the fudge tastes smooth and creamy. Cooking, and beating after cooking, is the key to successful fudge.

Can I fix fudge that didn't set? ›

OPTION 3) Sieve together some powdered sugar and cocoa powder, and gradually work this into your unset fudge until it reaches the consistency of dough, then roll out and cut into squares, or shape into balls and then roll in powdered sugar (roll the balls in icing sugar, not yourself).

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 do you boil fudge to get to soft ball stage? ›

How long does it take to make fudge:
  1. about 18 min to reach boiling.
  2. about 40 minutes to reach soft ball stage.
  3. 60 minutes to cool.
  4. 28 minutes to beat in a KitchenAid (your time for this may vary)
  5. 4 hours to set.

How to make fudge more solid? ›

How do you fix fudge that is too soft? Bring the fudge back to a boil with 1–2 US tbsp (15–30 ml) of cream. If your fudge is soft or runny, it probably didn't come up to a high enough temperature while it was cooking. Put it back into the saucepan and add 1–2 US tbsp (15–30 ml) of 35% fat whipping cream.

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.

When to stop beating fudge? ›

Once the mixture has cooled enough, use a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer to beat the fudge until you see the very first signs of the mixture shifting from glossy to matte. Believe yourself when you think you see them! If you over-mix the fudge it will set in your pot.

What temperature should fudge be cooked at? ›

Stir the ingredients to dissolve the sugar until the mixture comes to a boil. If your recipe uses milk, stirring will keep the mixture from curdling. But once it reaches about 236–238 degrees F/113–114 degrees C (the "soft-ball" stage), do not stir it or even shake the pan.

How do you fix lumpy fudge? ›

If you discover that your mixture is grainy, some quick thinking will save the entire batch. Pour the fudge back into your pan, and add about a cup of water to it, along with a tablespoon or two of evaporated milk, whipping cream, or whatever cream you're using.

Why did my fudge turn out like caramel? ›

Fudge can turn into caramel due to overcooking or undercooking, incorrect temperatures, or wrong ingredients.

Is evaporated milk or condensed milk better for fudge? ›

Evaporated milk doesn't have sugar added. The sweetened condended milk is needed as no extra sugar is added to the fudge. If evaporated milk were used then the fudge would not be sweet enough and also would still be too soft unless the fudge is frozen.

Do you stir fudge while it is boiling? ›

Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer

Another key part of a successful fudge texture is when you stir the mixture. Stirring the sugar and milk during the initial stages of cooking allows the sugar to dissolve. However, once the mixture comes to a boil, it's time to put the spoon down.

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 mess up fudge? ›

If your fudge is tough, hard, or grainy, then you may have made one of several mistakes: You may have overcooked it, beaten it too long, or neglected to cool it to the proper temperature.

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