Fudge: Cooked or Quick (Butter Pecan and Peanut Butter)

In my husband’s office, I don’t have a name. I’m known more or less as the wife who makes awesome peanut butter fudge. I guess there are worse things to be known by.

But I love baking and making sweet things. My waistline, however, does not. So, I create concoctions and have Jeff’s office try them out to report back. I usually just get a “those are amazing” or “I want to marry your wife” as a response, so the feedback is hardly scientific.

After munching on batch 17 or so of fudge, a colleague of Jeff’s asked how I made it. Did I cook it? When Jeff relayed the question, I looked at him like he was crazy. Why would I cook fudge? I found a simple recipe that just combines all the ingredients, and ta da! magical peanut butter fudge.

Then I started doing some research, and of course the majority of fudge is cooked or heated in some way before setting. I had no idea there was another method that would take longer than five minutes.

So, with an abundance of pecans sitting in my kitchen and autumn banging on our doorstep, I decided I would compare the two cooking methods of fudge with a Butter Pecan recipe and my tested and tried Peanut Butter fudge.

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Fudge is a western confection that involves milk, sugar, butter, and flavorings. It is officially a “candy” since it is usually heated to a “soft ball” stage at 240 degrees Fahrenheit (116 degrees Celsius). All “soft ball” means is it has 85% sugar concentration in the candy and it is malleable enough to be made into a soft ball.  By comparison, a “hard crack” stage would be about 99% in sugar concentration and considered toffee.

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It is said that fudge was created by a female Vassar College student in the late 1880s. It mostly took off in women’s colleges around the area and eventually became an American staple for candy delights.

One of my absolute favorite places for fudge is in Fredericksburg, Texas. There is a little shop on the main drag in the downtown area called Fredericksburg Fudge. It’s a simple name, but they have far from simple choices. I’m a sucker for almond flavorings, so amaretto was always my favorite. You fellow Texans must check it out.

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My peanut butter fudge is the easy, non-cook method. Directions are below, but I will say the texture is not the same as the cooked version. I am 100% certain it is because there is no cream. The cream adds more viscosity to the mixture than peanut butter and makes for a creamier taste, less crumbly product.

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This is not to say my peanut butter fudge isn’t good. I can’t tell you how many requests I get for this. I can’t manage to “keep it on the shelves.” But it is a thicker batter, so when turning it out, don’t be surprised if your spoon gets stuck and your biceps get a workout. I have noticed it’s easier to just use your hands to mold it into the pan.

Peanut Butter Quick and Easy Fudge
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes 48 squares

Ingredients:
250g smooth peanut butter
200g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
450g powdered sugar, sifted

Directions: 
1) Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with parchment or with butter and powdered sugar to
“grease the sides.” 2015-10-02 11.41.12
2) In a double boiler (or sauce pan with a heat-proof bowl on top), combine the butter and peanut butter. Warm them just enough to create a smooth and consistent mixture. This will help considerably more than just leaving the butter out overnight. It just doesn’t get smooth enough without a little heated help.
3) Take the bowl from the heat and add the powdered sugar in threes to fully incorporate everything. Add in the vanilla extract.
4) The mixture will be very thick. Pat it into the pan and smooth it completely with your hands or your spatula.
5) Put in the freezer for at least 2 hours to harden, or in the refrigerator over night. You can then slice and serve.

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Butter Pecan Fudge
adapted from Growing Up Gabel
makes 36 squares

Ingredients:
100g unsalted butter
112g granulated sugar
85g light brown sugar
100g heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
500g powdered sugar, sifted
250g pecans

Directions:
1) Toast the pecans by placing them in an un-oiled skillet. They will be done in about five minutes, until you can smell them. Remove from heat and chop them. You don’t want them too fine, but you don’t want them too big.
2) Line an 8 in pan with butter and powdered sugar and set aside.2015-09-30 10.23.02
3) In a saucepan, combine the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cream, and salt. Stir occasionally until it comes to a continuous boil.
4) Once at the continuous boil stage, whisk for five minutes. Remove from the heat and slowly add the powdered sugar whisking in between. Do this quickly as the heat will help mix everything together. The cooler the mixture gets, the more difficult it will be.
5) Add the vanilla once everything has come together and then add the pecans. Make sure there are pecans throughout the entire mixture.
6) Pour out into your prepared pan and refrigerate for at least four hours until hardened.

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In your candy making experiences, which way do you prefer when preparing fudge? What do you notice about doing both methods? Also–what are your favorite flavors? Leave a comment below!

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