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Oh, fudge! It's tricky, but it's so good

Thursday, February 07, 2002

Sometimes you just have to give in to your cravings. That's why Kitchen Mailbox decided to go with fudge this week -- that, and next Thursday is Valentine's Day.


We admit we're not fudge makers. Give us a cake, a pie, even cookies, and we're in the kitchen in a flash. But fudge -- we'd rather not.

But the request was made, so there we are Sunday afternoon making fudge. Simple enough, we thought. We were wrong.

We learned that fudge is finicky; measuring has to be precise (too much or too little of any ingredient could ruin the candy), and fudge can be affected by the weather (if it's humid the candy might not set), and we'll never again forget that timing is crucial -- overcooking by just a minute may turn out dry, grainy fudge (we believe we cooked the chocolate fudge too long). A minute under and the fudge may not set.

Using a large saucepan makes sense because the candy mixture can and probably will boil up to as much as four times its original volume, which means if you use a small pot the liquid will overflow and you'll have a gooey mess.

Here are a few more pointers on making fudge from Cole's Complete Culinary Reference, "Cooking A To Z" and the "Food Tipionary," by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Follow the recipe, don't substitute and don't hurry the cooking time; the fudge will be affected if you do.

Never double the recipe -- it will affect the cooking time, which will affect the candy's quality.

A final tip from Nancy Anderson: "My mother always uses a 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar in her fudge recipe. She said it makes the fudge set. It always works for her." We'll try Nancy's suggestion the next time we make fudge.

Making fudge is time-consuming but time well spent. Since we made two recipes, we shared some of each with our co-workers, and their comments ranged from "This fudge tastes like a fudgsicle" to "These taste just like peanut butter cups" -- and we agree. The next time around we won't need a request to get us into the kitchen to make fudge.

Susan Smith of McKees Rocks requested a recipe for homemade fudge. Here's our first recipe, (peanut butter and chocolate -- it doesn't get any better than that) sent in by Susan Cohen of Natrona Heights.

Ribbon Fantasy Fudge

3 cups sugar, divided
3/4 cup butter
5 1/3-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter

Grease a 9-inch square pan. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 6 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan; bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 4 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat; stir in chocolate chips until melted. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Pour into greased pan.

Repeat with remaining ingredients, substituting peanut butter for chocolate chips. Spread over chocolate layer. Cool at room temperature; cut into squares. Makes about 3 pounds.

Genevieve Bogda of McKees Rocks says this recipe is "outstanding," and we agree.


4 1/2 cups sugar
12-ounce can evaporated milk
8 ounces miniature marshmallows
3 6-ounce packages chocolate chips (18 ounces)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter or margarine
2 cups chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

Grease a jelly roll pan. Pour sugar and evaporated milk in a heavy large saucepan; mix ingredients. Slowly bring mixture to a rolling boil. Let it boil no longer than 8 minutes (stirring constantly). Remove from heat; add marshmallows, chocolate chips and butter. Stir until melted. Add nuts and vanilla; stir to mix. Spread fudge on pan, let cool. Cut into squares. Makes about 3 to 5 pounds, depending on size of squares.

Note: Make sure you cook the mixture the full 8 minutes. We removed the saucepan from the heat a couple of minutes early and found that the fudge wouldn't set until we placed it in the fridge. Even then, it was soft -- but we were still able to cut the fudge into squares.


From Marion L. King of Fox Chapel: "My mother used to make a delicious chocolate sauce. It was clear and glossy and held its shape. I know that cocoa and sugar and water must have been combined, but I have no idea of amounts or what made it thicken. The consistency was similar to gelatin before it reached the final mold stage, still holding its shape but not yet solid. The recipe is probably very old, as we were enjoying it when I was a child in the '30s."

Wendy Valeriano of Carnegie would like the recipe for Samurai Restaurant's (brown) steak sauce and for their shrimp sauce.

Eleanor Balint of Bridgeville is looking for a recipe for Salisbury steak and gravy.

Beverly Moodt of Bethel Park asks, "What can I add to a brittle candy recipe to give it more of a toffee flavor, like a Heath Bar?

Cara Gillotti of Squirrel Hill is desperately seeking the recipe for cilantro ice cream from the Original Fish Market. The ice cream is served on Israeli couscous pudding.

Sandra Alkire of Hopewell: "I love the homestyle food of Cracker Barrel restaurants. I would like to replicate their hash brown potato casserole for my family. I have tried several similar recipes but cannot duplicate the creamy consistency."

Kathy Mahony of Cranberry: "I am looking for a cookie recipe my mother used to make called Wagon Wheels. The chocolate dough was refrigerated and then formed into balls and rolled in powdered sugar before baking. The cookies were soft and chewy." Does anyone recognize this cookie?

Bob Lowe of New Martinsville, W.Va.: "I would like the recipe for chicken and waffles made by the Bogglers Cafeteria (is it still there?) in East Liberty. My father would take me to this restaurant in the late '50s. I can still remember the rich-tasting gravy and how the chicken would fall off the bone."

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

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