Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Fudge

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As you might have gathered from my Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge post, I went on a bit of a fudge kick during the holidays. I made about a dozen batches of fudge and had the time of my life. 🙂 All but two batches were the old-fashioned kind that rely on sugar, not corn syrup or marshmallow creme, for structure. I find fudge-making deeply relaxing, almost meditative. Making so many batches in a short period also allowed me to hone my candy-making skills; I got very good at beating the fudge for just the right amount of time.

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I started to tire of making chocolate fudge so many times, so I searched for alternate old-fashioned fudge recipes and found this one for buttermilk fudge. Apparently this recipe is really old, having been in vogue in the 1930s and 1940s. (The recipe I use is dated 1942.) I had never heard of buttermilk fudge; I doubt many people make it much anymore. I was dying of curiosity to try it out, especially as it contains baking soda. What is up with that? I know that baking soda reacts with acids, and that it thus reacts with buttermilk, but I’m at a loss as to how it fits in with fudge. I am content for this to remain a mystery. 😉 I found a newer version of this recipe that uses 1 TBS corn syrup, a completely unnecessary addition. I did not use this, as I wanted to see what the old-fashioned buttermilk fudge tastes like unadulterated.

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The buttermilk fudge is a touch more temperamental than the chocolate fudge, as it is easier to overbeat the buttermilk fudge, but it is phenomenal and worth the extra care taken during the beating stage. The finished fudge tastes like rich butterscotch, due to the caramelized milk solids, and melts in your mouth; I dare say the texture of this fudge is superior to that of the chocolate fudge. I definitely prefer this buttermilk fudge to the chocolate fudge (unless the chocolate fudge has been graced with Frangelico liqueur, which is my Kryptonite).

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The source I use for this recipe is very barebones in its description of what to do; for the beating stage, it just says to “beat until creamy.” The Spruce, which features this recipe with corn syrup added, has some great tips for how to make this fudge and how to make old-fashioned fudge in general, including what to look out for when beating fudge.

Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Fudge

Yield: About 16 pieces, depending on how large your pan is and how large you slice the pieces

Ingredients:
2 – 3 TBS softened unsalted butter, for coating sides of pan
1 c. buttermilk
4 TBS unsalted butter (up to 1 stick will work, though I haven’t tried a full stick), cut into 4 pieces
2 c. white sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. salt (Kosher is fine); more salt yields a more complex flavour
1 tsp. vanilla, optional (did not use)
1 c. chopped nuts, optional (did not use)

Method:
Line an 8×8″ pan with aluminum foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. (This size pan will yield fudge that is about 1/2″ thick. Using a smaller pan will yield thicker fudge.)

Coat inside of a 5 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan with the softened butter. (This fudge nearly triples in volume during the cooking process, so don’t try and make this in a smaller pot!) Attach a candy thermometer. Place buttermilk, 4 TBS butter, sugar, baking soda, and salt in pan.

Heat over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar and butter dissolve. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fudge reaches 237°F or 238°F. (One recipe specified cooking until the fudge reaches 240°F, but I found this creates a much harder and crumblier fudge.) The mixture will slowly turn golden-brown in colour, a result of the milk solids caramelizing along with the sugar. This takes around 20 – 30 minutes.

Once desired temperature is reached, remove fudge from heat and pour vanilla extract and chopped nuts on top, if using; do not stir. Allow fudge to cool until it reaches approximately 150°F, about 10 – 15 minutes.*

When fudge reaches 150°F, remove candy thermometer and beat fudge with a wooden spoon until it thickens and just starts to lose its sheen, turning matte in colour in spots. Don’t beat until all the fudge loses its sheen; when a few spots have started turning matte in colour, pour fudge immediately into prepared pan and smooth top as well as you can. (If you beat until the entirety of the mixture has lost its gloss, the fudge will be impossible to spread inside pan.) You may need to press fudge with spoon to fit neatly in pan.

If fudge starts to stiffen and becomes hard to work with, return fudge to pan over low heat and stir until some of the sugar melts; incorporate with the rest of the mixture and transfer fudge to pan. (I have not tried this, but apparently it works.) You can also try quickly stirring in a spoonful of water, and stir the fudge over med-low heat until the fudge loosens up, then scrape it into the pan. I have tried this, and it works, thank goodness!

Let fudge sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Remove from pan, using foil as handles, and cut into squares.

Store Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Fudge in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

*I tried beating fudge immediately after taking it off the heat, but this yielded a very crumbly result. It was still good, but not very cohesive. Waiting until fudge reaches 150°F makes for a creamier fudge.

Source: Slightly adapted from Recipes Wiki

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Truly Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge

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Have you ever had truly old-fashioned fudge? The kind that relies entirely on granulated sugar for its structure, and so manages to be both creamy and crumbly at the same time? I found an amazing fudge shop in Edinburgh back in the day when I studied abroad, and I have carried the memory of those dreamy confections with great affection, hoping that some day I would be brave enough to attempt to make old-fashioned fudge myself someday. They had every kind of fudge you can imagine: cookies ‘n’ cream, classic chocolate, vanilla, rocky road, strawberry, caramel, peanut butter, lemon, maple, and more. On top of those flavours, they had fudge combinations such as peanut butter and chocolate, chocolate and caramel, and vanilla and chocolate. It was heaven, and remains a highlight of my time in Scotland. (There was also the time I nearly fell off of Arthur’s Seat, but that isn’t dessert related, so the relevance of that experience is limited.)

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I have noticed that as time goes by, old-fashioned fudge recipes have fallen by the wayside. They have largely been replaced by marshmallow cream-laden confections, which surfaced in the 1960s. These recipes are in turn slowly but surely being usurped by the ghastly combination of sweetened condensed milk and flavouring. People love the latter fudge because there is no real cooking involved; you heat up the milk and add chocolate, or peanut butter, or some such. That’s it. I am not a fan of this type of fudge, as I feel its flavour notes are flatly one-dimensional. Recipes using corn syrup also claim to be old-fashioned; they aren’t. Ironically, Hershey’s, the original mainstream source for this fudge (the recipe was perennially listed on the back of its cocoa cans), now lists corn syrup as one of the ingredients for its fudge. The recipe on Hershey’s cans of cocoa used to not contain corn syrup. We’re really in a new age. Truly old-fashioned fudge uses sugar, butter, cream, and cocoa powder. That’s it.

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There is the potential to crystallize the sugar while you make fudge the old-fashioned way, but I think this fear is overblown. If you coat the inside of your saucepan with butter before you begin cooking the sugar, it becomes next to impossible for the sugar to crystallize. Clearly the presence of fat acts as a stabilizer, although I’d be hard-pressed to explain this phenomenon in more detail. 😉

There is simply no beating the texture of this kind of fudge, in my opinion. It’s creamy and melts in your mouth. I added Frangelico liqueur to this and it was out of this world. If I could only choose 3 desserts for my time on a desert island, this fudge with Frangelico added would be one of them.

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Old Fashioned Fudge (see bottom of post for peanut butter fudge variation)

Yield: One 8″ pan; size of pieces cut is entirely up to you

Ingredients:
1 – 2 TBS softened unsalted butter, for coating the sides of the pan
1 ½ c. white sugar
1/3 c. cocoa (Dutch process is fine)
3/4 c. heavy cream
generous pinch of salt (Kosher is fine)
2 1/4 TBS unsalted butter, cut into about 4 pieces
1 tsp. vanilla extract, optional
1 – 2 TBS peanut butter OR Frangelico liqueur, optional

Method:
Generously butter the sides of a 3- or 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan (this only works with softened butter; cold butter doesn’t apply enough butter). This will prevent the sugar from crystallizing during cooking. Attach a candy thermometer to the saucepan. Make sure the bottom of your thermometer is not directly touching the bottom of the pan, as that could give a falsely high reading.

Line a 6×6″, 7×7″ or 8×8″ (the last one yields thinner fudge, of course) with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In large bowl, sift cocoa over sugar. Sifting is mandatory, as it ensures the cocoa is free of lumps. Add salt and stir well. Place mixture inside buttered saucepan and add cream; stir.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring well. Stop stirring when a rolling boil is reached. Cook to soft ball stage (235°F to 240°F; I find 237°F or 238°F to be optimal, yielding fudge that is soft enough and not hard) and immediately remove from heat. (Retain candy thermometer inside pan.) Immediately place butter, vanilla, and peanut butter or Frangelico atop fudge mixture; do not stir. Allow to sit until mixture reaches around 195°F and stir until it just starts to lose its shine (this took 2 minutes or so for me). Do not wait for the entirety of the mixture to lose its sheen; if it has started to lose its sheen in one or two spots, it’s done. Pour immediately into pan. Cut before fudge is completely cool, as it becomes crumbly after cooling.

You can also beat fudge immediately upon removing from heat. It takes close to 10 minutes to beat the fudge if you start right after cooking, but the end result is creamier. As soon as the fudge starts to lose its sheen, it is done. Do not wait for the entirety of the mixture to lose its sheen; if it has started to lose its sheen in one or two spots, it’s done.

Peanut butter fudge variation:

Leave out cocoa powder and prepare fudge as directed. At the end, place butter, vanilla, and 1/3 cup peanut butter on top of fudge. Proceed as directed for cocoa fudge.

Keep fudge in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

SourceHershey’s (the older version of their recipe omits the corn syrup that is posted in this link)

Gordon Ramsay’s Cranberry-Apple Sauce

Note: I apologize for the lack of photographs in this post. They’ll appear sooner or later! I kept forgetting to take pictures, what with all the holiday madness running rampant. I hate it when cookbooks don’t have pictures of food, but trust me, it’s worth trying this even without any photographs to look at!

Cranberries are divisive, don’t you think? People rarely have a “meh” attitude toward them; it’s either love or hate in cranberry town. I always liked cranberry juice, and could even stomach a slice or two of canned cranberry sauce. (Gosh, that’s just so wrong! Anything with ‘sauce’ in the title should not slice, period. Correct me if I’m wrong in the comments.) So I was firmly on “Team Cranberry.”

I’m now Team Cranberry’s head cheerleader, or quarterback, or whatever sports metaphor means leading a group of people toward a goal pursued with fiery passion. For I have, rather late in life relatively speaking, discovered homemade cranberry sauce. And not just any sauce; Gordon Ramsay’s cranberry sauce, as cooked on his Christmas special (published on YouTube in December of 2012). I’m sure that his personal life is… interesting, to say the least, given the multiple accusations of extramarital affairs and the highly publicised split with his father-in-law that dog him to this day. A friend of the family has even stated publicly that at this point, Gordon’s marriage works best when he and his wife, Tana, see one another only rarely. I think all the juicy gossip about him makes him all the more interesting. But the most interesting thing about him is that he makes cooking look effortless, and he has inspired my husband and me to push our limits in the kitchen.

I digress; this post is about his fabulous cranberry sauce, not about his salacious personal life. Gordon adds star anise, cardamom, and black pepper as seasonings to this sauce, and this would definitely give the sauce a far-eastern flair. I actually hate star anise and hold lukewarm feelings, at best, toward cardamom, so I left those ingredients out but kept the black pepper and added cinnamon sticks (removed after the cooking process is complete) to impart a subtle but notable cinnamon flavour. As Gordon’s cranberry sauce contains diced Braeburn apples, the cinnamon works to marry the apple and cranberry flavours together. Although I’m not sure they really needed cinnamon as their relationship counselor; they work together marvellously well as it is. I suppose one can never have too much harmony, eh? 😉 The black pepper sounds weird but works beautifully; you cannot taste black pepper per se, but the sauce develops the faintest hint of a spicy kick with this addition. Fresh orange juice and orange zest elevate this dish to something I would expect at a high-end restaurant; a garnish with duck breast, perhaps, or with savory chicken. It truly is amazing.

I have adapted the recipe even beyond the changes described above. Gordon caramelizes sugar before adding the cranberries, but I found, through trial and error, that it is far too easy to burn the bottom layer of sugar before the top layer even starts to caramelize, so I combine the cranberries and sugar and then cook them together. The moisture from the cranberries helps keep the sugar from caramelizing unevenly, and is handy at preventing the sugar from burning. Gordon uses ruby port to deglaze the pan, but as I did not have any on hand at the time, I used a blend of pomegranate juice and sweet Riesling (specifically, Pacific Rim 2016). You can use any liquid you wish to deglaze the pan: Good options for this recipe include the aforementioned pomegranate juice, Riesling or white wine, apple juice, cranberry juice, red wine, even water. To boost the complexity of flavours, I threw in a teaspoon of vanilla extract, which added a lovely warmth of flavour. I added a cornstarch slurry at the end of cooking to ensure the sauce would set up nice and thick.

This sauce keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator. The flavours meld and become even more complex the longer it sits. Serve at room temperature.

Gordon Ramsay’s Cranberry-Apple Sauce

Yield: About 4 cups

Ingredients:

1 3/4 c. white sugar
350 g. fresh cranberries
4 cinnamon sticks
pinch or 2 of ground ginger
generous pinch of Kosher salt
3 Braeburn or similar apples, peeled and diced
approx. 140 mL (there is some leeway here; you can add a tad more or less liquid as you see fit) of deglazing liquid
1 orange (zest + a gentle squeezing of the juice)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 TBS. cornstarch, mixed with the orange juice you didn’t add to the pot + a bit of the         deglazing liquid (I used some of the Riesling along with the orange juice)
generous pinch of black pepper

Method:

Combine sugar, cranberries, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved; cranberries will start to soften at this point. Add apples and cook, stirring frequently, until apples have softened somewhat, about 5 – 10 minutes. Add deglazing liquid, orange zest, and approximately half of the orange’s juice, reserving the other half for the cornstarch slurry; add vanilla extract. Simmer until apples are at desired softness. This takes between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on how soft you want the apples to be. Ten minutes will leave a slight crunch in the apples; 20 minutes will leave the apples about as soft as the cranberries. I prefer softer apples.

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with the remaining orange juice and some of the deglazing liquid. Add slurry to cranberry sauce and cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens noticeably, about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in black pepper. Allow to cool completely at room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Source: Adapted from Gordon Ramsay (see this YouTube video, starting at 7:50)