Fudge is a type of candy made from crystallized sugar produced by cooking sugar, butter and milk along with salt and other flavorings, not always chocolate.
What Is Fudge?
Although the most popular flavor of fudge is chocolate fudge, and the word fudge itself is often (albeit erroneously) used as a synonym for the word chocolate. Fudge is not necessarily chocolate.
Indeed, some of the many popular flavors of fudge include peanut butter, marshmallow and maple walnut fudge. Nuts, raisins, crumbled cookies and other ingredients are often added in the mix.
And yes, many, many fudge recipes do include chocolate at all.
How Is it Made?
Making good fudge is all about controlling the size of the sugar crystals. If you've ever had fudge that had a grainy consistency, it was because the sugar crystals were too big. Controlling the size of the sugar crystals comes down to two major factors: temperature and fat.
Basic fudge is made by dissolving sugar, butter, and milk and heating it to the soft ball stage, which corresponds with a temperature of between 234 and 240 F.
At this temperature, a drop of melted sugar placed into cold water will form a ball, rather than simply dissolving, but is still soft enough to be pressed flat once removed from the water.
The next step is to let the mixture cool, undisturbed, to 110 F. This step is critical, as stirring the mixture while it's too hot will result in large sugar crystals forming, giving the fudge a grainy texture, rather than a smooth and creamy one. Cooling the mixture before stirring helps prevent the formation of larger crystals.
The fat in the butter likewise prevents the sucrose molecules from joining up and forming large crystals.
The addition of certain other ingredients, such as condensed milk, marshmallow creme, or corn syrup, will also help produce a smoother, rather than grainy texture.
Once the mixture is thoroughly combined, it's poured into a shallow pan, like a brownie pan, where it's allowed to cool and set before being cut into individual squares.
With a typical recipe for chocolate fudge, pieces of baking chocolate or ordinary chocolate chips, are melted, along with the butter, sugar, milk and other ingredients.
Fudge vs. Chocolate
The main ingredient in fudge is sugar, while the main ingredient in chocolate is cocoa, usually cocoa solids and cocoa butter, or just cocoa butter by itself in the case of white chocolate. Note that although many types of fudge do contain cocoa, many recipes do not.
Thus fudge is considered a candy made from crystallized sugar, whereas chocolate is a candy made from sweetened cocoa, in an emulsion of cocoa butter.
Indeed, fudge is much more closely related to marshmallows than it is to chocolate, as both fudge and marshmallows are made by heating sugar past the boiling point, then whipping or stirring it to form crystals that give it its structure.
Types of Fudge
Since fudge is made by combining sugar, butter and milk, it stands to reason that it can be made by combining sugar with a different kind of fat and perhaps a different liquid. And this is indeed the case.
Ingredients like peanut butter, cream cheese, canned pumpkin, even vanilla frosting, can provide the fat content, while the liquid can come in the form of molasses, condensed milk, half and half, heavy cream, and pudding, not to mention boozy ingredients like amaretto or bourbon.
And the sugar itself can vary from ordinary granulated sugar to brown sugar or demerara sugar, each one contributing its own unique flavor notes.
Many types of fudge involve combining multiple flavors of fudge, either in layers or by swirling the two together before allowing it to cool and set. This peanut butter and jelly fudge and and this root beer float fudge are examples.
Fudge can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container, where it will last for up to two weeks. In the refrigerator it will last up to four weeks in an airtight container. You can also store fudge in the freezer, double wrapped, preferably in a layer of plastic and a layer of foil, where it will keep for several months. Let it thaw at room temperature before serving.