You have found yourself in the magical world of tips and tricks for fudge. If you’ve come from my original recipe, thank you for paying attention. If you’ve not, you just get a huge welcome anyway! Huzzah, hooray. Bells. Whistles. Glitter. Blah blah, I’m bored. Let’s get to the point.
There are a few things you should know about making fudge.
1) The saucepan you cook it in is incredibly important.
2) You must stir it at all times. At. All. Times. No excuses!
3) Line your tin properly, it is sugar after all. And it will still like hell.
So, I’ll start in a logical order I suppose.
The saucepan you cook it in is incredibly important.
It really is, otherwise I wouldn’t have included it, dur! The fudge recipe that is included on this site, when it gets close the highest temperature it needs to be, it will almost double in size. It looks a little like a really thick, creamy foam (minds out of the gutter, folks!) and then it will settle down once it’s at the right temperature. You need a pan that will accommodate this so it doesn’t spill out everywhere. You also need a pan that is not too wide, because the heat will escape out of the top of the pan faster than the heat that is entering it at the bottom. What do you get? The temperature doesn’t rise enough and you end up standing over a pan for an hour looking very perplexed. You also need a saucepan with a good bottom, you can’t really use a cheap saucepan for this, tried and trusted ones always so nothing sticks. When you are close to soft ball stage, you will need to leave the mixture for 5-10 seconds to bubble solo for a bit, and then vigorously stir again (just so you give it a break from all the air you’re introducing to it). It will make your life a lot easier if you use a pan with a good, sturdy bottom so you don’t have to work quite as hard.
You must stir it at all times. At. All. Times. No Excuses!
Utterly no excuses here. You are making fudge. It is sugar, and it does crystallise. You have to control the heating and cooling of fudge very carefully to achieve a nice, smooth consistency. This is controlled mostly at the start and end of the cooking time – the middle bit is just to stop the mixture from burning or sticking to the pan. When you heat it up at the start, heat it up quite slowly to begin the breakdown and to help everything amalgamate properly. At the end of the cooking time, you really really must stir it, until it’s almost cool enough to stick your finger in (probably not a great idea to test it like that though!). When the mixture is cooling down, large crystals are going to start to form on the surface because it’s cooling faster than the rest of the fudge from the exposure to the air. Obviously the fudge will set eventually, but you’ll still be left with large crystals and, sometimes, a hard and unpleasant finished product. If you spend your time constantly stirring it, not only will it keep breaking up the larger crystals, but it will also keep the whole mixture at a similar temperature and slow the cooling down process a little bit (even though you’re introducing air into it). This approach does take a tiny bit more effort, but your fudge will be beautiful and smooth and, an even bigger bonus, it will slice neatly into cubes, and will not crumble! It is the larger crystals that make this happen, as well as not having enough liquid in your mix.
Line your tin properly, it is sugar after all. And it will still like hell.
This is sort of an obvious point, it doesn’t need much explanation. Line it, all the way round, with at least one big strip of greaseproof paper. Sugar is sticky! It will be difficult to get it out of the tin if you don’t line it, don’t be lazy bums it takes literally less than a minute and will save you a lot of hassle.