As I was making my 4th batch of fudge in about as many days, Brianna asked me why I only make fudge at Christmas. She's right--I don't really make it any other time of year. It's not a conscious decision to reserve it for the holidays; it just doesn't really occur to me to make it during the rest of the year. I'm like that with certain cookies, too. Chocolate chip cookies are not Christmas cookies (though my husband would probably disagree with me there, since his grandmother made them during the holidays). Spritz cookies are Christmas cookies. My cookie press came with about a dozen different plates for various shapes, but the only one I've ever used is the Christmas tree. What sort of treats do you only make during the holidays?
I don't usually make four batches of fudge, though. The first one I made didn't turn out. It was a recipe I hadn't tried before. It's frustrating when something doesn't work--I always want to know why. In this case, I think I didn't cook it quite long enough; it never got all the way firm. I didn't like the flavor very much, either. The second batch was one I've made before, a great recipe from Fine Cooking. The third was this interesting cookie dough fudge that my friend Tracey posted recently. It doesn't have quite the usual fudge texture, but it definitely tastes like cookie dough. Batch number four was a repeat of the Fine Cooking recipe--I gave away most of the first batch and needed more. It was one of the key components in my treat bags this year.
I first made this fudge a couple years ago, when it showed up in the magazine. It was the first fudge that I'd made that didn't use marshmallow cream or other shortcuts. It starts off as sugar, unsweetened chocolate, corn syrup (helps keep the sugar from crystallizing the wrong way), cream, and salt. Everything gets brought to a boil, and cooked until it reaches about 238ºF. Then you remove it from the heat, add some butter (without stirring it in any way), and let the mixture cool until it's 110ºF. This takes a while, so it's a good thing to make when you have other things going on in the kitchen to keep you occupied for a while. Once the mixture gets to the right temperature, you beat the heck out of it. I did try once to do it by hand, but my arm got too tired before I could get it to the right texture. What the recipe recommends is using a hand mixer, and that works quite well, though I do usually worry that I'm going to overheat my mixer. Once the fudge starts loses its shine and starts to thicken, you put it in a pan and let it finish setting up overnight (or at least for a few hours).
The verdict? I just love this fudge, both the recipe and the final product. I've made it several times, and it always turns out great. The texture of the fudge is very smooth. I think the bit of salt in the recipe makes all the difference in the flavor--the new recipe this year tasted flat and just sweet without the salt. I shared this fudge with lots of people, and while I'm not sure yet how they all liked it, but my girls seem to be big fans.
If you'd like to try the recipe for yourself, you can find it over at Fine Cooking. If you're looking for ideas for goodie bags, I found my supplies at a variety of places. The treat bags are from Target, the snowflake stickers are address labels that I got at Office Depot, and I find that Michael's is a great place to buy ribbon. The papers are just standard mini muffin cups.