Culinary adventures: Never Fail Fudge a foolproof family tradition
By Penny Kazmier
As a child, the arrival of the white jar with the red lid and blue label full of sticky sweetness, also known as Marshmallow Fluff, was always a sign that Christmas was approaching, as this was one of the magical ingredients in the homemade fudge my father always made on Christmas Eve.
Fudge at our house was only made around the holidays, but that is not the case in fudge and candy shops across the country where it's made daily. There are many flavors of fudge, but the science is the same for all; a mixture of sugar, butter and milk is heated to approximately 235-240 degrees, or the "softball" stage, and then other flavors are added.
According to thenibble.com, fudge is an American invention: Some food historians peg the date to Feb. 14, 1886, but the exact origin and inventor are disputed. Most stories claim that the first batch of fudge resulted from an accident with a bungled ("fudged") batch of caramels, when the sugar was allowed to recrystallize; hence the name from the interjection, "Oh fudge!"
So, what does Marshmallow Fluff has to do with fudge?
Marshmallow Fluff, and its relationship to the fudge recipe I know and love, has a story of its own. According to MarshmallowFluff.com, Marshmallow Fluff actually dates back to New England in 1917, but it wasn't until 1956 when the company collaborated with Nestle in a nationwide ad campaign that they printed a recipe for fudge in Ladies' Home Journal and other magazines. The fudge was quick and easy to make, and included Fluff and Nestle's Chocolate Bits. The same recipe can still be found on the backs of Fluff labels.
The recipe, now known as Never Fail Fudge, has only seven ingredients; sugar, butter, evaporated milk, Marshmallow Fluff, salt, vanilla and semisweet chocolate. It was originally labeled as "foolproof" because the addition of corn syrup, an ingredient in Marshmallow Fluff, that prevents crystallization during the cooking process and produces smooth fudge.
The recipe boils the sugar/butter/fluff/milk mixture for five minutes, or until it reaches the aforementioned "softball" stage, or 235-240 degrees, but because I like my fudge to be on the softer side my preference is 235 degrees, or even a little less. Now its time to add the chocolate of your choice -- dark, milk, semisweet, or a combination, stirring until melted and then pour the chocolaty goodness into a buttered dish.
I am perfectly happy with simple chocolate fudge of my childhood, but I will admit to having lived on the "wild side" by mixing extra treats into my fudge. Here are some ideas you might want to try:
Turtle -- stir in pecans before pouring fudge into pan and then add a ribbon of melted caramel.
Snickers Bar two ways -- add chunks of Snickers bars to fudge after pouring into prepared pan or add caramel and salted peanuts to pan instead.
Rocky Road -- stir walnuts into fudge before pouring into pan and add mini marshmallows being careful not to stir too much, or they will melt.
Oreo -- add crushed Oreo cookies, or your favorite cookie, before pouring mixture into prepared pan.
Salted caramel -- swirl ribbons of melted caramel into pan of fudge and sprinkle with Fleur de Sel or sea salt to taste.
Mint -- add chopped York peppermint patties that have been chilled in the freezer for about 10 minutes prior to adding, so they won't melt.
Peanut butter -- Swirl peanut butter and pieces of chilled Reese's peanut-butter cups into fudge after it has been poured into prepared pan.
Candy -- add crushed candy canes, toffee pieces, or candy of choice to prepared fudge.
S'more -- fold broken graham crackers into fudge, follow with mini marshmallows.
Crushed salted pretzels
Experiment and create your own family favorite.
Of course fudge is my favorite use for Marshmallow Fluff, but my daughter would be disappointed if I didn't also mention hers -- the "Fluffernutter" or peanut butter and fluff sandwich. If you'd like even more recipes using the white clouds of sweetness check out marshmallowfluff.com and download the free "Online Yummy Book", where you can see the most current Marshmallow Fluff based recipes as they become available, including other varieties of fudge.
I have made fudge without using the prepared marshmallow cream and have had good results, but always keep coming back to my standby Never Fail Fudge recipe, maybe for nostalgic reasons, but I can also tell you it tastes really good!
• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge.