I am a sentimental fool.
When I decorate for Christmas, there’s a story behind every decoration. Not just the random assortment of ornaments, but the nutcrackers, the nativities (yes, plural), the lighted village and train, the Santa collection and even the books. When I run short on space and have to decide which things are not going to be displayed, it tugs at my heart. But I still go through the memories as those pieces get put back to wait for next year.
It is the same with baking. The recipes trigger memories of baking with my mom and grandmothers worthy of a Hallmark movie script … well, I’d watch it anyway. There’s the labor-intensive batches of German cookies like Lebkuchen and Pfeffernusse of my maternal grandmother . The fun and whimsical “cookies” I made at my paternal grandmother’s house involved melted caramel and Ritz crackers and required two sets of hands. My mom and I would break out the third generation cookie cutters to make sugar cookies and take turns watching the oven so as to catch the “kiss cookies” … you know, the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kiss on top? … before the chocolate kiss turned into a chocolate puddle.
Just last week, I was walking through a grocery store in Minneapolis and spent way too much time browsing their bakery. Their gingerbread display was GORGEOUS! My eyes caught a box of sugary, crispy confections that look like snowflakes. I was transported back to my aunt’s house. Every year for Christmas, she would make Rosettes. I never knew anyone else that made them and I haven’t met anyone since that does. She also made Spritz cookies which, lucky for me, I can get at our church’s annual cookie walk!
And, I’ve gotten carried away …
The blue bowl. I have a big attachment to this bowl. I’m guessing at least a few of my cousins saw this picture and immediately thought, “Anita has Grandma Glienke’s bowl!” It is funny that something as simple as a depression-era bowl that is bright blue (not red or green or gold or any of the traditional Christmas colors) could invoke such a response. Each and every year, my grandmother would serve her fudge and “Mounds Balls” (a.k.a. coconut truffles) in this bowl. When I see it, I remember not only the fudge (wasn’t a fan of coconut at the time) but the bigger picture of 40-50 people crammed into her living room on Christmas Eve, singing hymns and exchanging gifts.
So, today, I give you my recipe for fudge. It isn’t my grandmother’s recipe (at least as far as I know) but it is a tried-and-true, McVey-family-favorite recipe.
EASY? It IS easy. You need patience and time, but it is not difficult.
The key to smooth and creamy fudge is to work slowly. If you rush the process, you will get a “grainy” texture or, worse yet, a burnt flavor you did not intend to introduce. Take your time! After all, methodically stirring the sugar mixture and inhaling the scent of melting chocolate can be almost as therapeutic as eating it!
This recipe (Semi-Sweet Chocolate Fudge) comes from a small cookbook called “Hershey’s Homemade“. I have been using this recipe with the semi-sweet chips for years. Last year, I noticed the dark chocolate chips right next to the semi-sweet and decided those could only make the recipe better.
Dark Chocolate Fudge
1 1/2 tablespoon butter, divided
1 1/2 cups (12 oz can) evaporated milk
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme
4 cups sugar
24 oz dark chocolate (or semi-sweet) chips
Line a 9×13-inch pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Lightly coat foil with butter (1/2 tablespoon at most); set aside.
In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat. Add evaporated milk and marshmallow creme, stirring until marshmallow creme starts to dissolve. Add sugar and stir until well dissolved. Bring mixture to a slow boil over medium-low to medium heat, stirring almost constantly (a rubber scraper allows you to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to avoid scorching). This will take 15-20 minutes, depending on the temperature of the burner. A “low boil” is when lots of small bubbles form (especially around the edges of the pan). Continue cooking (and stirring) for 5 minutes (may reduce heat a little at a time to keep the temperature steady).
Remove pan from heat and turn off burner. Stir in chocolate chips. Fold chips into hot sugar mixture until smooth.
Pour into prepared pan. Tap pan on countertop a few times to evenly distribute the fudge and to draw any air bubbles to the surface. Allow to cool; cover and refrigerate. When completely chilled, remove fudge from pan using the edges of the foil. Pull back the sides and cut into one inch cubes.
Store in air-tight ziploc bag or wrap in plastic wrap and keep in an air-tight container. Refrigerate.
This year, since I knew I would be dividing the fudge into thirds, I bought smaller, decorative 5×8-inch pans with lids. You could also use small bread loaf pans or other heat-tolerant containers for gift giving.
I am a sentimental fool.
But isn’t Christmas a holiday for just that sort of thing?
May your Christmas season be ever so sweet!
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