"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Molasses Sponge Candy and Brown Sugar Fudge

One of the things I've inherited from my father is his devil-may-care attitude in the face of inclement weather.

Snowstorm predicted, but you need to drive into Boston? No problem. He's fearless on the road.

Raining? He loves to run in the rain.

When I started my walking tour business, I used to tell my prospective customers, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing."

I'll run in both the rain AND snow and only a few bad skids have tempered my carelessness about driving in snowstorms.

So is it any wonder that I looked at the the recipe for Molasses Sponge Candy while the rain was drumming on the roof, and said, "I'll just try it anyway"?

For those of you who don't know, humidity + candy-making = bad idea.

Why? For the same reason that your book covers curl and your cookies get soft and soggy. Water in the air gets absorbed. By everything that can possibly absorb it.

This is a pretty straightforward candy recipe up until the "add baking soda" part, after which the molasses syrup bubbles dramatically and then you pour it tout suite into a buttered foil-lined cake pan. Where it hardens up. Theoretically.

Actually, mine seemed like it might harden up--it seemed pretty firm and as if it was on the right track. At one point I put it in the oven, hoping to protect it from the humidity. But when I tried to break it up, it was still kind of warm and bendy. Please note I did not turn the oven on, though I considered it for a very brief second--wondering if dry, slightly warm oven air might have a beneficial effect. Doesn't this look somewhat promising?

At the end of my shift I just put it on the counter in the cold room, expecting it to have recovered from any ill-effects from the humidity by the next day, which was supposed to be drier.

When I came in the next day, this is what I found--a surface goopy enough to write on:

I couldn't think of any way to salvage it. This did not prevent me from tasting it, and I have two things to say--1) great flavor, especially if you love molasses and 2) be careful, it's a filling-yanker.

The baking soda makes little bubbles in the candy. They look kind of cool. I probably would have had thicker candy if I had been faster pouring it out of the pot.

I pitched it in the trash. I had to. If I had been surrounded by hordes of teenagers they probably would have eaten it, but I wasn't. Too bad!


Making Brown Sugar Fudge was a happier experience.

And, guess what? This was the first time that I've ever made fudge!

Now if when you hear fudge you're thinking, mmmmmmm.....chocolate....., think again. There is not one speck of chocolate in this recipe--it's technically penuche, which I always thought had something to do with peanuts, but is instead a mispronunciation of the Mexican sugar panocha.

If you too have never made fudge, it's like making candy but with milk instead of water and then you whip confectioner's sugar in at the end. You can also stir in nuts.

As always with making candy (or anything that requires a precise temperature reading), I love love love my remote thermometer with the alarm setting. It means that I can actually turn away from the stove.

Actually, see that gray unit on the very end? I can cart that all over the house if I want and it will show me exactly what temperature the candy is by mysterious remote...air waves (or something). Of course, I have to run like a maniac when the alarm goes off. So I don't wander far.

It cools in a mere 30 minutes in the fridge, then you cut it up into cute little squares, which seem too small but are just right because it's so sweet and rich:

How does it taste? Well, it's not chocolate, but it's awesome because it's the first fudge I ever made and also it tastes great.

By the way, fudge seems to be one of those infinitely flexible recipes. At one of our local stores, The Fudgery, here are the year-round flavors they offer. Just the year-round ones! Seasonal ones available too!

Chocolate Nut
Triple Chocolate
Triple Chocolate Almond
Peanut Butter
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Rocky Road
Maple Walnut
Chocolate Chip
Penuche Nut
Vanilla Nut

Jeez, makes me hungry. I wonder what Rocky Road Fudge tastes like?


The Mediocre Cook said...

I would love to try making candy but it sounds like I should invest in a good thermometer first. The sponge candy while it didn't rise up or harden is just how i love it. I'm the person that loves the mutant malt balls that are chewy inside! I'll eat a whole bag of whoppers just hoping to find one...

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

It's not that much of an investment--about $25! I think you could find one in grill stores, kitchen stores (of course) or at Amazon. I got this one at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

And, sounds like you would have loved this stuff. Had I known I would have shipped it to you!! :-)

Bob Jacobs said...

Cool blog, Melissa.


Eve said...

the fudge sounds great! wish I had remembered to look for it this morning when I was over...

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

Hey Rob!!!!! (sorry, I have to call you Rob, not Bob) Glad to see your face! I'm not at Fiction Workhouse anymore either but I'm glad you looked me up.

What are you doing these days?

Eve, there's tons in the freezer. I'm not sure if you can freeze fudge but I guess we'll find out. :-)

MelBell said...

Hi Melissa!

I bought some penuche just this past weekend.

Yes, you can freeze fudge, but the lady at ye olde fudge shoppe told me that you shouldn't put it in the fridge - it dries out. It should keep at room temp for 10 days, but if you don't think you'll finish it by then, wrap it and freeze it.

I can hardly keep fudge around for 10 minutes, let alone 10 days.