Fudge is a type of confectionery which is usually very sweet, extremely rich and sometimes flavored with cocoa. It is made by mixing sugar, butter, and milk and heating it to the soft-ball stage at , and then beating the mixture while it cools so that it acquires a smooth, creamy consistency. Chocolate can also be mixed in to make chocolate fudge. Fudge can also be used in brownies.
One of the first documentations of fudge is found in a letter written by Laura Elizabeth Simmonds, an ex-student at Malmesbury School in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. She wrote that her schoolmate's cousin made fudge in Baltimore, Maryland in 1886 and sold it for 40 cents a pound. Miss Hartridge got hold of the fudge recipe, and in 1888, made of this delicious fudge for the Vassar College Senior Auction. This Vassar fudge recipe became quite popular at the school for years to come.
In the United Kingdom traditional English fudge has become synonymous with Devon, Cornwall, and sometimes Dorset and is made in a basic range. English fudge is expected to have a firm, slightly crumbly texture. The best known variation is similar to penuche except that it utilizes granulated sugar instead of brown sugar.
"Fudge" in the U.S. is usually understood to be chocolate. In fact, the word fudge is used on packaging of cakes and brownies with "extra" chocolate flavoring or with fluid chocolate in the mixture. Other non-chocolate flavors of fudge are sold in the U.S., especially peanut butter and penuche, but these are designated by their flavor while the plain word, fudge, is understood to refer to chocolate flavored fudge. Penuche is most commonly seen in New England and is most similar to the original recipes.
Mackinac Island and other tourist towns in Northern Michigan are famed for making slab fudge. Slab fudge, typically sold in slices, is made by pouring liquid ingredients onto large marble slabs for hand working. Boxes of fudge are one of the island's primary souvenirs, and about of the confection are sold every day. The tourists there are referred to as "fudgies". Mackinac Island holds a "Fudge Festival" on the fourth week of August.
Slab fudge is also sold in Minocqua and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, Ocean City, New Jersey, and as far south as Smoky Mountain, Tennessee, and Amelia Island and Panama City, Florida; all of these are other popular tourist destinations.
In forming a fondant, it is not easy to keep all vibrations and seed crystals from causing rapid crystallisation to large crystals. Consequently, milkfat and corn syrup are often added. Corn syrup contains glucose, fructose (monosaccharides) and maltose (disaccharide). These sugars interact with the sucrose molecules. They help prevent premature crystallization by inhibiting sucrose crystal contact. The fat also helps inhibit rapid crystallisation. Controlling the crystallization of the supersaturated sugar solution is the key to smooth fudge. Initiation of crystals before the desired time will result in fudge with fewer, larger sugar grains. The final texture will have a grainy mouthfeel rather than the smooth texture of quality fudge.
One of the most important parts is its texture. The temperature is what separates hard caramel from fudge. The higher the peak temperature, the more sugar is dissolved, the more water is evaporated; resulting in a higher sugar to water ratio. Before the availability of cheap and accurate thermometers, cooks would use the ice water test, also known as the cold water test, to determine the saturation of the candy. Fudge is made at the "soft ball" stage which varies by altitude and ambient humidity from to .
Some recipes call for making fudge with prepared marshmallows as the sweetener. This allows the finished confection to use the structure of the marshmallow for support instead of relying on the crystallization of the sucrose. Fudge squares can be substituted for the marshmallows.