Monday, October 21, 2013
Nana's Peanut Butter Fudge
I grew up in a house where my mom did not cook. She redeemed herself in all other things "motherly" but cooking was never her forte. She is a self proclaimed disaster in the kitchen. Finding this out pretty early into marrying my mom, my dad (who once thought of making cooking his profession) took over preparing the meals. He provided most of our meals (usually making big batches of something that we would eat on over the next few days), but on rare occasions my mom would make us something simple. She made things like American Goulash, spaghetti and pancakes. One of my favorite treats from my mom's short repertoire of recipes is her Peanut Butter Fudge. This is my favorite peanut butter food memory from when I was growing up. Yes, I enjoyed quite a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (and still do to this day), but it was this fudge that was really something special. How my mom could make only 4 ingredients turn into something so luxurious tasting and gift worthy was remarkable to me. I can vividly picture her sitting in a chair, the fudge perched in front of her on another chair and her beating the fudge into submission with a wooden spoon (the only time she used a wooden spoon, because she hates to clean those things!). Needless to say, I have added this recipe to my family recipe book and even submitted it for publication in our local church cook book.
This fudge is smooth and incredibly light in texture. Usually fudge is dense and often times grainy; but those things are the opposite of my mom's fudge. It's creamy and melts in your mouth. A real treat that is so dangerous that I have to quickly give away before I eat the whole pan! A bonus is that it can be made with all shelf stable ingredients. Since my brave hubby still hasn't received any pay since the government shutdown we are living off mostly pantry staples. I've had some wonderful friends give us fresh meals and groceries, so we are using those as well; but mostly our food comes from our cupboards (for the time being).
I prefer to use chocolate chips and make it a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudge, but you could use any chips (chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, or white chocolate chips) and the fudge will turn out amazing.
This is all it takes:
1 1/2 cups of half and half (or 1 12 oz can of evaporated milk as I have here), 3 cups of sugar, 1 cup of peanut butter and 1+ cups of chocolate chips (or chips of your choice)
In a medium to large sauce pan, combine the sugar and half and half (or evaporated milk). You want to make sure the pan is large enough that the mixture won't boil over. I used my biggest sauce pan - the size just under the soup/pasta pot.
Stir them together and attach a candy thermometer (if you have one). My mom never used a thermometer, she just boiled it until she thought it looked right. It needs to come to a boil and then boil until it reaches soft ball stage. (You can test this by dropping a small amount of the candy into ice water. If the candy comes together to make a pliable ball, it's done.)
**If you are using a candy thermometer, make sure to test it first. Just fill a pot, fitted with the thermometer, with water. Make sure the water covers the bottom of the thermometer so it can get an accurate reading. Then put the pot of the stove and turn the heat to high. When the water starts to boil, check the temperature. Water should boil at 212F. My thermometer is off by about 11 degrees (it shows water boiling at 201F), so I know to pull my candy from the heat 11 degrees short of my goal. Always test your thermometer before using it, to ensure an accurate reading.
Turn the heat to high and let the mixture come to a boil. When it reaches a boil, turn down the heat just low enough to keep it boiling, but not high enough to boil over. (See mine came dangerously close to boiling over.) Continue to boil the mixture until it reaches soft ball stage. I try to refrain from stirring it while it's boiling, but if you just have to stir, then only stir in the middle. DO NOT scrape the sides of the pan, and this can cause the fudge to go sugary.
When it has reached the desired temperature, turn off the heat and stir in the peanut butter. (I usually just eye ball this, because that is what my mom did.)
Stir it in, but be careful not to scrape the sides.
When the peanut butter is mostly combined, add in the chips of choice (mine is chocolate). I mom always just grabbed a few handfuls, and threw them in. I use a measuring cup and do a rounded cup.
If you haven't done so already, you'll want to have a 9x13 dish ready to put the fudge in. I like to line mine with parchment paper, so that I don't have any clean-up afterwards, but it's up to you. Mom just pours hers into a pan - sometimes with foil, sometimes without. I think parchment paper is the way to go.
Now, if there is anything "hard" about this recipe, this would be it. You have to stir. A LOT. My mom would always sit down with the hot pot and a towel and just beat the heck out of the fudge. She would lift the pan by the handle, and beat air into the mixture to help it set. I do that at the end, but in the beginning I just stir it. Again, I don't scrape the sides at all. Just stir.
And stir. You will see it start to get thicker, and show the wake of the spoon.
Eventually it will become even thicker. If you're making it in a non stick pan like me, it will come away from the pan and become one mass. This is when I sit with it and a towel on my lap, tilt it slightly and beat air into it.
You want to keep beating it until the fudge is no longer shiny. Like this:
Then dump the fudge into the prepared pan,
and get it evened out as much as possible.
The left overs in the pan is what is left for the cook. (My son says this is the best part about cooking.) ;)
I let the fudge sit for about an hour (so that it is set, but still a little warm) and then I lift it by the parchment paper and place the whole thing on a cutting board. I cut 1 inch strips down the length of the fudge. I find that if I cut it when it's still warm, it cuts cleaner.
Then I turn it all and cut 1 inch strips down the width of the fudge - making 1 inch square pieces.
Then I move all the pieces at once (holding the corners of the parchment paper) and place everything back into the 9x13 pan.
When the pieces are completely cool, I package them up to give away. (Because I can't trust myself around an entire pan if it!) Any container will do, as long as the fudge doesn't get squished.
Here's the recipe:
Nana's Peanut Butter Fudge
1 1/2 cups half and half (or 1 12 oz can evaporated milk)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup peanut butter (smooth is best)
1+ cups chips of choice (I like chocolate)
**If using a candy thermometer, be sure to test it (explained above) and adjust your temperature accordingly.
In a large sauce pan, combine the sugar and half and half (or evaporated milk). Bring the mixture up to a boil and cook until soft ball stage. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter. Stir until almost combined and then add the chocolate chips (or other chips of choice). Stir the fudge until it has turned (is no longer shiny) and then dump it out into a 9x13 pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Spread the fudge out evenly. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, and then cut the fudge into 1 inch pieces while it is still warm (but not hot). When it has cooled completely, it's ready to be packaged and gifted (or devoured by you and whomever is lucky enough to be in the kitchen with you).