There's a lot of "easy" fudge recipes out there. Things that mostly involve melting chocolate chips into marshmallow concoctions or condensed milk. This makes a rich candy but not fudge. It's never as creamy as the real thing.
When choosing a fudge recipe, the only two ingredients that really matter are cream and corn syrup. You must use real cream. Evaporated milk is purported as an adequate substitute in some circles, but it doesn't give good results. The milk sugars in evaporated milk are more condensed, which makes your fudge heavy and overly sweet. Stick with cream and real butter and you'll be much happier with the results. As for the corn syrup, it seems like such an insignificant thing, but it's important. It helps the sugars melt and keeps your fudge from being too fussy. A lot of fudge recipes only call for a couple of teaspoons (or none at all) and with that little of corn syrup your going to find yourself with fudge that only comes out right when the stars are aligned and you hold your mouth right. No fun. Stick with recipes that call for at least 2 T of light corn syrup. You'll have more consistant results. You can sometimes just increase the corn syrup to 2T if you need to without affecting the candy too much.
I use a chocolate fudge recipe that calls for cocoa powder. It's almost foolproof and easy. The best part about it is you never, ever stir it. nope. not once. Once you turn the heat on, you leave it alone. You may be tempted, thinking that mixture will never smooth out, that it will scorch. Nope. Leave it alone. Sweat the sides, put in the thermometer and pour it out into a mixing bowl as soon as it reaches 238. if you stir it, it sugars, without fail. If you don't stir it, it comes out great. Don't you love it?
When using a candy thermometer, make sure the tip is fully imersed in your candy but not touching the bottom of the pot. You will also want to pre warm it by putting it in a small pan of water and bringing it to a boil before you stick it in your hot candy. remember what happens when glass changes temperature quickly? Exactly.
A note about beating fudge. You can either use a stand mixer or beat it by hand. Don't try using a hand mixer. Even if you have a $90 Kitchen Aid hand mixer. Just don't. You'll burn it out. My mom has a stand mixer and prefers to beat it by hand anyway. It doesn't take long. Let the candy sit at room temperture in your mixing bowl until it reaches 110-120 degrees. (wash your candy thermometer and dry it before you put it back in the candy. There may be sugar clinging to it.) If your bowl is metal, you will be able to rest your hand on the side of the bowl; it will be hot to the touch but not burn. If you are using a stand mixer, use a low or medium setting and your flat paddle. If you are beating by hand, use a clean wooden spoon. Hold the bowl firmly to your chest and use a strong stirring motion. Keep going until the fudge begins to thicken and it loses it's gloss. If you are adding nuts, you add them now. mix those in and then scrape it out into a buttered dish. Pat it flat and let it cool for a few minutes to set.
If your fudge does not thicken even if you whip it for ages, you probably did not bring it up to a high enough temperature. You can cook it again. Put it in the pan with 1/2 to 1 c hot water and start over. If your fudge gets really dry and crumbly, you cooked it too long and you can't save it.
Now the part you've been waiting for: the recipes! Fudge comes in many flavors, chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, penuche (brown sugar,) opera, mint, etc. I'm posting three recipes that have become reliable staples in my recipe box.
My Grandmother's Chocolate Fudge
2 c sugar
1 T cocoa, rounded
2 T butter
2 T light Karo
3/4 c cream
1/4 c water
dump it all in a pot and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Do not stir! not at any point! it won't burn, I promise. cook over medium heat to 236 degrees. remove from heat and pour into mixing bowl. Do not scrape out the pan. Just pour out the stuff that comes easily and leave the rest. let cool to 120 degrees. add one 1 t vanilla. Beat until there is no gloss. add 1 c walnuts or pecans. pat into a square cake pan.
Grandma's Vanilla Fudge
3 T butter
3 c sugar
1/4 c lt corn syrup
1/2 t salt
1 c cream
1/2 c milk
2 t vanilla
1 c chopped nuts.
combine butter, sugar, karo, salt, cream, and milk in a 4 qt. heavy bottomed pan. Cook over med heat, stirring constantly until it boils. Cook and stir occasionally to stoft ball stage (236 degrees.) Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. add 1 t vanilla. Cool to luke warm (110 degrees) beat until it loses its gloss. knead in the nuts. Press into a 9x9 buttered cake pan. cut, then cool. makes about 1 1/2 lbs
Peanut Butter Fudge
2 c sugar
2 T butter
2 T light Karo
3/4 c cream
1/4 c water
dump it all in a pot and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Do not stir! not at any point! it won't burn, I promise cook over medium heat to 236 degrees. remove from heat and pour into mixing bowl. Do not scrape out the pan. Just pour out the stuff that comes easily and leave the rest. let cool to 120 degrees. add one 1 t vanilla and 3 T creamy peanut butter. Beat until there is no gloss. pat into a square cake pan.
You may notice the peanut butter recipe is very similar to the chocolate fudge recipe. That's because it's essentially the same thing sans chocolate with peanut butter added. I have been searching for a good peanut butter fudge recipe and found nothing, so I made my own ;)
Good luck with your fudge! I'd love to hear how it turns out for everybody! Please feel free to use these recipes as much as you like. Make some changes if you like. Stir broken peppermint pieces or mini marshmallows into the chocolate fudge, add unsalted peanuts to the peanut butter. Have fun with it. If you want to pass them on, refer your friend to my blog instead of just giving them a copy. thanks.