Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fudge Free-for-All

Hi all!  Please welcome Christine DeSmet to Killer Hobbies today.  Watermelon fudge?  Really?  I may have to try that!

Tracy Weber

Watermelon fudge? Key lime fudge? Sour apple fudge? Root beer fudge?

Those are real flavors I found on my travels this fall to Door County, Wisconsin, known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. It’s also the setting for my cozy mystery series.

People often ask me:  Where do you get your plot ideas? Fudge recipe ideas?

Taking on the role of my mystery series character “Ava Oosterling,” I’ve become a fudge hobbyist and researcher.

I travel to taste new fudge flavors and to observe candy-making techniques. On a recent autumn trip I stopped on a whim at Seaquist Orchards Farm Market, Hwy. 42 north of Sister Bay, Wis., The candymaker had made about 20 astounding fudge flavors.

For my mystery series I’ve created a fairy tale fudge flavor line beginning with Cinderella Pink Fudge (cherry vanilla). Door County is known nationally for its cherry orchards. 

Successful fudge making requires respect for science. You’re messing with heating crystals. We fudge makers watch for a “sheen” to happen, as one example. That means the crystals are lining up in a new way, often going from soft to hard—even making glass.

Many people use marshmallows to make fudge. Marshmallows and fudge have a possibly intertwined history.

-       Forms of fudge-like candy and marshmallow have probably been around since the ancient Egyptians made edibles mixing the sticky substance from the marsh mallow plant with nuts and honey. (I imagine they put that mixture over a fire once in a while and stirred it until it became a form of fudge. Early Egyptians were also expert at glass-making.)
-       The Scots have made tablet—a grainy, brittle fudge—since the early 18th century by heating cream, sugar, and butter flavored with vanilla or whisky.

-       France’s confectioners refined the marshmallow making in the early 19th century.

-       Fudge was popularized in the U.S. by Vassar College women in 1888 when they cooked ingredients over Bunsen burners for a fundraiser.

-       Around 1954 in the U.S., a precise process involving sucrose, proteins, and controlled temperatures created the modern marshmallow that stays puffed.

-       Fudge making requires high temperatures (238 degrees on a candy thermometer for most recipes, and 260 degrees for divinity fudge). Turning it to glass can happen at 300 degrees. Recipes for sugar glass—used in movies—are available online.

-       Fudge doesn’t melt in a hot car like chocolate bars. It’s about the science!

-       If your batch of fudge doesn’t set up, reheat it once and try again.

-       A botched batch of fudge can become frosting, ice cream topping, or an addition to cake batter or cookie dough.

Fall is fudge time. Maybe making it will find its way into your child’s school science lab. The kids will learn about heat and crystals, and cleanup is easy—they can eat it. No dangerous chemicals to cause a major evacuation of the school.

What’s your favorite fudge recipe? Or memory about fudge-making?

Christine DeSmet is the author of the Fudge Shop Mystery Series (Penguin Random House), including Five-Alarm Fudge. She teaches writing at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies and is director of the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat.


Laurie Buchanan said...

Ya gotta love it. I know I sure do!

holdenj said...

Fun post, we are all about fudge here!

Christine DeSmet said...

Thank you for the comments, Laurie, and whoever is behind that cute dog picture. Perhaps his or her name is "Fudge"???

I just made a batch of Cinderella Pink Fudge to take to a book presentation at a local library tomorrow.