Friday, December 20, 2013

"Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge"

Haha, love that line.  A Christmas Story is an indispensable tradition in our home, as is It's a Wonderful Life...unfortunately George Bailey is on VHS and decided he was going to monkey with the tracking.  I got all the way up to George holding Mary's bathrobe ransom while she was indisposed in the bushes before I had to shut it off due to an almost uncontrollable urge to claw my eyes out after forcing them to jump around through all the lines on the screen.  I need to find it on DVD...or maybe there's a 24 hour marathon between now and the 25th.  But we do love the travails of the hapless Ralphie and his merry band of dysfunctional family and friends...the scene where Ralphie tells his mom one of his buddies taught him that very bad word and the hilarity that ensues is possibly one of my favorite in all of TV land.  And way to go Flick for taking one for your BFF....even if it wasn't one you volunteered for.

Christmas comes every year and brings traditions old and new....when I was a kid, it was always Midnight Mass, and I think it was possibly a High Mass at that...lots of incense that made old timers and the Christmas Catholics faint, a little bit of reading the insides of your eyelids, and every single old standard religious Christmas song pulled out and dusted off for it's crowning moment.  Polish Dish for breakfast Christmas morning, and an endless assortment of goodies and candy that we could eat as much of as we wanted for one day, even if it made us throw up.  Mom had her standards; tea cakes, toffee bars, our favorite cookies (that's the name of them, they're like sugar cookies but better), and of course, See's fudge with walnuts.  And we weren't sissy and had to buy ours from a store, we made it ourselves....I would say it was a secret family recipe, but Mom submitted it to St. Clare's Cookbook in the 60's so I think that ship sailed a long time ago.

The story was, as my limited memory allows, was that a female relative of my Mom's Mother worked with Mary See in California, and she got the recipe either directly from the horses mouth (she probably was, I would be if I made all that candy year round), or possibly by copying it down while Mary was busy with a crystallizing emergency, or perhaps unsticking her tongue from the divinity beaters.  I don't know, and I have no idea if it's really true or a hoax, but I do know that recipe has been floating through my family since at least the 60's, and it's damn fine fudge (which is apparently really hard to take a picture of).

I am a fudge snob, and have had very few that can meet my exacting standards...not to hard, not too soft, not too sweet, and for GODS SAKE, not grainy - that to me is death to fudge.  This stuff is silky smooth when done correctly, will hold it's shape but is soft enough that you could spread it on toast....its' a wonderment, it is.  This year I involved Handsome Stranger in the process because "If I get hit by a bus, someone has to know how to do this", but mostly because I was tired and I didn't feel like flapping my arm fat for the time it takes to beat it correctly.  We are up to 8 batches, and because of a recent share/flop, I decided to the last 3 myself, one after the other to see if I could refine the process.  Bingo, bango, bongo, I hit utter perfection on #3...each batch was a little better than the last, and I think I have it down now...they will all be very, VERY good, but the look and feel of the last one was like no batch I have ever seen - let's see if you can do it now!  I will, however change the name so I don't get my arse sued...

See it's Fudge

Simple process, with just a few rules....this does NOT require a candy thermometer, and I would not even know what temp to tell you to cook it to - but everything else should be pretty precise if you don't want to make hot fudge sauce.  Which is what I do if one miserably fails....add a little milk or cream and thin to pourable consistency - it makes an unbearably good sauce for ice cream, pound cake or even to put in your white stuff to make chocolate milk.  What I'm saying is you really can't fail...unless perhaps you incinerate it.

In a large bowl, put:

2 Cups chocolate chips
2 cubes salted butter (1 cup)
1 tsp. vanilla

Set aside.  Prepare an 8x8 square pan by flipping it upside down, then putting a square of foil over it and molding it to the sides; carefully take the foil off and flip the pan over and fit it into the pan, molding to make it fit inside.  Spray with pan spray, or use a little melted butter with a pastry brush to paint the entire surface of the foil.

In a large saucepan (too small and you'll be scraping burnt sugar off your stove for weeks) put:

1 SCANT cup evaporated whole milk (one cup minus 2 Tablespoons)
1-1/4 C. mini marshmallows OR 10 large ones (I throw in a small handful/one more big one for fun)
2 cups sugar

Stir mixture carefully with wooden paddle if you have one, or a wooden spoon, try not splash it up the sides too much to prevent crystallization.  Put over medium high heat until it starts to boil, then turn down so it continues to boil, but not wickedly gets too hot and overcooks that way.  Time it for exactly 6 minutes from the time it starts boiling hard enough that you can't make it stop by stirring it, then remove from heat and immediately pour over butter/chocolate.  Stir with a wooden spoon until butter and chocolate are completely melted, then break with tradition and take your hand mixer to it....beat the hell out of it, scraping the sides until it starts to cool and get thicker....when it's thick enough that you have to scrape it out of the bowl rather than pouring it, it's ready.

At this point you would add nuts if you like - the recipe always had you add it to the chips and butter, but I suspect the oils in the nuts might have messed with the texture.  I now just fold them in before I scrape it into the pan and it works just dandy.  Dump/scrape all into the pan, and smooth out with swirly's if you wish and make sure you get it evenly into the corners.  Let it sit for several hours, or put in the fridge if you need it in a hurry....I don't because it makes it too hard, and I'm afraid it will taste like onions or smoked fish or whatever weirdness is lurking in my fridge.  When it's hard, remove entire batch by pulling the foil out of the pan, peel it off and put on a cutting board to cut.  I use a long knife with a paring knife, and scrape the long knife on both side with the small one to keep cuts might try dipping it in warm water, but it can get messy.

I like that if you leave the cut fudge out and slightly separate the pieces, they form a crust on the outside that is like a super thin shell that protects the inner creaminess lurking within...if you put it in a sealed container or wrap it it'll stay soft, but whatever floats your boat.  The only problem you have now is what are you gonna do with the fudge scrapings?  I have a good idea...."Oh fuuuuuuuudge...."