Fudge essentially consists of boiled sugar and milk, which you flavor according to taste. Vanilla fudge strips down the classically chocolate version to a comforting, creamy and super-sweet confection. You’ll need a watchful eye, a candy thermometer and a bit of patience to successfully render your own version of this candy.
One approach to making vanilla fudge involves using butter, condensed milk, regular milk, corn syrup, sugar, a dash of salt and vanilla extract. For every cup of butter, you’ll use an entire can of condensed milk and about 3 cups of sugar. Add just a few tablespoons of the corn syrup, which helps smooth out the concoction, and vanilla and salt to taste. This array of super sweet ingredients yields an a cloyingly sweet candy that famed British chef Nigella Lawson suggests you top with a light sprinkling of sea salt. For a classic version, add just a few tablespoons of butter for every 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream and 3 cups of sugar; you’ll still want to add a tablespoon or two of corn syrup to give it a smooth texture, as well as vanilla and a pinch of salt.
A candy thermometer is an essential tool for vanilla fudge making. You’ll melt together the butter, cream or condensed milk, sugar and corn syrup over modest heat until it reaches a light boil. Stand over the pot and stir it constantly, to prevent the bottom from burning. After about 10 to 20 minutes, measure it with the thermometer until it reads “soft-ball” stage or about 235 to 245 degrees Fahrenheit. Lawson notes that your pan dimensions and how vigorously the mixture boils makes for the unpredictable cooking times.
Creating a Smooth Texture
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Allow it to rest a few minutes so the temperature drops to about 230 F. Then use an electric beater or a wooden spoon to beat the mixture to help cool it down further. The vanilla fudge thickens and becomes smooth during this process, forming a texture similar to smooth peanut butter. The fudge takes on a matte appearance, and small sugar crystals form, which gives the confection a creamy, melt-in-your mouth texture.
If you do not give the fudge an opportunity to cool slightly before beating it, larger sugar crystals may form — resulting in a grainy texture.
Cool and Cut
Pour the thick mixture into a greased or parchment paper-lined pan and spread it evenly. Allow the fudge to harden at room temperature, which ensures that the candy sets properly and the texture remains creamy. Lawson puts her fudge in the refrigerator for about two hours to cool completely. Cut cooled vanilla fudge into small squares for serving or to package for gift giving. Homemade vanilla fudge stays fresh for about two months.
References and ResourcesNigella.com: Vanilla Fudge
BBC Good Food: Vintage Vanilla Fudge
The Nibble: The Origin of Fudge