Chocolate is an ancient cooking product, used for at least 2,000 years, while fudge is a much more recent invention — only appearing in the United States in the 1800s. Fudge may incorporate chocolate or other ingredients to form a soft candy that can be flavored any number of ways including vanilla, peanut butter, chocolate and caramel. Chocolate, in its purest form, is simply cacao powder combined with cocoa butter and a sweetener to form a solid block.
Ingredients in Fudge
Fudge is actually a type of fondant, a thick paste of sugar and water heated to a specific temperature and then cooled to create a soft texture. A classic fudge recipe can be tricky to master as you boil sugar, butter and milk or cream together to reach an exact temperature of 224 to 238 degrees F, or soft-ball stage, and then whip it as it cools so it reaches its hallmark creamy consistency. Flavorings, including chocolate, are added during the cooking or beating process. Chocolate may be an ingredient in fudge, but it isn’t required.
Chocolate can’t be made at home easily, which is why you usually buy it in block, chip or powder form. Cacao beans are cracked open, fermented and cleaned; the bean is then removed from the shell to isolate the “nibs.” Manufacturers then roast the nibs and grind them. A mixture of cocoa butter fat and coarse cacao are combined with more cocoa butter, sugar, sometimes milk and flavorings. The base chocolate mixture has to be tempered, which means it’s heated to specific temperatures and cooled to create a characteristic snap and texture.
Fudge may have been born from a mistake, notes The Nibble. Legend says it came about when candy makers over-crystallized batches of caramel. The first mention of fudge as a candy appears in 1886, in letters among college-age girls who discuss selling it in New York and Baltimore. Although chocolate may have been used for hundreds of years prior, documentation pins it to the Aztecs who drank it as a bitter elixir, which they thought had divine properties. They introduced it to the Spaniards, who brought it back to Europe where it quickly grew into a popular drink, but only when mixed with honey and sugar. Hard chocolate candy came about in the early 1800s, when a Dutch chemist played with an extraction of cacao butter and created a powder from cacao beans. This extraction, now known as Dutch cocoa, eventually led to the creation of solid chocolate bars.
Chocolate can be melted and used for a variety of culinary purposes, including cakes, icings, other candies and even savory sauces. Fudge, however, has just one purpose — eating. You cannot readily melt down fudge and add it to recipes. True chocolate comes in just one flavor, while fudge has many flavors. And, white chocolate isn’t chocolate at all, but a mixture of cocoa butter, sugar, milk and usually vanilla — it’s missing the cacao that defines chocolate.
References and ResourcesThe Nibble: Origin of Fudge
MIT Laboratory for Chocolate Science: What is Chocolate
Smithsonian Magazine: A Brief History of Chocolate
David Lebovitz: What is White Chocolate?