Oh Fudge (Two Ways)

A word about Valentine’s day: I have always loved it, even when I have been single (it’s happened once or twice).  Here’s the big secret behind my enjoyment – I have a lot more love in my life to share with more than just a boyfriend, and I bet you do too.  I know we shouldn’t need an excuse to show loved ones how much we really love them, but let’s face it – sometimes we just do.  We can always do little things here and there (and I hope you do), but Valentine’s Day is really about extravagantly displaying exactly how much we love one another.  It’s an excuse to splurge, whether it’s on calories, or gifts, or time spent doing something.

That being said, each of the recipes I will be posting this week is a labor of love.  They are somewhat time consuming and some require lots of attention.  But while I was waiting for sugar to boil this weekend, I sat by my stove (closer than is probably safe) with a book, and glanced up every sentence or so to check the temperature.  And you know what?  I finished a 400 page book.  True story.  So get in the kitchen, make some fudge, and read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand since Christmas.

just for you

Fudge Two Ways – Candied Ginger and Candied Bacon

I don’t want to go and reinforce gender stereotyping but one of these ways is decidedly more masculine than the other, I’ll let you decide which.

ALTON BROWN’S FUDGE RECIPE

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups sugar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

3 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing pan

1 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped, candied ginger or bacon

Directions

  • Grease an 8 by 8-inch pan with butter.
  • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, chocolate, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter, half-and-half, and corn syrup.
  • Over medium heat, stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved and chocolate is melted. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove the cover and attach a candy thermometer to the pot.
  • Cook until the thermometer reads 234 degrees F. Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter. Do not stir.
  • Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes or until it drops to 130 degrees F. Add vanilla and one cup of other ingredient of your choosing, if desired, and mix until well-blended – AB says mix until the shiny texture becomes matte.  I did this and ended up crystallizing the fudge in the pan and having to melt it back down with a little more half and half.
  • Pour into the prepared pan.
  • Let sit in cool dry area until firm. Cut into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Candied Ginger

Ingredients

Nonstick spray

1 pound fresh ginger root

5 cups water

Approximately 1 pound granulated sugar

Method

  • Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a half sheet pan lined with parchment.
  • Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices using a mandoline. Place into a 4-quart saucepan with the water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is tender.
  • Transfer the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
  • Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar.
  • Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes.
  • Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces.
  • Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Save the sugar that drops beneath the cooling rack and use to top ginger snaps, sprinkled over ice cream or to sweeten coffee.

spicy, sweet, chewy

The Ginger Fudge

Crystallized ginger is very strong flavor-wise, especially when it’s homemade and super fresh.  The spiciness and flavor of the ginger didn’t come through as strongly as I would have liked and if I make this again, I will probably increase the candied ginger to 1 1/2 cups.  So if you’re borderline on ginger, this might be a good starting point.

Candied Salted Bacon – via TheKitchn

Yields:8-12 pieces (depending on package size)

1 package center cut bacon

3/4 cup light brown sugar
Kosher

salt to taste

Method

  • Line a cookie sheet (with sides) with parchment paper or silpat in preparation.
  • Place bacon on cookie sheet, making sure not to overlap any edges.
  • Lightly sprinkle each piece of bacon with brown sugar (1-1 1/2 tablespoons/each) and place cookie sheet in cold oven.
  • Set temperature to 350* and bake 20-25 minutes, keeping an extra careful eye on them starting at the 18 minute mark.
  • Remove from oven and place cookie sheet on wire rack. Sprinkle salt over bacon pieces. Enjoy!

salty, smoky, sweet

See the carmel colored pools around the bacon?  Well, it’s carmel.  And I’m not saying it’s delicious and you should eat all of it…but if you stuck your finger in there after it had cooled a bit and licked it up a few times, I would be in no position to judge you.  Just sayin.

The Bacon Fudge

If you’ve ever been eating a nice pancake breakfast, only to get syrup on your bacon and then not be totally ecstatic about not having to put extra syrup on your plate specifically for this reason – this fudge probably isn’t for you, but I strongly suggest branching out.  Try some syrup on your bacon or sausage and then decide whether or not you want to make the bacon fudge.  I have been putting syrup on my bacon and sausage links since before I can remember.

recipients will have to guess which is which

Hazelnut Espresso Toffee

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Pablo Picasso: “Good artists copy.  Great artists steal.”  And it’s true.  Every great artist got his best idea from someone else.  This is along the same vein as every note already being sung.

for some lucky recipients

I stole this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  It’s a blog I check obsessively.  Deb’s recipes never done me wrong, and I never hesitate to use her recipe for a crowd, even (especially!) if it’s the first time I’ve ever made it.  It makes my boyfriend nervous, but I know it will always come out great.

This recipe was special because I was making sure it was Kosher for my boss, who is Jewish.  Luckily I was already out of sugar and the like, and I have special dishes just for baking that I don’t let anyone else use.  So it’s not like I had to go completely out of my way to make it extra-special just for her.  But I would have, because I’m awesome like that.

Did you guys know this symbol stands for Kosher?

Yep, it's true.

Check it out.  I bet you eat a lot more Kosher items than you thought.

Smitten Kitchen’s Coffee Toffee x2 is BFN’s Hazelnut Espresso Toffee….because I wanted it to sound impressive.

4 sticks or 16 ounces (!!!!)

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

3 teaspoons molasses (can swap corn syrup or honey)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt)

3 teaspoons instant espresso powder (I used Café Bustelo, which I’m not sure is instant or not, didn’t make a difference in the outcome)

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, or 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
(I actually probably ended up using about 3 cups, it’s slightly more like a candy bar)

1 cup chopped hazelnuts – or other nut of your choice, but hazelnuts are delicious.  (toasted, skinned, cooled,and chopped – yes, it’s a pain in the butt.  Do you have a friend or relative who needs an outlet for their anger?  Put them to work with a rolling pin or tenderizer.)

Line 2 small baking sheets (mine are 9×13, to fit in my teeny oven) with parchment paper or a silicon mat and set aside.

In medium heavy saucepan with a candy thermometer attached, melt butter, brown sugar, white sugar, molasses, salt and espresso together over together. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a whisk (an electric one would be really helpful – I tossed my hand blender because it was a hand-me-down from the early 80s – my hand cramped up doing this manually) until the temperature approaches 250F, at which point you should stir constantly until it reaches 300F-310F or what is known as the Hard Crack Stage.

Pour immediately into the prepared baking sheet — you can spread it more evenly with an offset or silicon spatula, but don’t worry if you have neither. Dump the chocolate chips over the hot toffee and let them sit for a minute.  When they look shiny, spread the chocolate over the toffee. Sprinkle the whole thing with the smushed hazelnuts.  Then just wait.  If you want it to harden faster, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and cram it into your tiny freezer, but do it fast before the other stuff starts falling out.

Nutty...hazelnutty.

Break into pieces and store in an airtight container. If your kitchen runs warm, or has a gigantic leaky radiator in it, you might prefer to keep it in the fridge so the chocolate doesn’t get soft.

Notice how gorgeous the photos are?  This is mutually beneficial relationship.

I will give a jar of toffee to whoever can name the movie that the caption from the 2nd photo is from.

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