Although I know of many people who don't necessarily consider chocolate to be a part of a balanced diet, I have had a difficult time over the years finding anyone who does not like chocolate fudge. I'm sure these individuals do exist, but the fact that they seem to be few and far between is why, in my opinion, fudge has traditionally been such a go-to dessert. It's made in massive quantities and distributed as gifts during the holidays, it's a staple in the tourist shops of every major city, and it's what I thought would be a perfect addition to my monthly staff potluck.
As unusual, my week was a busy one, and when I was reminded of the potluck, I searched my brain for a simple and delicious dish I could put together with what I had already in my cupboard, and with a minimal amount of time spent actually cooking. For me, there simply is no picking up a box of bakery cookies (though there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so). So I went on a brief search for fudge recipes, which actually could have taken longer than the actual preparation time of any of the ones I was looking at; the sheer quantity of fudge recipes floating around out there is a testament to this candy's popularity. I found countless varieties of peanut butter, maple, peppermint, marshmallow fudges, along with another subset of nutted fudges. Even the basic chocolate fudges could have been made with cocoa powder or baking chocolate, cream cheese or condensed milk.
Since I was hoping to avoid a trip to the grocery store, I chose a Hershey's recipe with a simple ingredient list. The preparation is a bit more involved and precise, and much more of what I consider “candy making” to be: after all, it calls for an actual candy thermometer! I do not own one of these, but I found that with careful attention, I was able to get by just fine without it.
And I'm glad that I tried to: the fudge turned out rich and ever-so chocolatey, and though a bit heavy, one piece is all it takes to enjoy the fullness of this fudge.
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Line 8-or 9-inch square pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter foil.
2. Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in heavy 4-quart saucepan; stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to full rolling boil. Boil, without stirring, until mixture reaches 234°F on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water, forms a soft ball which flattens when removed from water. (Bulb of candy thermometer should not rest on bottom of saucepan.)
3. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla. Do not stir. Cool at room temperature to 110°F (lukewarm). Beat with wooden spoon until fudge thickens and just begins to lose some of its gloss. Quickly spread into prepared pan; cool completely. Cut into squares. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature.