If you know me, you know that I have a holiday tradition of struggling with making fudge.
So many of my friends and family know about my struggle that right around Thanksgiving every year it starts becoming a topic of conversation. People will casually bring it up, giving me the side-eye to see if I will fly into a violent rage, or they might just come right out with it. My Uncle Mike, for example, gave me a piece (OK, I ate like five pieces) of fudge at Thanksgiving this year, and then handed me a printed out recipe. My friend Sharon presented me with the Carnation Famous Fudge Kit, a source of self-esteem damage, wailing, and gnashing of teeth in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 (but not 2014, when I decided to try to follow a pair of fudge recipes instead), for my birthday this year, but my mom went ahead and made the fudge from it because I was afraid to bring it on an airplane after the TSA went into my checked suitcase and confiscated my shaving cream on my flight to New York.
As has happened often in past years, my mom casually followed the directions while feeding dogs, loading the dishwasher, and talking on the phone and still somehow produced delicious fudge just like on the box while explaining that it's so easy.
Lots of people tell me that fudge is easy.
So many people tell me this that I sometimes think, "I bet this is how Carrie felt at the prom," as I watch their stupid mouths move, but we're getting off topic. Back to the point, everyone I know can make fudge and I seem to have some sort of fudge problem.
I decided this year to make three kinds of fudge: the Famous Fudge Kit, the recipe that my Uncle Mike gave me, and Kraft's allegedly award-winning Velveeta Fudge recipe. Yes, that's right: I made fudge out of something that might be cheese. I am so desperate at this point to make creamy, delicious fudge that if someone told me the secret was clubbing baby seals to death while sobbing children watched, I would be online comparing prices on wooden clubs and plane tickets to rocky Canadian beaches by the end of the day. Compared to that, melting some fake half-cheese product barely registers on my mental radar.
Before I started, I decided to get myself in the mood by decorating the kitchen. In the same way that some cultures have a kitchen deity and a small shrine, I decided that I would summon the spirit of Christmas, and hung my most powerful Christmas talisman above the stove:
My homosexual sexy Christmas merman ornament. God bless us, every one, and God bless the fudge.
I started with Uncle Mike's Pumpkin Spice Fudge, which starts with four cups of white chocolate chips:
and some peanut butter:
I think white chocolate is a vile shadow of real chocolate, but again, baby seals. I will try anything at this point. I microwaved the chips and peanut butter in short bursts, stirring often, and when it was fully blended:
I added the vanilla, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The recipe called for two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, but I couldn't find that at the grocery store (I probably missed it by about two weeks) so I used one teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg. It looked a little browner than Uncle Mike's did, but I poured it into the dish:
put it in the refrigerator, and hoped for the best.
Then I moved on to the Velveeta Fudge, which starts with a lot of butter, light corn syrup, and some baker's chocolate:
And then the Velveeta comes in:
So much Velveeta. That gigantic brick of Velveeta was the smallest size block they had at Kroger, and now I have half a block of Velveeta in my refrigerator and no idea what to do with it because I usually only eat real cheese. Somewhere in my slow cooker book there are soup recipes that call for Velveeta, so maybe I can get rid of this that way. Anyway, I added the Velveeta:
and threw it in the microwave. I took it out halfway through cooking to stir, and immediately had grave reservations:
"What's the secret ingredient in your fudge?"
"The bile I accidentally threw up while leaning over a steaming bowl of fake cheese and chocolate bars."
I didn't really throw up, but that doesn't look anything like food that you would want to put in your mouth. Even scarier, this is a two bowl recipe. The other bowl, patiently waiting for the first one to finish in the microwave, contains 32 ounces of powdered sugar:
This must be what a Christmas buffet at Pablo Escobar's house looked like.
Once the first bowl seemed fully melted and blended, I poured it into the second bowl and started mixing. When I decided I was done, it looked a lot like fudge should look:
so I poured it into a baking dish and slid it into the refrigerator.
And then I came to the third fudge recipe:
It wouldn't be Christmas without it.
I was slightly tired of fudge making at this point, and also thought about the way my mom approaches this kit, and decided to just do it, not think about it, and let the chocolate chips fall where they may. I assembled the parts:
heated and stirred until the marshmallows melted, and poured it into the baking dish:
where it came out looking exactly like it has every other year.
I hate you, Carnation Famous Fudge Kit.
I hate you.
Hours later, the fudge was allegedly ready:
From left to right:
Uncle Mike's Pumpkin Spice Fudge: Delicious. Not too much pumpkin, not too much spice. The texture is nice, you can't taste the peanut butter at all, and it's a nice, tasty little bite. Or two. Or five. Shut up.
Kraft Velveeta Fudge: It's not bad. It's a little soft, and a little over sweet. I won't be making it again, but it may appeal to people who like their fudge a little sweeter than most chocolate fudge.
Carnation Famous Fudge Kit: The key, apparently, is to stop caring. It's firm, chocolatey, and not bad. This is the best that kit has ever come out for me.
The baby seals are safe, for now, and the office gets to snack their way through a ton of fudge this week.