Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Tale of Two Fudgies

It's December, and my holiday traditions are in full swing. I just did the Jingle Bell Run this weekend, I've already started fielding concerned calls about being all alone at Christmas (I'm fine, everybody, I swear; I have something planned for every single day that we are off from work), I've misplaced the ice scraper for my car and will go buy a new one knowing that this will make the old one appear, and I bought the Carnation Famous Fudge Kit for my yearly adventure in kitchen masochism.

Before we walk through the inevitable disappointment of opening this year's box:

Fudge 2016

(why do I take a new picture of the box every year?), I want to take a minute to talk about last year's fudge. As you may recall, I made three kinds to take to work with me: the fudge kit, my Uncle Mike's pumpkin spice fudge, and Velveeta fudge.

I really need to explain why you should never make or eat Velveeta fudge, no matter how many family members or old ladies in the grocery store swear by it.

The fudge kit fudge turned out the best that this stupid box has ever turned out for me. That includes this year, which we'll get to in a minute. People at work ate it, but no one talked about it being great fudge or delicious or anything. They ate it the same way that people in our office will eventually eat any food that you leave in the breakroom, but no one seemed to enjoy it. People did seem to enjoy the pumpkin spice fudge. They ate it quickly, except for the people who don't like peanut butter and didn't eat any of it, and mentioned without prompting that it was tasty.

And then there was the Velveeta fudge.

No one ate the Velveeta fudge. Even I didn't eat the Velveeta fudge after the one piece to evaluate it for the blog entry. Over the course of the week, though, something happened to it. It started out soft, but by the end of the week it somehow got softer and less substantial, even though we were keeping it in the office fridge. It got almost spongy, but still looked the same, and then it started... discorporating? Dissolving? I don't know the word for what happened to it, but it began to leak an odorless clear liquid, and at the end of the week I threw it away along with its container, just in case it was cursed.

Do not make the Velveeta fudge, even for your enemies.

Maybe don't make them the Carnation fudge, either.

I decided last year that the trick to making the fudge kit is not to care about making the fudge kit. If you follow all of the instructions to the letter and second, the kit doesn't work. If you half-ass your way through it, though, you get something passable, like my mom, my friend Elizabeth, my friend Bernadatte, and me last year. It's not the best fudge you ever had in your life, but it's passably decent. This year I approached it the same way. I boiled the sugar and milk mix:

Fudge 2016

dumped in the chocolate chips and marshmallows, and then spread it in the pan, and just like every year I could tell immediately that it looked grainy and choppy and like an old pioneer woman's face:

Fudge 2016

I put it in the refrigerator to set, and got to work on my friend Jim's fudge recipe.

Jim sent me his recipe after I liked a photo on Facebook of the fudge houses he made. His fudge turns out so well that he pours it into silicone molds and makes objects out of it. He swore that I would be able to follow it without trouble, and at this point I would try any fudge recipe if it looked even halfway promising. I made fudge last year out of processed cheese food and powdered sugar, for God's sake. Does that seem like the kind of thing that a person who is afraid to take chances on fudge recipes does? No, it does not.

I am no longer afraid of any fudge recipe.

I have stared into the Velveeta fudge abyss, and the Velveeta fudge abyss has stared into me also.

Not that Jim's recipe was an abyss. It actually was really easy, just like he said. It started with heating up light corn syrup, chocolate chips, and condensed milk:

Fudge 2016

and then, when it was melted:

Fudge 2016

I removed it from the heat, stirred in the vanilla, and then sifted in powdered sugar.

I also screamed, "THIS IS THE FUDGE! THIS IS THE FUDGE ON THE BOX!" because it was. It was glossy and smooth and poured easily and I could even smooth the top. It was like thick frosting. I've been fooled before, though, so I tried to keep my hopes low as I put it in the fridge and ignored it for two hours. There was every chance that it would crystallize, or remain liquid forever, or do whatever the Velveeta fudge did to itself. Just because it looks good doesn't mean it is good, especially in my fudge workshop.

When I took it out of the fridge, though, it still seemed promising. Note the contract with the fudge kit fudge:

Fudge 2016

and then note the finished products:

Fudge 2016

One of those is a gritty, crumbling disappointment that finds new ways to hurt me every time I try to make it, and one of those is a soft, creamy, delicious square of shiny fudge that looks exactly like the perfect fudge on the box that a food stylist spent hours making out of modelling putty and a thin sheen of glycerin. I'm taking them both to work tomorrow, but I bet my coworkers will be a lot more thankful for my friend Jim than they will be for Carnation's stupid box kit.

Now I just need a foolproof recipe for peanut butter fudge.


Erin said...

A few thoughts, friend:
1) Do we get Jim's recipe?
2) Have you tried the one on the Marshmallow Creme Jar (that's my usual go to).
3) I laughed out loud on multiple occasions. I want there to be an anthology of Joel blogs...and one whole chapter should be devoted to fudge.

Miss you!

Justin Bower said...

Some people look forward every year to Christmas specials on TV. Some look forward each December to holiday parties, or Christmas Eve Mass, or the wonder and delight in a child's eyes.

I look forward to this post.

Mrs. Splapthing said...

More thoughts:

1. If you didn't post fudge box photos every Christmas, I would be more disappointed than Cindy Lou Who (who was no more than two) when the Grinch stole her pampoozles and wuzzles.

2. Yes! We need the recipe!

3. Add peanut butter to the recipe you just made, and... voila! Peanut butter fudge!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

My old pioneer woman's face has just got even more crinkly after laughing over this .