9 Common Fudge Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Homemade fudge can be a little fussy, but it's easy to make if you avoid these common fudge mistakes.
If your pot heats unevenly, chances are good the sugars will burn, giving fudge an unpleasant, acrid taste that’s impossible to fix. This is often the result of a pot that’s too thin. Instead, invest in a heavy-bottomed, stainless steel pot to set yourself up for success.
Does your fudge have a gritty or grainy texture? The sugars probably crystallized, a common mistake when making candy like fudge or caramel. If the melting sugar splashes onto the sides of the pan, it turns back into crystals and causes the fudge to seize up. To avoid this issue, swirl the pan instead of stirring it with a spoon. You can use a wet pastry brush to wipe down any sugar that sticks to the sides of the pot.
Fudge Didn’t Set
If your fudge turned out super sticky, or it didn’t set as it cooled, it probably never got hot enough. This mistake is super easy to avoid if you use a candy thermometer and cook the fudge to the temperature specified in the recipe (usually between 234 and 239°F). By the way, here’s how to make microwave fudge if you need a new batch in a pinch.
Too Soft or Too Hard Fudge
The amount of time you cook fudge directly affects its firmness. Too little time and the water won’t evaporate, causing the fudge to be soft. Conversely, cook it too long and fudge won’t contain enough water, making it hard with a dry, crumbly texture. Pay attention to the timetable specified in the recipe, and you’ll get the hang of it after a batch or two.
Here’s how to make homemade fudge step by step.
Fudge is basically an emulsion between sugar, butter and milk. If the butter gets too hot, it can separate, causing the fudge to become oily on top. This is easy to prevent by monitoring the temperature with a candy thermometer, but separated fudge can also be fixed.
To fix oily, hard or grainy fudge, scoop the fudge back into a pot with about a cup of water. Cook it over low heat until the fudge dissolves. Then bring the fudge back up to the temperature specified in the recipe and follow the remaining steps. The flavor may be slightly diluted, but the texture will be improved.
Sugar Crystals Formed
It’s important to beat the fudge ingredients to develop the right texture, but you won’t get smooth, creamy fudge if you beat it when it’s too hot. Beating fudge when it’s still over heat creates sugar crystals, aka the grittiness you feel in the fudge. Instead, wait to pick up the spoon (our Test Kitchen loves using wooden spoons) until the fudge drops to between 110 and 113°F, about 15 minutes.
Rock Hard Fudge
Beating the cooled batter is one of the crucial steps of fudge-making, but overbeating can turn fudge hard as a rock. Pay close attention to the change in appearance and only beat the fudge until it loses its glossy sheen. If you beat the fudge any longer, you might notice it start to seize, which tells you you’ve gone too far.
Bland Tasting Fudge
Your fudge will only be as good as the ingredients you use. Quality butter, chocolate chips and vanilla extract will create a luxurious base that will hardly need anything to amplify the sweetness. Beyond the basics, our Test Kitchen recommends mix-ins of equal quality. For example, if you want all-out with the best chocolate brands, do the same for any nuts, extracts or candies. You can make candy-shop quality fudge by toasting nuts before mixing into the fudge or making sure you’re not using last year’s peppermint sticks to crush into this year’s fudge. The fresher, the better!
Fudge-making requires time and attention to detail, but some of our favorite fudge recipes use a shortcut: sweetened condensed milk. These recipes don’t require a candy thermometer or any specialized equipment, so they’re perfect for beginners or anyone running short on time.