How to know the temperature for sweets without a candy thermometer

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2. Have the proper tools

Want to make the perfect treat? Use a double boiler and a candy thermometer. I know that might sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.

Those are the tools to help you make it perfect every single time. You can use a sauce pan and no thermometer, but that leaves some guess work and CAN result in a recipe that does not set properly or it’s too dry.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a double boiler, why not try this Double Boiler bowl – it fits sauce pans of a variety of shapes and sizes and would be perfect for making this recipe.

What Equipment Youll Need To Make Traditional Vanilla Fudge

  • Large sauce pan with heavy bottom that is triple of the size of the fudge mixture (the mixture will bubble up a lot when cooking)
  • Digital thermometer (or candy thermometer) or a glass with cold water and a spoon for evaluating soft ball stage
  • Wooden spoon for beating fudge
  • Rimmed baking dish or pan lined with parchment paper and butter to hold finished fudge
  • Pastry brush with small saucer of water (or you can oil/butter the sides of the saucepan, which may be easier)
  • Sharp knife for cutting cooled fudge

Easy Fudge for Beginners

For first-time candy makers: Look for recipes that call for corn syrup, marshmallows, or marshmallow crème. These ingredients prevent crystallization of sugar into large grains, so the texture of the fudge will remain smooth. Also, recipes using cream or condensed milk are less likely to curdle than regular milk.

4. Prepare your pan correctly

One of the most common mistakes when making this type of recipe is to simply pour the hot mixture into the baking dish. Now, this won’t ruin it but it makes it so much harder to cut and serve.

You will also lose a lot of it in the corners and bottom of your pan (who wants to lose any of this yummy dessert?!). The best way to prepare your baking dish is to line it with foil and then lightly spray it with cooking spray.

Once your mixture is completely set, you can simply lift the foil straight out of your dish and cut it up easily. The foil will fall away from the sides of the fudge easily and there will be virtually nothing stuck to the bottom of the foil.

This make is super easy to cut and nothing gets wasted.

Top Tips for No-Fail Stovetop Fudge

1. Follow Directions

The key to making smooth and creamy fudge is to follow the directions exactly. Use an accurate candy thermometer and allow the mixture to reach the temperatures called for in the recipe before moving to the next step. Add each ingredient in the order listed by the recipe.

2. Oil the Saucepan

Some candy-makers like to coat the sides of the saucepan with butter or oil before they even start cooking any kind of candy because it helps prevent boil-overs and keeps sugar crystals from sticking to the sides.

Brushing Saucepan with Melted Butter Brushing Saucepan with Melted Butter | Photo by Meredith

3. Know When and When NOT to Stir

Stir the ingredients to dissolve the sugar until the mixture comes to a boil. If your recipe uses milk, stirring will keep the mixture from curdling. But once it reaches about 236–238 degrees F/113–114 degrees C (the "soft-ball" stage), do not stir it or even shake the pan. Why? Stirring at the wrong time causes the sugar to form large crystals. That's the "graininess" that inexperienced fudge-makers complain about. Smooth fudge, on the other hand, has tiny sugar crystals that melt on the tongue.

Melting Chocolate and Milk or Cream Melting Chocolate and Milk or Cream | Photo by Meredith

4. Cool Correctly

When your fudge reaches 236–238 degrees F/113–114 degrees C, it's done; you should remove the pan from the heat so it won't continue to cook. If your recipe calls for adding butter, you can place it on top of the fudge now so it can start melting, but do not stir.

No thermometer? No problem. To test the boiling mixture for doneness, drop a bit of it into a bowl of cold water. If it forms a ball that is soft enough to flatten between your fingers, the mixture is ready for cooling.

When the fudge cools to 110 degrees F/43 degrees C, beat the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until it's no longer glossy. Then you can stir in the nuts, or any other extra flavorings, and transfer it to the cooling pan.

Adding Butter to Fudge Adding Butter to Fudge | Photo by Meredith

5. Don’t Scrape the Pan

When you're transferring the warm fudge from the saucepan to the cooling pan, don't scrape the sides or bottom of the saucepan or you may introduce unwanted sugar crystals into your finished fudge.

Pouring Fudge into Lined Pan Pouring Fudge into Lined Pan | Photo by Meredith

More Tips for How to Make the Best Homemade Fudge

  • A digital thermometer is recommended for this recipe. A very common problem is the use of a candy thermometer that is not accurate.
  • If you don’t have a thermometer, use a bowl or glass of ice water to test for “soft ball” stage. This occurs when you place a very small amount of fudge into the ice water, it should immediately form a semi-solid mass, like a tootsie roll that is super soft.
  • If you are a beginner fudge maker, don’t make fudge when it’s humid or raining outside. It will affect the texture of your candy.
  • Do NOT stir the mixture after the initial stage where you heat the mixture to incorporate the sugar, or you risk crystallization of the sugar.
  • Use very sharp knife to cut to get clean edges
  • Aside from heating the fudge to the correct temperature, the next hardest part is probably beating the fudge. For this reason, it is recommended to only make one batch of this recipe at a time. Beating the fudge should take about 10 minutes.
  • Don’t scrape the pan when you are transferring the cooked fudge to the baking pan. otherwise, you risk the formation of sugar crystals (that will inevitably cause grainy, sandy fudge).
  • Use a large enough pot so fudge won’t boil over (It grows to about 3 times the volume at some points during boiling) and heavy enough so the fudge won’t burn. The last thing you want is for this fudge to make a mess on your stove!
  • Make sure the fudge is boiling and not merely simmering or else it will not reach the target temperature.

Tips

  • You can use white chocolate chips for a very sweet candy fudge.

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  • You can use coconut milk instead of evaporated milk and alternative sweeteners instead of sugar, if desired.

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Make It Roll: Soft, Firm and Hard Ball Stages

When you first start cooking up your sugar, essentially all you’ve got is a syrup. If you drop that into a glass of cold water, it’ll just sweeten the water. Once your syrup gets above 234 degrees Fahrenheit, however, it starts to hold together and make visible threads in the water. You’ll be able to gather them together and roll them into a ball that holds its shape in the water, but flattens easily between your fingers. Recipes call this the soft-ball stage, and it lasts until you get up to about 240 F. That’s how far fudge is usually cooked.

Between 245 F and 250 F, you’ll get a ball that’s still a bit soft but needs a good squeeze to flatten it. That’s the firm-ball stage, which is what you want for caramels and other soft-but-chewy candies. At 250 F to 265 F, the ball won’t flatten at all. That’s the hard-ball stage, and it’s what you want for homemade marshmallows or a really chewy toffee.

More foolproof fudge making tips

You can have all the tools in the world on hand, but without some tried and true techniques, your attempt at making foolproof fudge might not be successful. These tips for making perfect fudge should help.

Best ingredients for making perfect fudge

If you are new to cooking fudge, look for recipes that contain marshmallow cream, marshmallows or corn syrup.

Using these items in your ingredients will help to make sure the fudge does not crystallize into large particles. This ensures that it will set well, which is one of the main fudge problems for beginners.

The soft marshmallows in this rocky road fudge, compliment the creamy nature of the chocolate for a great tasting fudge.Also be sure to use good quality pure vanilla extr

Also be sure to use good quality pure vanilla extract(not the cheaper imitation flavor) and full cream butter. These ingredients make a huge difference in the taste of the finished fudge recipe.

Don’t substitute margarine for butter, since it contains more water and the fudge won’t set as well.

Which is best for making perfect fudge – milk or cream?

Regular milk has a tendency to curdle at high heat.  Try to find recipes that call for evaporated milk or cream instead. Cream also gives a smooth texture to your fudge that milk just won’t deliver.Many fudge recipes that are labeled “no fail

Many fudge recipes that are labeled “no fail fudge” call for sweetened condensed milk. If you want a fudge that is sure to set, try a recipe with this ingredient in it.

Gather your ingredients before you begin making the fudge

This is a good rule of thumb for any recipe, but for fudge, which can sometimes set quickly, it is extra important. Doing this will also make sure that you have everything you need to actually make the fudge. Nothing is worse than getting to the end of the re

Nothing is worse than getting to the end of the recipe and finding out that you don’t have the nuts, or chocolate chips that you were SURE were in the pantry.  (Don’t ask me how I know this!)

Don’t scrape the cooking pan after the boiling is reached

A question that I am often asked is “Do you stir fudge while boiling it? The answer is yes and no.

Sugar has a tendency to crystallize when cooked to a high temperature. This happens whether you make fudge in the microwave or on the stove top.

Stirring is part of the procedure in either case while the mixture is brought to a boil, but only until this point.

If you continue stirring through the rest of the cooking process, you will cause over crystallization and the fudge will become grainy.

Remember, if you scrape the edges of the cooking p

Remember, if you scrape the edges of the cooking pan when you remove the fudge, it may allow sugar crystals to mix with the fudge ingredients.

A way to avoid the issue of crystallization is to coat the sides of your pan with a brush dipped in water before you start the cooking process. 

By all means, scrape the pan to “taste test” after you get the fudge in the pan! That is part of the fun of fudge making!

Avoid making fudge on a humid or rainy day

Surprisingly, humidity can affect fudge making. On humid days, the candy mixture can start reabsorbing moisture from the air. 

This will make your fudge softer than you would like it to be. It’s recommended that you make fudge on dry days when the humidity is low.Cool weather is also recommended for making perfec

Cool weather is also recommended for making perfect fudge, which is why so many fudge recipes are made in the colder months.

The fudge sets more quickly and has less chance to form unwanted crystals which make it grainy.

Test your candy thermometer to ensure perfect fudge

Many cheap cooking thermometers are notoriously inaccurate. Be sure to test yours before you begin for best results.

To test a thermometer, bring water to the boiling point and insert the thermometer into the water, being sure not to let it touch the bottom of the pan.  Let the temperature rise until the water boils. It should stop at 212º F.

Trying to make something like caramel style fudge requires a very good quality candy thermometer for best results. Cool first, then beat the fudge

Cool first, then beat the fudge

Once you have made sure to cook the fudge to the desired temperature, remove it, allow it to cool, undisturbed, to 110ºF and then beat it vigorously.

A slight skin should form on the top of the fudge. It can take a while to reach this stage.

Do this before adding other ingredients such as nuts and dried fruit.

One trick my mother taught me is to place water in the sink and then set the pan of fudge into the water while you beat it.

Many professional fudge makers pour the fudge mixture onto a marble slab to get it to cool. The marble allows the fudge to cool evenly and quickly.Once cool, beat the fudge until it begins to thick

Once cool, beat the fudge until it begins to thicken and has lost its glossiness.

Just as not stirring was important during the cooking stage, beating now is very important. Stirring controls the size of the sugar crystals that form and this keeps the fudge from getting grainy.

Take care when adding other ingredients to fudge

It’s fine to experiment and add other ingredients to your fudge mixture, but be careful to pay attention to their water content.

If the ingredients have a high amount of water in them, this will affect the consistency and the fudge may not set well.  

Some safe ingredients to add to fudge are:  

  • nuts
  • marshmallows
  • raisins
  • other dried fruit
  • peanut butter
  • M&Ms
  • chunks of your favorite candy bars.

Be sure that the ingredients go well together like the peanut butter and chocolate in this buckeye fudge.

Another thing to keep in mind when you are adding nuts or fruit to your fudge is their temperature. It is advised to warm them slightly in a microwave before adding them.

If you add them to the fudge mixture when they are too cold, the temperature difference may “shock” the fudge and make it turn solid too quickly.

Foolproof fudge needs a resting time before cooling

Sure, we all want a piece of that homemade fudge NOW…but cooling it too quickly can cause crystallization and a grainy fudge.Allow the finished fudge to cool at room temperatu

Allow the finished fudge to cool at room temperature for a while to set. The cooling time depends on the ingredients used, so use the instructions in your recipe for guidance.

I don’t recommend putting fudge in the fridge or freezer to get it to set.

Use a sharp knife to cut fudge

Be sure the fudge has completely set before you try to cut it to give you those perfectly shaped edges. Clean the knife from time to time between cuts, as well.

This pistachio nut fudge has a professional look to it, in great part by the perfectly straight edges.It is also a good idea to “score” the

It is also a good idea to “score” the fudge with a sharp knife while it is still warm. This will make cutting it into even squares easier, later, when the fudge has set.

Storing fudge properly

If you go to the trouble to make perfect fudge, you will want to store it properly.  To keep homemade fudge at its best, cover it tightly with waxed paper, foil, or clear plastic wrap.

Once wrapped, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

If the recipe specifies that you store it in the fridge, be sure to keep it there.

Fudge can also be frozen for later use. Some fudge has a tendency to be sticky. If you store it in layers, add wax paper or parchment paper between the layers.

Check out this post to learn more uses for parchment paper.Putting the fudge in individual baggies inside of

Putting the fudge in individual baggies inside of gift boxes is helpful for protecting homemade fudge that will be given as gifts. An added bonus is that the fudge will retain its freshness better.

Pin these tips for making perfect fudge

Would you like a reminder of these tips for foolproof fudge? Just pin this image to one of your dessert boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.

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