Gift homemade fudge this Valentine's Day

Tips on how to make homemade fudge and how to best pair it with wine.
Homemade fudge makes a tasty gift. Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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Gifting chocolate for Valentine’s Day has been a popular gesture for centuries. According to Smithsonian Magazine article “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life” chocolate has roots in Mesoamerican history as upper class Mayan and Aztec elites were known to savor a drink made from roasted cacao beans mixed with ingredients including honey, vanilla and chilies. Sipping chocolate became popular in Europe in the early 1600s among royal courts. Commercial chocolates, as we know it today launched through marketing efforts including Richard Cadbury in 1861 who packaged a chocolate you could eat in heart-shaped boxes adorned with cupids and rosebuds; Milton Hershey in 1894  who began putting chocolate over caramel candies, and in 1907 began producing the beloved tear-dropped shaped chocolate candies. This year, why not gift out homemade fudge, and keep some for yourself to enjoy later.  While a candy thermometer is nice, it is not needed. Be sure to use ingredients at room temperature, and to stir the chocolate regularly to keep the mixture smooth. Also, avoid exposing the chocolate mixture to moisture or it will seize up. Chocolate fudge base ingredients:

  • One 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes (salted or unsalted works).
Directions: Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with a thin layer of non-stick cooking spray or your usual baking grease preference of choice. Line the pan with parchment paper, allowing excess paper to hang over the sides. In a large, heatproof bowl combine the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, chocolate, and butter; set aside.  Stovetop method Use a double boiler or create one using a saucepan and a heatproof bowl. Fill the saucepan about 1/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to barely a simmer.  In a large, heatproof bowl or top part of the double boiler combine the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, chocolate, and butter. Place on top of the pot. Stir frequently, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth (about 8 minutes). Remove from heat. The mixture will be very thick. Use a sturdy spatula to scrape the fudge into the prepared pan and smooth over the top.  Microwave method: Combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat gradually in 10 second intervals. Stir frequently between intervals to make sure the chocolate is fully melted and tempered. Once completely smooth fold in vanilla extract. Use a sturdy spatula to scrape the fudge into the prepared pan and smooth over the top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours minimum, or until firm. To remove lift fudge out of the pan using excess parchment and transfer to a cutter board. Gently peel off parchment and cut into squares.  Serve at once or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month. Fudge can also be kept in an airtight freezer safe container for up to two months. Bring to room temperature before serving. Fudge topper ideas Before chilling, sprinkle one or more of these ideas on top of the fudge. Note: wait about 30 minutes after chilling before adding chocolate candies or they will melt.
  • Large sea salt flakes.
  • Crushed pretzels.
  • Mini chocolate candies.
  • Crushed mint chocolate squares.
  • Crushed candy cane pieces.
  • Chopped almond/walnut/pecan pieces.
  • Drizzle caramel over the top.
  • Mini marshmallows.
Fudge stir in ideas Bring the basic fudge recipe to the next level, and delight your taste buds, with one of these stir in ideas. Gently fold in the ingredient after melting the chocolate, condensed milk and butter combination.
  • Add ¾ cup chopped walnuts, almonds or pecans.
  • Add 1-2 crushed candy canes and substitute ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract for vanilla extract.
  • Alternate in mint chocolate chips or chopped chocolate mint candies for part of the chocolate in recipe.
  • Add mini or smaller sized marshmallows.
Chocolate Pairings Many tasting rooms are known to host a chocolate and wine pairing where attendees can learn which types of wines can be enjoyed with different types of chocolate. The wrong pairing combination can be disastrous to your taste buds. The Murdick family, famously known for their fudge in Mackinaw City, Michigan has been making fudge for over 130 years. The family members currently running the shop put together basic guidelines for their customers who want to gift wine with one of their fudge recipes. Their basic tip on their website note to seek the same flavor note as is in the wine (type of chocolate, cherries, mint, nuts). Some flavors in the chocolate candies will enhance in flavor when paired with the different flavors of wines. Below are some of their suggested wine and chocolate pairings:
  • white chocolate/lighter chocolate: pair with a lighter-bodied and fruitier wine like a fruity chardonnay.
  • bittersweet and darker chocolate fudges need to be paired with stronger red wines with concentrated fruit notes. They suggest a Cabernet Sauvigon, Bordeaux, Merlot, or Zinfandel.
  • a milk chocolate fudge with a sweeter wine like a port.
In Winters, visit the Turkovitch Family Wines or Berryessa Gap Downtown tasting rooms to ask for pairing suggestions. Bring in some of the chocolate you’d like to pair it with to ensure a good match. Another option to consider it the Patio 29 Spirits Co. distillery tasting room to pair with one of their spirits.  ]]>

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