Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Double Fudge Disappointment

Sometimes, the most promising things in life turn out to be the most disappointing.  And so it was with this Double Fudge.

The recipe looked amazing -- a two-layer bar candy whose ingredients are chocolate, heavy cream, sugar, butter and nuts.  And all cooked in a single saucepan. What could be better?  My mouth was watering as I prepared the bottom layer, even though I could sense not all was going well.  The mixture seemed a bit too grainy and the instructions to cook for seven minutes were a bit cryptic.  Should I stir the entire time, do I start timing after the butter melts, how high should I make the flame were just some of my unanswered questions.

 I especially wanted to make this because I'm reading a fascinating new book, The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins, which chronicles the rivalry between William Randolph Heart's New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. The Double Fudge recipe is from The New York Evening Telegram Cook Book published in 1908.

The bottom layer was ok.  But the top layer was a disaster -- it somehow seized in the pan, turning into a sandy mess instead of the smooth caramel topping I was expecting.  Still, in the face of disappointment, I continued on hoping for the best.  But it was not to be.

I let the candy cool after I somehow managed (using an offset spatula and a lot of force) to spread the top layer.

But when I tried to cut it into squares, it mostly crumbled and fell apart; the two layers had an almost reverse magnetic force and seemed to repel one another.  Plus, between the odd texture and the EXTREME sweetness (and I like sweet), it was unpleasant to eat.  Luckily I had another dessert to serve for Father's Day dinner, a blueberry pie, the subject of a future post.

But never one to let disappointment have the final word, I plan to research and apply more modern-day candy making techniques to this diamond-in-the-rough recipe.  Sometimes, when things don't work out as we plan, we're reluctant to throw good sugar after bad and walking away seems the easiest path.  But, with attention and nurture and compromise, almost every problem (in baking and in life) can be solved. And the reward is perfectly sweet and rich. And sometimes, with luck, the best ever.


  1. Maybe it was the "granite saucepan"? i mean what IS that?

  2. Lucky: I thought they meant one of those blue speckled pans one buys in the Amish country, and that it was specified to distinguish it from aluminum which is reactive when milk is cooked in it. I just used a stainless steel saucepan, but if I ever find one made out of "granite" I'll try that!

  3. Too bad this didn't work out. I wonder what % of published recipes are just totally bad/never worked, back then or now. I've been experimenting making ice cream and have been really surprised by how many "modern" recipes from pretty respected websites are just wrong or awful! The steps are easy, so it's not user error ;-)

  4. Margaret: An amazing number of published recipes are just plain wrong, which is one reason that using hand-written recipes isn't so crazy after all. I recently made a lemon meringue pie from a cookbook, and it was a disaster. The one I made a day later from a housewife's notebook was fabulous. Go figure. Epicurious is a good site (read the reviews) and many of Martha's recipes are quite good.

  5. I am actually researching Victorian candy making right now. If I am understanding my research correctly, granite saucepan originally referred to the speckled look given to enamel baked onto cast iron. You are close when you mention the blue-speckled pan. Modern "graniteware" is speckled porcelain on stainless steel. The heat conduction of cast iron is very different than that of stainless steel. My only other suggestion is to check the temperature and humidity of your room. Fudge and other candies have to be made in very specific conditions. Ideal is considered to be 68°F and under 40% humidity. I hope some of this helps you figure out the problems.

  6. Thanks so much, Mr. Karl. I haven't yet returned to this recipe (so many things to make!) but I will keep your suggestions in mind when I do.