Peanut Butter Crunch Fudge

  • Serves: Makes about 75 pieces
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Variation: Nutella Crunch Fudge
Fudge is a creamy, semi-soft crystalline candy. The key to its smooth and creamy texture is achieving fudge that's filled with tiny sugar crystals that are so small that they are imperceptible to the tongue. Making homemade fudge is as much technique and timing as it is a recipe, so it takes experience to make it well consistently.

I love Peanut Butter Fudge that has lots of crunch to it, so I add chopped peanuts to my recipe, in addition to my using chunky peanut butter! Salt and peanuts always seem to go together, so I often add in more salt to this recipe, too!
CANDY RECIPE HELP

INGREDIENTS
3 cups sugar
1 cup dark or light brown sugar, packed

1 1/4 cups whole or 2% milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chunky peanut butter; can use creamy
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts; toast lightly after chopping, if desired

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Set aside a 9 x 13-inch UNGREASED baking pan. Cover a baking sheet with a silpat, nonstick mat or with waxed paper and set aside.

2. Combine the sugars in a medium bowl.

2. In a heavy-bottomed, high sided 4-quart saucepan, pour the milk and corn syrup. Add in the butter, baking soda and salt.
SARAH SAYS: Don't use an "insulated" pan. This causes the fudge to cool too slow, resulting in a softer fudge. A heavy pan will help prevent scorching, and a large one will prevent messy boil-overs. Butter the sides to keep sugar crystals from forming.

3. Slowly pour the sugars dead-center in the middle of the milk mixture. Make sure you don't splatter sugar on the side of the pan.
If you do and sugar crystals are present on the side of the pan, wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush dipped in fresh water with every brush stroke.
SARAH SAYS: Always pour the sugar ingredients in the center of the pan, avoiding the sides. You want to keep the side of the pan clean, especially when it comes time to boil the sugar solution to prevent premature sugar crystallization.

I add the liquid ingredients first and then the sugar; the opposite of what most candy makers suggest. The traditional way leaves some sugar dry spots in the bottom of the pan causing them to burn even though traditional instructions have you draw an "x" in the sugar to moisten it slightly or to stir the two together. Stirring often causes sugar grains to cling to the inside of the pan. If they aren't washed off with a moistened pastry brush before boiling, the loose grains will cause the syrup to crystallize. My way is more convenient. That is, if done carefully (i.e., adding the liquid first followed by sugar), you can skip the initial wiping with the pastry brush.

4. Place pot over medium-high heat and stir occasionally with a spoon until the mixture comes to a boil.
If sugar crystals are present on the side of the pan, wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush dipped in fresh water with every brush stroke.
SARAH SAYS: If you are using a gas range, take care that the flames do not rise up the sides of the pot, which would cause the mixture to burn.
If the sugar mounds, gently push down on the mound with a spoon so that all the sugar is moistened.

5. Place or clamp on the CANDY THERMOMETER at the side of the pot.
Stirring CONSTANTLY, cook the mixture until it reaches 234 degrees F or the Soft-Ball Stage.

SARAH SAYS: The temperature that you boil the mixture to is CRITICAL. If it goes beyond 240 degrees F, the fudge will come out dry and crumbly. If the temperature doesn't reach
234 degrees F, the fudge will be too soft and will not set up during the kneading stage to follow.

Always stoop down to read the Candy Thermometer at eye level. It must be dry and clean when putting into the candy pot.

Soft ball: A small amount of syrup dropped into chilled water forms a soft, flexible ball, but flattens like a pancake after a few moments in your hand.

6. Immediately pour the peanut butter fudge syrup at once into the baking pan. Do not scrape the bottom or sides of the cooking pot or touch the fudge mixture in the baking pan.
SARAH SAYS: This will prevent any burned bits of sugar from spoiling the fudge.
Be careful! The fudge is HOT! It's 234 degrees F and burns! Keep a bowl of ice water nearby in case you get any on your skin. Immediately dip the affected area in cold water to stop the burn and seek medical attention!

7. Cool the fudge mixture until the pan feels warm, but not hot, (about 110 degrees F), with a wooden spoon, stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and peanuts. Continue stirring until the fudge becomes creamy and begins to lose its gloss.

8. Scrape fudge onto the silpat mat covered baking sheet and spread 1-inch thick. When firm, cut-into squares.

STORAGE
Store fudge in a cool, dark, dry place in an airtight container (tin or plastic), between layers of waxed paper or individually wrapped for about 1 to 2 weeks. Fudge stored in an air tight container at room temperature will "ripen" over the first 24 hours. That is, the texture will become creamier and more velvety.
Fudge stored in the refrigerator can last 2-3 weeks when kept in an airtight container.
Fudge left out in the open will last a couple of hours depending upon the foot traffic in the area.
It can also be frozen quite successfully for long term storage, about 3 to 6 months. Just be sure to wrap well in waxed paper, the foil, and placed in an airtight container so it doesn't absorb flavors from the freezer. Thaw fudge in its wrappers and storage container at room temperature. It will take about a day to thaw.

VARIATION
Nutella Crunch Fudge 

Substitute 3/4 cup peanut butter with 1/2 cup Nutella
Substitute the peanuts with an equal amount of skinned, roasted and chopped hazelnuts

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