Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Vanilla fudge: Hamper project no. 3

The cute little 'Life is Sweet' Hope and Greenwood confectionary cookbook has been leaning idly against a pile of Observer Food Monthly magazines for over a year. To busy myself in the kitchen making sweets just seemed too extravagant a notion. That is, until the Christmas hamper project began, and my 6-month-old found contentment in his high chair. Fudge seemed a safe bet, and all the ingredients are available in your local supermarket. I polled friends on Facebook to decide which flavour to make - vanilla, ginger, or chocolate - and the feedback was overwhelming. Traditional vanilla came top.

Miss Hope and Mr Greenwood are a couple of sweet makers who set up shop in London, and now have over 10 Victorian-style outlets across the capital, offering traditional handmade British confectionary in covetable retro packaging. The book's 'characterful' recipe chatter is a bit too cutesy for me, and step-by-step photographs for each type of sweet would be useful, but the method text is fuss free and easy to follow. There is also a useful storing section at the front, which informed me that my fudge would keep well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, and freeze for 2 months.

A quick summary of my sweet-making experience, before I quote the recipe verbatim:

Pros Only one pan to clean; cheap ingredients
Cons Full and constant attention required; takes at least an hour to make anything
Tip Leave yourself lots of time - the recipe quoted '30 mins to make', it took an hour; make sure you have a radio close by, as there's lots of standing and stirring involved.

Makes 25-30 squares.
  • 700g (1lb 7oz) granulated sugar
  • 75g (3oz) unsalted butter
  • 200ml (7fl oz) evaporated milk
  • 200ml (7fl oz) double cream
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
Line a 20cm (8in) square baking tin, 4cm (1 1/2in) deep, with baking parchment.

Place the sugar, butter, evaporated milk and cream into a deep, heavy-bottomed pan and gently heat until all the sugar has dissolved, stirring with a wooden spoon. This takes 3-5 minutes. (You can check the sugar has dissolved by running a metal spoon through the mixture and looking on the back of the spoon for sugar crystals.)
Now, turn up the heat to medium and place your sugar thermometer in the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally just to make sure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. After 15 minutes the mixture should have reached 100C (212F), now turn down the heat to a simmer, as it is at this point that the fudge is most likely to burn.
Keep heating until the mixture has reached 115C (240F). Take the pan off the heat. Using an electric whisk or food mixer, beat the mixture for 10 minutes. Add the vanilla seeds and beat for a further 10 minutes until the fudge loses its gloss and goes quite grainy around the edges.
Pour into the prepared tin. After an hour or so, score the fudge with a knife to create squares. Once set, snap the fudge into rough squares.

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