Butter the pan and get your cup of ice water ready.
This recipe for fudge is a classic one from my childhood. I like it because it requires no special equipment or ingredients — just sugar, cocoa powder, milk, salt, butter and vanilla. Even a candy thermometer is optional.
I like this recipe for its practicality and deliciousness, but I love it because it's my father's recipe and every time I make it, it's like I'm spending time with him again.
I grew up making this fudge with my father, who spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen which was rare for a man of his generation. He was always welcoming, pulling up a chair to the stove and hovering close as I stirred the molten chocolate bubbling away. It's this familiarity that allows me to be comfortable making this fudge without a candy thermometer but please feel free to use one if that feels safer to you. Here's a great little clip on how to test for the soft ball stage:
This fudge is not the creamy, smooth kind. It has a dense, textured chewiness as you bite into it and it kind of shatters and then melts in your mouth. I tend to prefer this to the super smooth versions often made with heavy cream or condensed milk. And again, I really appreciate that I can whip up a batch with simple ingredients that I always have in my pantry and refrigerator.
Classic Chocolate Fudge
Makes 8 to 10 1-inch squares
What You Need
2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of whole milk
2 tablespoons butter (plus more for greasing the dish)
2 teaspoons vanilla
Measuring cups and spoons
Thick-bottomed sauce pan
Pyrex pie plate or dish
1. Measure the ingredients and whisk. Measure the sugar, cocoa and salt in the sauce pan you are using to cook the fudge. Add the milk and whisk until blended. Don't worry about a few lumps, they'll go away when you heat the mixture.
2. Bring to a boil. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium-low flame. Stir occasionally with the spatula but not too often or your fudge will be grainy. Keep the heat as low as possible to avoid scorching.
3. Prepare pan, ice water, and water bath. While the fudge is cooking, butter the pan that will hold the fudge (see note). Fill a glass or jar with ice and water and set next to the stove. Fill your sink with several inches of cold water.
4. Determining when the fudge is done. Start checking the fudge for doneness after 10 minutes of boiling. If you are using a thermometer, your fudge is ready when it reaches 235°F. Or go old-school and use the soft ball test. Using a metal spoon, drizzle a little fudge in a cup of ice water. If it forms a soft, pliable ball, then it's done.
Another hint that your fudge is almost ready is that it will go from a mix of larger and smaller bubbles to just the smaller, tighter bubbles. Begin testing as soon as you notice this change.
5. Add the vanilla and butter, and beat until cool. When the fudge is done, turn off the heat and gently stir in the vanilla and butter. Remove from the stove and place the pan of fudge in the sink of cold water being very careful not to splash into the pot. The water may sputter for a few seconds when the hot pan hits it. Holding the pot steady with one hand, beat the fudge using a wooden spoon until it is fairly cool but still liquid.
6. Pour into the pan. Pour the fudge into your prepared pan. It should be liquid enough to spread out evenly on its own.
7. Cool, cut, and enjoy. Allow the fudge to cool before you cut it. I find that about 1/2 hour at room temperature is good. Use a thin-bladed sharp knife to cut the fudge. You can dip the knife in hot water, wiping the blade dry with a dish cloth, if needed.
• I find that a pyrex pie plate, my dad's preferred fudge pan, makes the squares too thin, so I use a smaller individual gratin dish as pictured. You can also just double the recipe, using the pie plate (or even an 8 x 8-inch square pan).
• Just before you pour the fudge into its cooling pan, you can stir in any number of extras. A chopped nut such as walnut, almond, or macadamia is wonderful. Chopped candy canes are good for the holidays, too.