Sunday the 5th December and have I been writing Christmas cards? Have I finished my Christmas shopping? Have I had a good and thorough tidy round my flat? Caught up on book reviews and read any of the pile of books clamouring for attention? Finished the Christmas rota for work? Of course not to any of the above, instead I’ve made biscuits, mince pies, and fudge – all very nice and I’m telling myself useful preparation for the next few weeks. I feel very festive (as well as slightly sick after over sampling the fudge) up to and including the seasonal sense of panic that comes from not having started Christmas cards, not knowing where many of my friends live (because now I’ve left it quite late to find out), not remembering the names of most their spouses (far, far, too late to ask), and knowing I’ll be in exactly the same position in a week’s time...
Thanks to a day spent in the kitchen I have a stack of recipes I want to share, and a similar stack of cookbooks I want to rave about – it’s all terribly exciting (for me), indeed I’m so excited I hardly know where to start. Perhaps with an apology to the lovely delivery man from DHL. Gary (that’s his name) got back to me this afternoon after the dozens of dropped calls I left on his mobile to say he was outside my door. I was a good quarter of an hour away but the dear man promised to wait if he couldn’t get someone to take charge of my parcel. He even phoned me back to give me a progress report, so I take back everything I said. Someone who’s prepared to come out on a cold icy Sunday making sure I (and others) don’t have to go to Loughborough is someone who deserves the highest praise.
And now back to the kitchen – I’m quite proud of having made a successful batch of fudge today. I’ve tried before and ended up with a gritty, sticky, sugary mess. Not very nice. This fudge however is really pretty good, in the manner of an obsessive fudge maniac I’ve been comparing the recipe I used before (Nigella) and the one I used today (Hope and Greenwood). Today has much more in the way of detail and that’s clearly the way forward for a recipe pedant like me. The fudge is smooth, creamy, and sweetly delicious with just a hint of saltiness at the finish (I don’t even like fudge very much, more than a very small piece gives me a horrible headache, but none of that’s stopping me feeling ridiculously pleased with this stuff).
The Hope and Greenwood book ‘Life is Sweet’ is one I got last year, was hugely enthusiastic about at the time and then totally failed to use, I plan to spend serious time with it in the new year. I also used my sugar thermometer (a present from my dear dad last year) for the first time – turns out it makes all the difference.
Salted Vanilla Fudge
8 inch shallowish baking tin lined with baking parchment
700g granulated sugar
75g unsalted butter
200ml evaporated milk
200ml double cream
Seeds scraped from a vanilla pod
Maldon Sea Salt (or similar)
Place the sugar, butter, evaporated milk and cream in a heavy bottomed pan (one with good deep sides) and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved stirring all the while with a wooden spoon.
Introduce the sugar thermometer to the pan and turn up the heat to medium, bring the mix to boiling point, stirring regularly to make sure it doesn’t stick on the bottom. After 15 minutes it should have reached 100°c (212°f) at which point lower the heat as this is the danger point for burning.
Keep heating until it reaches 115°c (240°f) (soft ball...) this took far longer than I would have believed possible. When temperature is reached take off the heat and start to beat with an electric whisk – carry on for about 7 minutes and then add the vanilla seeds, carry on beating for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the fudge loses its glossy look and gets grainy round the edges. Just at the last minute add a good pinch or two of salt and whisk that in to.
Dollop into the prepared tin, smooth down and leave to cool. After about an hour score into squares and when it’s finally set (another couple of hours at least) snap into bits ready to share round else you go into some sort of sugar induced coma.