Gifting aches

Sugar is a wonderful thing,  I’d almost consider it the most magical ingredient of all.

There are some who deem sugar as the devil, even natural forms found in fruit (I have a severe dislike for these kinds of people) but without it, where would we be? Not only would you be lacking the indulgence of your favourite sweet treats such as cakes, biscuits & the like, but so many savoury dishes, condiments & drinks benefit from our magical hero. For me, it’s as much a staple ingredient as salt & pepper, because without them how bland life would be.

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What’s so magical about sugar? Other than being everyone’s best friend, from sweet to savoury, this one simple ingredient can be transformed from sweet little crystals into such an array of tooth achingly good confections.

Caramel, toffee, boiled sweets, fudge, candy floss, there truly is no end to this wonderful ingredients talents. Homemade confectionery leaves my kitchen in abundance every December, it’s cheap & relatively quick & easy to make. My confection of choice? Fudge.

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Fudge is both a pleasurable & aching experience to produce, the smell as the sugar bubbles away & caramelises is beautiful (flashbacks to childhood visits to the sweet shop guaranteed), the inevitable aching that ensues in your forearms the following day is less so. The process however, is definitely worth the ache.

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As a child, I would always rustle through the tins of Quality Street at Christmas sourcing out the glistening pink ovals. Admittedly I would stockpile & hide them in my bedroom until nothing but coconut & toffee pennies remained, forever securing my chance at fudge (I was a greedy little thing – sorry Mam).

For this reason,  fudge is reminiscent of Christmas for me & seems like the perfect homemade treat for gifting. At present there are approximately 15 little bags of fudge assortments (& two tins for this greedy baker) on my lounge floor, waiting to be divied up between festive hampers or handed out to friends & family. If you would like to make something special to gift this year, I would definitely start here…

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VANILLA FUDGE

Ingredients:

Basic fudge:

  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 400g double cream
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tbsp liquid glucose

For vanilla:

  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

For chocholate:

  • 100g good quality dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

For cranberry & white chocolate:

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 100g dried cranberries

For Christmas spice:

  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of cloves

 

Method:

  • Place all of the ingredients, except the flavouring, into a large, heavy bottomed pan & add a sugar thermometer
  • Gently heat the mixture until the butter has melted & the sugar has dissolved
  • Bring the mixture to the boil & continue to boil for about 10 – 15 minutes until it reaches 116°C on the sugar thermometer
  • Once reached, immediately remove from the heat & leave to stand for 5 – 10 minutes until the mixture has cooled to 110°C on the sugar thermometer
  • Stir through the flavour ingredients
  • Continue to beat the mixture until the temperature drops to 60°C
  • Pour into a large square silicone mold (or any shaped molds) & leave to set before cutting

 

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