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I am absolutely addicted to making my own candies and confections, and I just adore making all kinds of fudge and truffles. However, I seem to have this issue whenever I go with a very simple recipe: vanilla fudge. I get caramel. Every. Single. Time. Don't get me wrong - it's delicious! But it's definitely soft caramels, not creamy vanilla fudge. Where am I going wrong?

Heat ingredients to soft ball stage *about 235. Remove from heat and pour into kitchenaid mixing bowl. Let sit til cooled to 110. Add vanilla and beat on low until mixed. Step up a speed, a minute at a time, until at medium high. Beat until no longer shiny. Pour into sheet pan to rest and set up.

Caramels. Every. Single. Time.

Help?

  • I don't have an answer to why you're getting caramel instead of fudge, but I do have a recipe that I'd like you to look at. The source for this one is reliable, and the photo is of fudge, not caramel. Vanilla Fudge. Do you see differences that might be significant? Is so, tell us. That might help us answer your question. The only thing I'm seeing so far is the use of the mixer. I'm no expert in candy making, but I'm not seeing that as the answer. – Jolenealaska Oct 11 '14 at 2:04
  • Note the typo in the recipe: the 110 is F, not C. The reviews, comments and tips are otherwise helpful too. – Jolenealaska Oct 11 '14 at 2:06
  • Not really any significant diffs. I used 3c white sugar, 1 stick butter, 1c milk, 1/2c heavy cream, 1/4c light corn syrup. 2tsp vanilla (though I was going to experiment with vanilla bean paste next time, I don't think that will make a difference in the consistency). I know that by using regular milk instead of evaporated or all heavy cream, I'm giving myself a longer cook time to get the extra moisture content out, but the last time I used a different recipe and had the same result. I unfortunately have to use a mixer instead of beating by hand because of my fibromyalgia and arthritis. – Amateur Candyholic Oct 11 '14 at 2:20
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It's a somewhat long shot, but if I were you, I'd give it a try again, using another form of vanilla (maybe precook a pod in the milk, then scrape out the seeds and add them), no corn syrup at all, and pay attention to using sweet butter, not cultured butter.

Fudge is all about forming the right size crystals in the supersaturated sugar solution. From your description, no crystals form at all. This could happen if you inadverently invert your sugar (= split it into glucose and fructose). In home cooking, this is usually done on purpose with acid when making non-crystalized candy. So, just in case that either your butter or your vanilla extract contains some acid, I'd use the versions guaranteed not to have any, vanilla pods and sweet butter. It's not sure that they are doing something wrong, because butter in the supermarket is rarely cultured, and vanilla extract doesn't contain acid normally, but it's better to make sure.

On an industrial level, invert sugar is created with enzymes. While corn syrup starts out as starch and not sucrose, I can imagine their enzymes being able to split the fructose off the sucrose in your sugar too. I don't know what they do to the syrup exactly, and maybe the heat will deactivate the enzymes anyway, but I think it is worth a try to make it with pure sugar, so there is no source for enzymes to land in your fudge and invert it.

If none of these is the culprit, then I'm afraid the next likely explanation is the mechanics of the beating. But maybe it's not about the hand vs. mixer beating as such. It's possible that you've been stopping too early, or that changing the attachment used for beating will change the outcome.

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