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In reading through a LOT of different approaches to making fudge, I am wondering about how the non-sugar ingredients affect the issue of temperature control (both heating AND cooling) and, therefore, the results in the recipes.

First of all, a question about heating the sugar solution - am I correct that in bringing a sugar solution to the soft-ball stage temperature, what you are doing technically is boiling-off water to the point where the sugar concentration is appropriate for the re-crystallization properties desirable in fudge? So, the temperature gives you an indication of the concentration of sugar in solution and different concentrations behave differently when cooled, is that right? Basically, the temperature is documenting sugar concentration achieved by way of evaporation.

If that is true, then I can buy that in heating the sugar and milk or cream or condensed milk to make fudge, the temperature would still be dictated by sugar concentration in the water part of the milk-product. So if we think of a a milk-product as water + solids + fats, the sugar concentration is still reliably documented by the temperature since the sugar will dissolve in the water of the milk and is (basically) unaffected by the solids and fat content. Is that, more-or-less correct?

Continuing along this same line of reasoning, would it also be correct to assume that as long as you add to the pot only ingredients that contain NO water, that you would preserve the integrity of the relationship between the temperature of the ingredients and the concentration of sugar in solution? So heating the chocolate or marshmallow (or whatever) with the milk/sugar solution won't fundamentally alter the relationship between sugar concentration and temperature?

Then what about adding ingredients during cooling? Most recipes where you heat all of the ingredients together (except butter and vanilla) instruct you to let the mixture sit undisturbed until it cools to (like) 110° F - I thought that the goal there is to have the sugar in a supersaturated state so that crystallization will occur rapidly when you stir.

But some recipes instruct you to add other ingredients after bringing the sugar/milk to the soft-ball stage - I would think that adding ingredients during cooling could induce a temperature change that could screw-up the supersaturated state and give you grainy fudge. Most of these types of recipes contain marshmallow. So, since marshmallow is mostly corn syrup, is the corn syrup controlling the re-crystallization properties of the sugar? If that's true, do you need to be careful with a marshmallow fudge during cooling at all?

  • Do these concepts help? The saturation point (the maximum concentration of sugar in water without crystal formation) is influenced by the temperature of the solution. It is possible to cool an unsaturated solution to a state of supersaturation. And vice versa, it is possible to heat a supersaturated mixture to an unsaturated solution. -- ex-Michelin star chef Peter Coucquyt – Tom Raywood Nov 18 '14 at 19:27
  • I understand that the saturation is tied to the temperature. My main questions involve (1) whether the addition of ingredients aside from the sugar/milk alter the relationship between temperature and saturation, & (2) does the ton of corn syrup in marshmallow affect the crystallization properties to the point where the care in cooling is not an issue. As far as the re-heating is concerned, I believe that a fudged fudge can be remedied by carefully re-heating it to dissolve the sugar again. Like pushing it up the hill and letting it roll back down. – Stephen Eure Nov 18 '14 at 19:35
  • The uphill bit is a kick here, as that is definitely how it feels. Thank you for condensing your points of inquiry. I'll continue to try to unravel your meaning, (not that any of that is your fault), with hopes of being some help. – Tom Raywood Nov 18 '14 at 20:10
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I think you may well be over thinking this just a little.

Water boils at 100c at sea level, sugar raises this temperature to around 110c depending on sugar content.

Specifically, adding 1 gram molecular weight of nonionizing solute (like sugar) to 1 liter of water increases the boiling point by 0.52 degree Celsius (C). 1 gram molecular weight nonionizing solute per liter =0.52 degree C increase in boiling point.

So when you boil your sugar syrup to soft ball 116c you've essentially, boiled all the water away and your left with sugar. Heating it to this temperature changes the shape and direction of the crystals. Adding fat to this generally allows it to set (plus flavour). Just as butter would.

The reason you don't add chocolate as it's warming is water plus chocolate ends badly. You also don't add it at 116c as you will burn your chocolate. Again not a good thing.

Make sure the temperature of the chocolate rises to between 104° F. and 113° F. when melting. Do not heat above 115° F. (milk and white chocolate) and 120° F. for dark chocolate, otherwise it will burn.

The reason you add water to sugar is to allow more control over the heating. If you have no water you'll find the bottom part will burn while the top part is still solid crystals. Which considering you only need 116c, is again... Bad.

Try boiling 1000ml water with 100g sugar and see how quickly it takes for the mixture to reach 110c (5min?) and then see how long it'll stay at that temperature before hitting 116 (30-40mins I guess). Then leave it and watch how within moments of hitting 116c it's suddenly hit 176c and then your pan turn black and your kitchen full of thick yellow smoke :-).

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Heating and cooling is one of the trickiest subjects to baking right after tempering eggs and plain old understanding the product you are working with. One thing to remember with chocolate is that it will literally melt in the palm of your hand so high heat and chocolate don't mix. You can temper chocolate although by bringing to 110 degrees Fahrenheit and then cooling it back to room temperature. Any way more information than I was originally going to share. My advice tour a bakers kitchen of a experienced chef w/ 25+ years. Books are great but first hand mistakes and accomplishments are the only true way to really know.

A rainy day can change the outcome of your recipe!

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