Feasting on fudge: I don’t know why my party dresses don’t fit anymore either.

I’ve never actually written about chocolate. I like chocolate. Love it, actually. But it’s one of those things that I seek out pre-prepared, in bars or handfuls of chips or by the individual truffle every so often. I don’t cook very much with it, because there are so many other things I like to play with, and buying chocolate is mostly a reliable way to go about getting one’s fix. Here in Vancouver, there are several very good chocolatiers. Although, I won’t lie to you. A Caramilk bar goes a long way with some of us.

But it’s December, and my mom has noted repeatedly that I don’t come over enough, and that she probably won’t make as many treats as she usually does, if at all. My mom makes very good treats – another reason I don’t bother all that much with chocolate, or much in the way of desserts, for that matter. She has me beat. Her fudge is very good, but she won’t give me the recipe. I think she thinks I’d betray those fudgy family secrets. She’s probably right – I have no character.

Fortunately, one of the things about being a grown-up and having your own candy thermometer (that your mother may or may not have given you) is that you can find your own fudge recipe and it can also be good. And you can bring it to your mother and ask her if it’s as good as hers, and then she’ll have to make a batch of hers to compare with yours, and then you win because she wasn’t going to make the fudge but then you duped her and now you have extra fudge and she never saw THAT coming. HaHA! It’s kind of fun to toy with the elderly (I think I’m funny now, but I’ll pay). She’ll read this and then take back all my Christmas presents, but the point is that you are an adult now, and you must have a candy recipe or two in your arsenal, for reasons that are varied and complex, not the least of which is showing off. Also? If you’re poor it makes a better DIY gift than, say, noodle jewelry, which I may have considered at one point.

I adapted this recipe from an old Gourmet I found in one of the last boxes still left unpacked. It’s really very good. My version, I mean. It’s a soft, sticky, caramelly chocolate thing that feels dry on the outside but that’s soft inside and sticks to your teeth and reminds you that you need to floss and also maybe go for a run. I call it toffee chocolate fudge because the brown sugar makes it taste like toffee, but you can call it something else if you prefer. Use salted butter, but don’t add any salt. Use the best cocoa you have. And make it on a clear, cool day. Something about humidity causing unfortunate sugar crystals is why you don’t want to make fudge when there are low-hanging clouds. Science. Fudge.

Chocolate Toffee Fudge

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar (14 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 4 tablespoons (heaping, if you must) cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Combine milk, brown sugar, butter, and salt in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring just to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring almost constantly, until your candy thermometer reads 240°F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, test after 30 minutes by dropping a teaspoon of mixture into a bit of cold water. If the mixture forms a soft ball when pressed between your fingers, you’re done. Don’t rush these things though.

Remove from heat, and remove candy thermometer. Beat in vanilla and confectioners’ sugar, a little at a time, until fudge is thick and smooth, about five minutes.

Spread evenly in a parchment-lined 9×13 baking pan. If you want thicker pieces, use an 8-inch square pan. Refrigerate, uncovered, until firm enough to cut, about 30 minutes.

Cut fudge into squares. Eat, or pack into cute little cellophane bags, tied with ribbons, and gift it to your friends. I’m going to make a second batch for that – it’s December, and you can eat a pan of fudge if you want to.

Another thing? If you made too much fudge and it dried out because you can’t eat as much fudge as you thought you could and it’s not fit for gifting, chop it up and put it into cookies. Same thing if you made it and the sugar went weird because of all the moisture in the air. Fudge chunk cookies? A very good thing.

Still not having much luck with pictures. A virus ate my computer this week, and so we’re experiencing some technical difficulties. Maybe my resident non-saint Nicholas will gift me with a little laptop this season, and maybe a camera that doesn’t suck? Maybe if I stopped mocking my relatives I’d have better luck?

I’m probably dying. Let them eat cake.

I’m hot. I’m cold. My fingernails are blue. My head hurts. I’m nauseated. And, if you’re Nick, nauseous. I have burst capillaries all over my face, and my bangs are unkempt. Probably, I am dying. David left a message this afternoon requesting a cake recipe, so hopefully this one will suffice – Devil’s Food Cake, simple/awesome, and, let me tell you, quite a thing to muster in this perilous state. So now I’m thinking of cake – which I will make again when I am not teetering on the brink of my own demise. Next week, I think, or for my birthday, which is Sunday. It would be tragic if I didn’t survive until then. For me. It would be tragic for me.

Nick crossed his fingers when I made him promise that he wouldn’t remarry after I’m gone.

Devil’s Food Cake

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature (if you don’t have buttermilk, sour milk is fine – one teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar for every cup of fresh milk)

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Lightly butter the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper. Lightly butter the paper and the sides of the pans and dust with flour.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In another large bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the brown sugar and continue beating until fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat together with the flour, and add the buttermilk/sour milk slowly.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and spread it out evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Let the cake layers cool completely if you’re going to frost this. Of course you are. You can find a recipe for that here.

So, right. If I die, please remember me fondly when eating my cake. If I do not die, I’ll be in an eating mood again soon, at which point you are more than welcome to invite me over for cake and cocktails. I’m going to lie on the bathroom floor now.

Update: I’m still probably dying. But I’ve made it this far, so I’ll probably outwit death yet. And then, with one successful outwitting behind me, I’ll be unstoppable. Oh, I was going to tell you about Koreans and their fantastic meat. If you’re lucky, I’ll survive the day to report back tomorrow.