Who doesn’t love fudge? Fudge is fantastic, except maybe when it’s grainy or runny or otherwise faulty. If you’re wondering if you can remelt fudge to repair it, read on.
Fudge is actually a form of fondant. At its most basic, fondant is made up of tiny sugar crystals surrounded by sugar syrup.
That’s not very exciting and, of course, most fondant has flavor, color, or other ingredients added for taste and texture. When dairy (or other fat) and other flavorings are added to basic fondant, it becomes fudge.
Sugar is boiled until it reaches the “soft-ball” stage (235 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit). Butter and other flavorings are added, and the fudge is then cooled and beaten until it reaches the desired consistency.
Fudge is generally smooth and creamy with small sugar crystals throughout. Nuts and other ingredients may be added before the fudge has thoroughly set.
Chocolate fudge is by far the most common kind of fudge in the United States, but fudge and fudge-like confections come in many different flavors. Around the world, people enjoy:
- Krówki (little cows): a semi-soft Polish sweet made with milk
- Penuche: similar to standard fudge, but made with brown sugar instead of white
- Barfi: a dense Indian candy made from cooked milk and sugar, sometimes with added coconut, carrots, fruits, or nuts
- Tablet: a Scottish confectionery made with sugar, condensed milk, butter, and usually vanilla and/or whisky
While fondant and other fudgy treats have been around for hundreds of years, if not more, American-style chocolate fudge found fame in women’s colleges in the late nineteenth century.
Vassar student Emelyn Battersby Hartridge borrowed a recipe from a classmate’s cousin and cooked up 30 pounds of fudge for the senior class auction. It’s hard to think of any demographic better suited to spread the love than college women, and plenty of fudge was cooked over the gas lights in Vassar dorm rooms.
Students at other colleges soon learned about “Vassar fudge,” and the sweet treat also made its way off campus. Fudge shops soon populated vacation spots and tourist towns.
Travelers and locals loved watching the fudge being made in copper kettles and poured onto marble slabs, and high-end candy makes an excellent souvenir. By the end of the nineteenth century, fudge shops were part of the American experience.
The tradition is still alive today. Popular tourist destination Mackinac Island (Michigan) – the entire island is registered as a National Historic Landmark — boasts over a dozen fudge shops on the tiny island, with at least one shop dating back to the late 1880s, and hosts an annual Fudge Festival.
As we said above, fudge is made with sugar and fat. This fat is usually butter, although it is possible to make a vegan fudge with coconut oil or other plant-based fats.
Chocolate or other flavorings are added, and the fudge is cooled and beaten until it reaches the desired consistency. Anyone who is familiar with fudge recognizes the feel of the tiny crystals in a creamy, smooth base.
That texture is pretty much the defining characteristic of fudge, and it’s also very tricky to achieve. There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you’re trying to make fudge.
If the sugar mixture crystallizes, usually because it splashed onto the sides of the pan, it will make the fudge seize up and be far grainier than desired.
If the sugar mixture gets too hot, the butter will separate. The fudge will have an oily layer on top after it sets.
If you undercook the fudge, not enough water will evaporate. Your fudge will not set up completely and it will be very soft.
If you overcook the fudge, then too much water will evaporate. Your fudge will be hard, dry, and crumbly.
If you start beating the fudge before it has cooled, it will seize up. You won’t get the desired smooth, creamy texture.
If you overbeat the fudge, it will turn rock-hard as it sets up.
What to Do with Fudge That Doesn’t Set
Failed fudge is still going to taste fudgy, and that’s always a good thing. If your fudge doesn’t set up, or only sets up partially, it’s still going to be rich and delicious!
If you’re out of patience and don’t want to deal with your fudge any more, you can just reheat it gently and pour it over ice cream. Hot fudge sundaes are classic and iconic for a reason; it just doesn’t get much better than this!
Spread the failed fudge on graham crackers and make a s’mores sandwich with a toasted marshmallow!
Your failed fudge can also be the starter for an absolutely decadent pan of brownies, since it’s made up of sugar, butter, and chocolate. For two cups (one pound) of fudge that hasn’t set, stir in one egg, a half-cup of flour, and a half-cup milk, and then bake in a buttered pan.
Can You Remelt Fudge?
Return your fudge to a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add one and a half cups of water (for a standard 8”x 8” pan of fudge; adjust as necessary).
Heat the fudge over low heat, stirring constantly, until it is dissolved. Be sure to be gentle with both the heat and the stirring.
Taste the melted fudge and adjust flavorings. You will likely need to add additional flavor to the fudge since you added water.
Raise the heat to medium and bring mixture to a boil. Keep heating it until it reaches the soft-ball stage.
Do not stir the fudge. You can use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of the pan to make sure that the sugars do not crystallize (see above).
Once the fudge has reached the proper temperature, remove it from the stove. Let it cool to approximately 113 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Beat the cooled fudge as directed. You want to beat it until it loses its sheen and starts to thicken up, but do not overbeat. Transfer the fudge to a prepared pan and let it cool further. Hopefully, it will set up properly this time!
Pro Tips for Making Fudge
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re making fudge, whether it’s a new batch or you are remelting a batch of failed fudge.
- Don’t make fudge on a rainy day. The candy can actually absorb moisture from the air as it’s trying to set up.
- Use a heavy pot. Sugar burns easily in a thin pot that does not distribute heat evenly.
- Use sturdy wooden or silicone spatulas since the fudge mixture can get very thick.
- Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. Make sure that your thermometer is properly calibrated.
- Do not stir the fudge after it reaches a boil and all the sugar is dissolved.
- Do not continue to beat the fudge after it loses its sheen and starts to thicken.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.