Traditional fudge is a delicious dessert when done right. This candy with a pillowy, crystalline sugar texture has been an American favorite since the 19th century.
However, fudge is also a finicky candy in addition to being delicious. One small mistake during the process and bakers have a sugary mess on their hands instead of perfect fudge squares.
One of the most common problems during the fudge process is shininess. Instead of a soft finish, poorly done fudge sometimes comes out glossy.
If your fudge is consistently glossy, you are not alone. Here are a few common reasons why bakers have noticed that their fudge is glossy, as well as a few solutions.
How to Make Fudge
To make fudge, boil milk, sugar, and a flavor in a pan. Then, once the mixture reaches the stage where it forms a soft ball when dropped into a glass of cold water, take it off the heat and add butter.
You only begin beating the fudge once you take it off the heat. Then, you mix it until the mixture loses any glossiness and pour it into a pan to cool.
Fudge needs to be heated and cooled to precise temperatures for it to turn out perfectly. It should usually cook to about 234 degrees Fahrenheit and cool to about 110 degrees before you start beating it.
Where Does Gloss in Fudge Come From?
When making fudge, gloss only forms at the later stage, when the mixture is taken off of the stove and mixed. This glossiness should go away once you beat the fudge thoroughly.
Gloss forms when sugar is finally allowed to crystalize. During the fudge-making process, you essentially make sugar syrup that is not allowed to concentrate and form crystals.
When sugar is heated but not allowed to crystalize, that is why the surface of the mixture is still glossy. Mixing the syrup allows crystals to form, which breaks up the glossy sheen of the mixture and creates the proper texture for fudge.
Sugar Crystallization in Candy
It is important to know a little bit about the science behind sugar crystals and fudge-making to prevent unwanted glossiness.
When sugar is heated and then allowed to solidify again, it forms sugar crystals. Sugar crystals have a specific texture that is unwanted in certain types of candy, such as lollipops.
However, when making other types of candy, such as fudge, crystals are necessary to obtain the right texture. The whole fudge-making process is designed to ensure that sugar crystalizes and that those crystals arrange themselves into the right texture.
Causes of Glossiness
Now that you know that the goal of making fudge is to form sugar crystals that take away the mixture’s shine, you have an idea of how to avoid this problem. However, there are a few common errors during the fudge-making process that prevent the sugar from crystalizing and leave the glossy texture behind.
Mixing Too Early
You shouldn’t start mixing the fudge immediately after taking it off of the heat. Instead, you should wait for it to cool down to about 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the fudge mixture is still too hot, it will not form the soft, pillowy texture that you know and love from fudge. Instead, it will resemble rock candy because the crystals that form will be too big and disrupt the texture of the fudge.
One way to prevent mixing your fudge too early is to use a candy thermometer. This allows you to control the exact temperature of the mixture and begin mixing at the right moment to form small, soft sugar crystals.
You should also prevent the mixture from becoming agitated too early. Even one stray sugar crystal is enough to throw off your whole fudge. Cover the pot during the last few minutes of cooking, and the condensation will prevent crystals from forming along the sides.
Not Beating the Fudge Enough
Another common mistake that leads to glossy fudge is not beating the mixture enough. If you stop beating while it is still glossy, it will not form the proper sugar crystals.
The best solution for this situation is to be diligent about beating your fudge. Watch the texture closely and only stop once all traces of glossiness are gone.
You should also be careful not to overcorrect and overbeat the fudge since that will make it very hard.
How to Salvage Glossy Fudge
If you only notice that your fudge is too glossy once it is already done, all is not lost. There are still ways to salvage your fudge.
The most drastic way to do this is to add some water, melt the fudge, and restart the whole process. While this is time-consuming, you will not waste any ingredients.
You can also eat the fudge as is. The great thing about fudge is that it is still delicious, even if the texture is a little off.
Cheating on Fudge
If you don’t want to bother with candy thermometers or crystallization processes, you can use a modern fudge recipe.
Unlike traditional recipes, which only have butter, sugar, milk, and a flavor, some fudge recipes add extra ingredients such as condensed milk, corn syrup, or marshmallow creme. These extra ingredients stop the fudge from crystallizing too early.
Getting the Perfect Fudge
Fudge is a delicious candy, but sometimes the process of making it results in tears instead of sweetness. One common problem is fudge that is too glossy.
To prevent glossy fudge, you should start mixing the fudge mixture at the right time and take precautions to prevent premature crystallization.
You can also avoid the problem altogether by using an easier recipe that adds ingredients that prevent early crystallization. While sometimes the challenge of baking is fun, other times, all you want is some delicious fudge with a few shortcuts.
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.