Fudge is a delicious candy, but it can be quite a labor-intensive process to make it. It requires a lot of precise measurements and stirring for the texture to come out right.
For many people, the hardest part about making fudge is the waiting game. After you cook fudge, you need to wait a long time for it to set.
After spending so much time making fudge, you probably want to know when you can enjoy it. Or, you have a last-minute baking emergency and need your fudge to be ready as soon as possible.
Here are a few tips that will help you estimate how long your fudge needs to set before it is ready. There are also a few ways you can speed up the process so that you can enjoy the fruits of your hard work as soon as possible.
What Is Fudge?
Understanding what fudge is and how it is made is key to understanding the setting process and how long it should take.
Fudge was first invented in the United States in the late 19th century, possibly by accident after a mistake with a batch of caramel. It soon became a popular candy and souvenir at tourist attractions.
Fudge is deceptively simple to make and contains only a few ingredients—butter, sugar, milk, and added flavors if there are any. Some more modern recipes add condensed milk or marshmallow creme because it makes it easier to make fudge.
However, because there are so few ingredients, bakers need to be very careful when making fudge. Mixing the fudge for too long or taking it off the stove just a few seconds too early can cause problems, such as difficulty setting.
How to Make Fudge
Making fudge consists of three steps: boiling, mixing, and setting. To make the fudge set properly, you cannot afford any mistakes during the first two steps.
First, you let the ingredients come to a boil in a non-stick pan. You should heat the fudge until it reaches precisely 237 to 239 degrees Fahrenheit or 114 to 115 degrees Celsius, which you can measure using a candy thermometer.
Then, let the fudge cool for a few minutes before beating it so that your fudge does not become grainy. Then you will mix your fudge until it loses its glossy texture.
Finally, your fudge is ready to set. You will pour it into a tin and allow it to cool before you can eat it. Be sure that your tin is lined with aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat to prevent the fudge from sticking to it.
How Long Do You Have to Wait for Fudge to Be Ready?
Fudge usually takes several hours to set once it is done boiling and mixing. Most recipes call for the fudge to rest for about three hours.
For the best results, some bakers recommend letting your fudge set overnight. This allows the fudge to take on the texture that you want before serving it.
Always double-check with the recipe that you are working with when you are trying to calculate setting time. If you have added extra ingredients such as nuts or marshmallows, that can affect the fudge’s setting time.
Hard ingredients, such as nuts, sometimes disrupt the cooling process. As a result, fudge with some extras may take longer to set than regular fudge. Ingredients with high water content may prevent fudge from setting at all.
How Can You Tell When Fudge Is Set?
The above figures are an estimate of how long fudge should take to set. Each batch may differ on the setting time, depending on the conditions in your kitchen, any extra ingredients, or the cooking process.
The best way to tell if your fudge is set is by touch. Perfectly set fudge is firm to the touch without much give. It should also cool completely, so if your fudge is still warm to the touch, you need to wait a little longer.
Once your fudge is set, you should be able to lift it out from the pan by picking up the foil or baking mat lining and moving it. If you notice the fudge buckling or wobbling while it’s moving, then it probably needs to wait a little longer.
Cutting the Fudge
Once the fudge is set, you should be able to cut it into squares. However, sometimes this is difficult since fudge cools to a hard texture.
One way to make the cutting process easier is to score the fudge before it sets. Make small cuts into the surface of the fudge that will break it up once you’re ready to cut it completely.
Other bakers recommend popping your fudge into the fridge for a bit after letting it cool to room temperature. However, be careful not to let the fudge cool for too long as that will make it rock-solid and difficult to cut.
Making Fudge Set Faster
Maybe you have a bake sale emergency, and your fudge needs to be ready as soon as possible, or you don’t feel like waiting hours and hours to taste the candy you just poured your heart into making.
Whatever your situation, there are a few ways to speed up the fudge setting process so it is ready in an hour or two instead of three hours or overnight.
When attempting to force the fudge to set faster, use caution. Trying to make fudge do anything too quickly will ruin its texture.
One way to make the fudge set faster is to use smaller tins. Instead of pouring it into one large baking tray, pour fudge into several smaller trays or even muffin tins.
Pouring the fudge into multiple smaller containers increases the surface area of the fudge that is exposed to the air. Increasing the surface area makes fudge cool faster.
However, when pouring fudge into smaller containers, be aware that you may not get the perfect squares that you would if you used a larger tin, but it will still taste delicious.
Using the Fridge or Freezer
Most fudge recipes call for the fudge to cool at room temperature. Fudge needs to cool slowly to avoid the sugar crystallizing too rapidly and affecting the texture.
However, if you are in a rush, you can speed up the fudge process by using the fridge. First, allow the fudge to cool a bit at room temperature before putting it into the fridge to let the candy adjust.
When you do put fudge into the fridge, whether you are trying to make it set or storing it, wrap it or cover it carefully. Otherwise, there is a danger that it picks up flavors from other food in the fridge, and nobody wants fudge that tastes like an onion!
It is possible to set fudge using the fridge for part of the setting time, as long as you don’t mind risking a slightly grainy temperature. However, avoid the freezer even if you are in a rush because then the fudge sets too quickly and becomes too hard.
What If the Fudge Won’t Set?
Sometimes, fudge won’t set no matter how long you wait or even if you put it into the fridge. If that happens to you, don’t worry because you can still salvage your fudge.
Here are a few tips that should help you fix fudge that refuses to set.
The usual reason why fudge does not set is that it was not heated to the right temperature during the initial boiling process. The best way to fix this is to redo the fudge.
Reheat your fudge and bring it to a boil again, adding a little bit more milk to prevent the mixture from becoming too thick.
This time around, be sure that you are heating the fudge to the right temperature before taking it off the stove. Use a candy thermometer if you did not use one before.
If you are very worried about your fudge not setting, you can add a thickening ingredient to the mixture when you reheat it. This will ensure that your fudge sets.
Some people like to make a small, gravy-like mixture of water and cornflour. Others stir in powdered sugar.
Whichever mixture you choose, it will help the fudge set by thickening the mixture and absorbing excess moisture that could be preventing it from setting.
How Long Until the Fudge Is Ready?
The most time-consuming part of the fudge-making process is setting it. Most recipes call for the fudge to set for at least three hours before it is ready, and sometimes overnight.
There are ways to speed up the setting process, such as using a fridge or pouring fudge into smaller containers. There are also a few ways to salvage fudge if it will not set at all.
However, most of the ways to make fudge set faster affect its texture. Ultimately, when you want the perfect fudge, patience is key. You may need to wait a few hours, but it will be worth it from the first bite.
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.