Fudge is a delicious and decadent treat, and that’s why every time that you indulge in it, you want it to be perfect. One of the things that can ruin fudge is if it is too hard.
Hardening is a natural part of the aging process for fudge, but it can be reversed. That way, you don’t have to throw your fudge away after it has hardened.
In this article, we will first explain why fudge hardens over time, and then provide four proven methods for softening it after the fact. Finally, we will also look at how you can prevent fudge from hardening in the first place.
What Is Fudge?
First, let’s define fudge itself. Fudge is a creamy dessert candy that is typically made from sugar, butter, and milk (often sweetened condensed milk) that is heated to 234 degrees Fahrenheit and then beaten through the cooling process.
Many people associate fudge with chocolate, and chocolate is a popular flavor of fudge, but there are also many other types, including caramel, red velvet, peppermint, peanut butter, and dozens of others.
Why Does Fudge Harden in the First Place?
Hardening of fudge is actually part of its cooking process. After the ingredients are heated together to a very precise temperature and then beaten while cooling, it is then shaped and hardened (or firmed or set).
Usually, this is done by chilling the fudge, and it allows water and moisture to evaporate. So how do you stop fudge from hardening too much from the outset?
For one thing, you must follow directions for setting. Always firm up your fudge in the fridge; don’t try to rush the process by using the freezer.
Be sure to check the fudge frequently and take it out when it’s done. Some people leave their fudge to set overnight, but if you’re concerned about hardness, prepare the fudge early enough in the day to allow about three hours of hardening time.
Remember that making fudge is a very precise art that actually involves some complicated chemistry. If you’re having trouble getting it exactly right, you’re not alone; keep trying different recipes and techniques until you love the end product.
1 – Use a Plastic Bag and Paper Towel or Bread
All of that being said, sometimes your fudge comes out absolutely perfect, but when you go to indulge in a piece a day or two (or more) later, it’s hard as a rock! Don’t despair, because there are some steps to try to soften it back up.
One option is to put the hard pieces of fudge in a sealable plastic bag along with either a moist paper towel or a single slice of bread. Seal the bag and leave it overnight; in the morning, you’ll have lovely softened fudge.
The reason why this works is because the paper towel/bread slowly releases moisture that is absorbed by the fudge. It does not change the taste of the fudge, however.
The great thing about this method is that it uses items you probably already have lying around. The downside is that it takes some time (about 8-10 hours).
Let’s look at an (almost) instant method next.
2 – Use the Microwave
Another option for softening fudge that has hardened is to use the microwave. First, cut fudge into small pieces, no larger than one inch on any side.
Arrange the pieces of fudge on a microwave-safe plate and be sure that they are not touching. Put a bowl or cup with hot water in as well; this will create moisture for the fudge to absorb.
Next, microwave the fudge.
The amount of time that you need to microwave will depend on your machine’s wattage, as well as how hard the fudge has become. We recommend starting at 10 seconds, and then microwaving for additional time if needed.
The plus with this method is that it’s fast: if your fudge got hard and you want some now, you’re in business. However, microwaves aren’t known for their even heating; more than likely, your fudge still won’t have perfect consistency since it will be soft and a little melty on the outside and possibly a bit hard on the inside.
3 – Melt it Back Down and Reset
You also have the option of melting the fudge back down and then resetting it. This is certainly the most labor-intensive option, but it is also likely to yield the best results.
Just as you did when preparing the fudge, heat it carefully to 234 degrees Fahrenheit, then follow the original recipe’s instructions for beating and setting the fudge. You may want to add a little bit of water or milk to the newly melted combination.
This is definitely the method that you should use if your fudge was too hard immediately after setting. In that case, be sure to add more moisture.
Re-melting and setting the fudge is also a good option for fudge that you received as a gift if you didn’t like the flavor, since you can potentially add some other ingredient(s) to make it more palatable to you.
How to Prevent Fudge From Hardening in the First Place
We’ve looked at what to do when you need to soften fudge that has hardened too much. Now let’s look at some steps that you can take to prevent your fudge from getting too hard in the first place.
Follow your recipe’s directions. This might seem obvious, but until you’re a fudge baking expert, don’t make variations or take shortcuts.
Don’t over-set. Again, follow your recipe’s directions for setting, but check frequently. Unless directed to do so, you don’t need to leave the fudge in the refrigerator overnight, and never try to set it in the freezer.
Store properly. Since it contains dairy, you might be tempted to store fudge in the refrigerator, but don’t: fridges suck the moisture right out of a variety of foods, including fudge.
You should store your fudge at room temperature in an airtight container. Avoid spots that are exposed to variations in temperature (such as near an air vent), in direct sunlight, or near the stove.
Bonus: remember that piece of bread from the second method for softening fudge? Put a slice of bread in the container with the fudge from the outset to prevent it from hardening.
Eat in a timely manner. Most foods aren’t designed to last forever; your fudge will taste and feel the most delicious when it is fresh, so eat it before it hardens!
How to Make Soft Fudge
Another way to achieve soft fudge is by finding a recipe that is heavy on the liquid. It’s the liquid ingredients (typically milk) that makes fudge soft in the first place.
You should search for a recipe specifically for creamy or soft fudge. Again, it is more than likely that they achieve this consistency by adding more liquids.
Trial and Error
The key to cooking anything and everything well is trial and error. Lots of factors can affect the texture of your fudge and how fast or slow it hardens, including the temperature in your kitchen (or wherever it is stored), the humidity in your region, and how you store it.
Play around with different recipes and techniques, and don’t forget the most important part: enjoy eating it!
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.