May 29, 2013

Bear Essentials:
Mitten Noms - Michigan Classics

(+ Black Forest Fudge)

Michigan has 3126 miles of shoreline, and about twice that many fudge shops.  Which is lucky, because when I'm baking on the sun-soaked beach, what I crave most is a trip to a steaming candy kitchen and a brick of chocolate the size of a smallish possum. 

I'm not sure why fudge became so intrinsically linked to lakeside tourism, but on Mackinac Island the tradition has been going on since the Civil War, and has mushroomed to the point that the 3.8-square mile island has 18 fudge shops and a yearly Fudge Festival.  A person could make the case that lining beaches with fudge shops when you spent all winter getting bikini-ready is somewhat counterintuitive.  But that person certainly wouldn't be from Michigan.

Another pleasant side-effect of all that lakefront property?  Lake effect weather, which makes the western side of the state perfect for growing fruit trees - most commonly cherries.  Over 70% of the country's tart cherries (the ones used in jams, candies, pies and other baked goods) come from Michigan.  And that's the last "interesting fact" for you today, because goodlord this is starting to sound like a geography lesson, and I'm about to start doodling hearts in my notebook and folding cootie-catchers.

So here's the takeaway:  
Fudge = Michigan.  
Cherries = Michigan.  
Fudge + Cherries = 2(Michigan) 
= Black Forest 
= Hellyeah.

Someone check my math, but I think that's right.

This here's my very favorite fudge recipe.  And the best thing about it is that it comes in loaf form.  So you can just carve off the thinnest little slice when you walk past to start the laundry.  And when you throw the laundry in the drier.  And run the dishwasher.  And grab a glass of water.  And organize the refrigerator magnets.  And check the pantry for abominable snowmen.  You'll notice below that I suggest making two batches at a time.  There's a reason for that.  It's just good planning.  You'll see.

Black Forest Fudge
from Bon Appetit

This is my go-to fudge recipe.  Because it includes dried cherries, which are basically my kryptonite, but also because it has turned out perfectly every single time I have ever made it, aside from that first time when I had never made any sort of candy before and oh by the way didn't use a candy thermometer because obviously I should just be able to eyeball it because that sounds like logical thinking, and even then it was fabulous - it just had that irksome tendency to melt into a puddle at room temperature.  But, after all, what are freezers for if not for maintaining the structural integrity of your fudge?  If you find that you like it, you might want to make two batches in a row (I always do), since the amounts of condensed milk and jam called for are about about half of a typical container.  You wouldn't want condensed milk to go to waste, would you?  No.  That's right.  So have some more fudge.

Semisweet Chocolate  [ 6 ounces, finely chopped ]
Marshmallow Creme  [ 1/2 cup ]
Unsweetened Chocolate  [ 1 ounce, finely chopped ]
Vanilla Extract  [ 1 teaspoon ]
Sugar  [ 1 1/4 cups ]
Sweetened Condensed Milk  [ 1/2 cup ]
Cherry Preserves  [ 1/2 cup ]
Whipping Cream  [ 1/3 cup ]
Water  [ 1/3 cup ]
Unsalted Butter  [ 1/4 cup ]
Dried Tart Cherries  [ 2/3 cup - about 3 ounces ]
Semisweet Chocolate Chips  [ 1/4 cup ]

1.   Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with aluminum foil.
2.   In a metal bowl, place Semisweet Chocolate, Marshmallow Creme, Unsweetened Chocolate
         and Vanilla Extract.
3.   In a medium pot, mix Sugar, Condensed Milk, Cherry Preserves, Whipping Cream, Water, and
4.   Turn heat to Medium-Low and stir mixture until Butter melts and Sugar dissolves.  Periodically brush 
         down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush so that no sugar crystals are left on sides of pan. 
5.   Add Dried Cherries to pot.
6.   Attach candy thermometer to side of pot.
7.   Raise heat to Medium-High.
8.   Stirring constantly, boil Mixture until it reaches 230 degrees F.
9.   Without scraping pot, immediately pour Sugar Mixture into Chopped Chocolate Mixture in bowl.
10.   With a wooden spoon, stir Fudge energetically until still glossy but beginning to thicken.
11.   Spread Fudge into prepared loaf pan.
12.   Sprinkle Fudge with Chocolate Chips.
13.   Place Fudge in refrigerator until fully cooled.
14.   Using foil as a handle, remove Fudge from pan.  Cut into squares or thin slices, as desired.        

 Makes 1  9x5x1-inch slab of fudge.


  1. It was delicious, I ate an entire loaf myself

    1. I was going to keep quiet and let that be your dirty little secret. But I guess the cat's out of the bag now.... :)

  2. You're killing me! It's so hot here I don't want to even step into the kitchen, but...I may have to make an exception.
    And - I didn't really want to lose weight for my high school reunion NEXT MONTH!

  3. Maybe fudge can be your reward for losing the weight? :)