Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (2024)

What’s special about fudge?

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (1) Fudge is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that sugar crystals are not desirable in candy. Tiny microcrystals in fudge are what give it its firm texture. The crystals are small enough, however, that they don’t feel grainy on your tongue, but smooth.

While you ultimately want crystals to form, it's important that they don't form too early. The key to successful, nongrainy fudge is in the cooling, not the cooking. The recipe calls for heating the ingredients to the soft-ball stage, or 234° F, then allowing it to cool undisturbed to approximately 110° F. If you stir during this cooling phase, you increase the likelihood that seed crystals will form too soon.

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (2) A seed crystal is a surface that sucrose molecules (that's the sugar) can begin to attach themselves to—it could be a few sucrose molecules stuck together, a piece of dust, or even a little air bubble. Once a seed crystal forms, it grows bigger and bigger as the fudge cools. A lot of big crystals in fudge makes it grainy.

By letting the fudge cool without stirring, you avoid creating seed crystals. Stirring would help sucrose molecules "find" one another and start forming crystals. Stirring also introduces air, dust, and small dried bits from the walls of the saucepan—all potential seeds for crystal formation.

When the fudge has cooled to about 110° F, you want to start the crystallization process. You start to stir, and keep stirring, until the candy becomes thick. The more you stir, the more crystal seeds you get. But instead of getting a few huge crystals (and grainy candy), you get lots and lots of tiny crystals, which make for thick, smooth candy.

There are two other candies that deliberately employ sugar crystals. One is fondant, a wetter version of fudge that you find inside soft-center chocolates. The other is rock candy, for which a sugar solution is left for days to form enormous crystals.

Think you get it? Try making fudge or rock candy yourself!

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium (2024)

FAQs

Science of Candy: What's Special About Fudge? | Exploratorium? ›

Fudge is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that sugar crystals are not desirable in candy. Tiny microcrystals in fudge are what give it its firm texture. The crystals are small enough, however, that they don't feel grainy on your tongue, but smooth.

What is the science behind making fudge? ›

Confectionery experiments have shown that the ideal cooking temperature for fudge is around 114 to 115 °C (237 to 239 °F). The cooking is intended to evaporate a part of the liquid and concentrate the sugar. The temperature of the cream/sugar mixture (called syrup) rises as water evaporates.

How does fudge relate to chemistry? ›

When making fudge, heat and acid work together to convert sucrose – basic white sugar – into its two components, glucose and fructose. When these sugars are present, they prevent sucrose from turning into big sugar crystals.

What makes fudge different from chocolate? ›

Although fudge often contains chocolate, fudge is not the same as chocolate. Chocolate is a mix of cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sometimes sugar and other flavorings and is hard and brittle. Fudge is a mixture of sugar, dairy and flavorings that is cooked and cooled to form a smooth, semi-soft confection.

What is the principle of fudge? ›

Heating the sugar and milk mixture allows the milk to dissolve more and more sugar, and by the time the mixture is boiling, all the sugar is dissolved. The general principle is that at a particular temperature, a given solvent (in this case, milk) can dissolve only so much of a particular solute (sugar).

What makes fudge special? ›

Fudge is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that sugar crystals are not desirable in candy. Tiny microcrystals in fudge are what give it its firm texture.

What is the secret to good fudge? ›

Valuable tips for successful fudge
  • Don't stir during cooking. Fudge can be cooked on the stove or in the microwave. ...
  • Avoid crystallization. During cooking, sugar crystals can stick to the sides of the pan. ...
  • Let cool before beating. After being cooked, the sugar must crystallize again to create fudge. ...
  • Beat the mixture.

What is fudge technically? ›

fudge, creamy candy made with butter, sugar, milk, and usually chocolate, cooked together and beaten to a soft, smooth texture.

What is the secret to non-grainy fudge? ›

To fix oily, hard or grainy fudge, scoop the fudge back into a pot with about a cup of water. Cook it over low heat until the fudge dissolves. Then bring the fudge back up to the temperature specified in the recipe and follow the remaining steps. The flavor may be slightly diluted, but the texture will be improved.

Why is fudge a crystalline candy? ›

The Science of Fudge: How Fudge Is Made

Once cooled to 122° F, the syrup is stirred and scraped, forming many crystals at once. Continued stirring helps the sugar molecules spread among and bind to the crystal seeds. This helps keep the crystals small and creates the fudge's milky texture.

Is fudge healthier than chocolate? ›

Fudge typically contains more sugar than chocolate, so it may not be the best choice for those looking to limit their sugar intake. On the other hand, dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants and can provide health benefits when consumed in moderation.

Why do they call fudge fudge? ›

The exact origin and inventor of this delicious confection are hotly debated. However, many believe the first batch of fudge was created by accident when American bakers “fudged” a batch of caramels. Hence the name “fudge.”

Is fudge considered candy? ›

Fudge is a type of sugar candy that is made by mixing sugar and milk heating it to the soft-ball stage at 240 °F (116 °C), and then beating the mixture, with flavorings (maple, chocolate, and nuts are common) while it cools so that it acquires a smooth, creamy consistency. No, they don't.

What gives fudge its texture? ›

The main difference is the texture, which is determined by two things: the size of the sugar crystals in the candy, and the concentration of the sugar. Toffee is smooth with no sugar crystals, whereas fudge has tiny crystals that give it that texture.

What do Americans call fudge? ›

Fudge is a rich, chocolate candy made with plenty of sugar, cream, and butter. Fudge is usually cut into squares and eaten in small quantities. While fudge comes in many different flavors, it's usually chocolate. In the US, another kind of fudge is smooth, melted chocolate that can be poured over the top of ice cream.

What the heck is fudge? ›

Fudge is a type of confection that is made by mixing sugar, butter and milk. It has its origins in the 19th century United States, and was popular in the women's colleges of the time.

Is making fudge considered baking? ›

Fudge is always a no-bake dessert and can be completely stove- and oven-free if you follow our method for how to make microwave fudge. That means it's a chocolate dessert idea that will keep your oven cool on even the steamiest days of summer.

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