|look! it's chocolate-pistachio fudge!|
Making candy is a science, and one that I believe can be more treacherous than baking, especially since you have to deal with that hot and bubbling molten sugar on the stove.
However, when I had a random craving for fudge one night, I just threw together a bunch of ingredients, then went for it, relying entirely on (very limited) experience, and visual cues.
Fortunately, miraculously, it turned out perfectly. This was most certainly a fluke, however, as subsequent attempts have yielded not just fudge, but also chewy and crunchy toffee, thanks to timing issues. Not that I'm complaining. Any kind of sweetly, deliciously edible outcome is hardly a terrible tragedy.
|chocolate-pistachio toffee, aka not a terrible tragedy, aka a still-delicious accident.|
If you've got your heart set on a particular type of treat, though, get thee to a candy thermometer, or just make sure you have a glass of icy-cold water and very deft reflexes! Also, lots and lots of practice.
This following recipe makes enough to fill a 20 cm / 8 inch square cake pan, but if you're not quite sure about making the commitment, if you just feel like some playful experimentation, reduce the amounts and use a proportionally smaller pan. I always make half a batch, but they're so addictive that I always wish I had made more. Tricky stuff, that.
chocolate-pistachio fudge (and toffee)
1/2 cup pistachios, roughly chopped, and, if you like, toasted for extra flavour
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
Line a 20 cm / 8 inch square cake pan with non-stick baking paper or well-buttered foil. Sprinkle pistachios evenly across.
In a saucepan, preferably a heavy-bottomed one, combine sugar, butter, milk, cocoa powder and salt over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the candy thermometer reaches 240°F / 115°C or until it forms a soft ball (sometimes mine are more like a teardrop or comet, but forms a ball easily when kneaded gently between the fingers) when a little of the mixture is dropped in cold water.
Remove from heat - at this point, if you can plunge the pan into a sink shallowly filled with cold water to stop the mixture from continuing to cook, that would be good. Allow to cool to 45°C or 110°F. Beat vigorously until mixture starts to lose its gloss, then pour into the prepared pan. I'd just like to say, though, that I've also done a successful shortcut in which after removing the saucepan from the heat source, I just beat the mixture for a few seconds and poured it merrily into the prepared pan, so who knows what makes it tick really.
Let the fudge set (mine usually takes a couple hours, but it depends on temperature, humidity, etc.) before cutting into pieces.
|another shot of the pistachio chocolate fudge.|
If you do cook the mixture way beyond the soft ball stage to make toffee, the cooling step should be omitted, and in fact, don't waste too much time before pouring it into the prepared pan, otherwise it will start setting in the saucepan itself. And we don't want that!
Here are the temperatures for making toffee:
Chewy toffee: Soft crack stage, 135°C or 270°F.
Crunchy Toffee: Hard crack stage, 150°C or 300°F.
Read more about candy stages here.
Other general notes:
To yield thinner candies, retain the amount of pistachios used, but slightly reduce the amounts of all the other ingredients so that there is less candy batter.
And of course, feel free to use other nuts as a substitute for the pistachios, if you like!
Finally, remember, you're making candy. It's not always easy, and you may not always get it right, but... you're making candy! Just be careful (and this is VERY important - be VERY careful), and enjoy the ride. I'm still learning through trial and error, and I don't know if I'll ever get it consistently perfect, but I'm having fun along the way.
|another shot of the pistachio chocolate toffee.|