Cookin’ with Condley
Published 2:38 pm Thursday, June 29, 2023
By Sarah Condley
My good friend Shiela had a birthday coming up, and we don’t exchange gifts, but she was coming to our house for supper to celebrate a couple of days early. One of her favorite things that we fix is what she calls “cherry burgers.” They are hamburgers that Brad cooks on the grill using cherry wood to give them a smokey cherry flavor (and they are good).
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Even though we don’t exchange gifts, I made Penuche Fudge for her. She’d mentioned, way before Christmas, that she liked that fudge and that you can’t find it very many places. I did a quick search on the internet and found several recipes and tutorials for this fudge. I read the recipes and watched some of the tutorials before I settled on the recipe from the Martha Stewart Test Kitchen. Since I’m not a candy maker, this version of the fudge recipe seemed pretty easy and didn’t make a huge pan full; which was good since I didn’t know if it would turn out right or if Shiela would even like it.
Some of the tutorials and recipe information I read and viewed said this is a different type of fudge. It’s more like a cross between fudge and pralines.
This recipe calls for toasted walnuts; some didn’t call for nuts. Before I toasted some walnuts, I texted Shiela and asked her if she even liked walnuts, but I didn’t tell her why I wanted to know – this was going to be a surprise. After Shiela replied that she liked walnuts, I got busy putting this recipe together.
I sprayed a loaf pan with Pam, lined it with cling wrap, and sat it aside while I worked on the fudge.
The walnut pieces went into the oven to toast for about five minutes and then cooled while I put the “fudge” together.
I pulled a heavy pan out of the cabinet (one a dear friend, Bonny H. gave me just for candy making) and poured in the evaporated milk, brown sugar and salt. After stirring the ingredients well, I turned on the heat to medium and stuck my candy thermometer in. After what felt like forever, the concoction began to boil, and I reduced the heat to about half. I stirred often and waited and waited for the temperature to reach 236 degrees. The numbers on my thermometer are pretty small, so I had to keep a watch on the temperature using a magnifying glass (my eyes aren’t what they used to be, even with bifocals).
Once the pretty caramel mixture was heated, I quickly poured it into a mixer bowl and beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Each video I’d watched said you did need to do these steps quickly or the fudge would set up on you. The mixture thickened but didn’t come to a smooth texture like I thought it would. After turning the mixer speed to low I added in the vanilla and toasted walnuts. When they were good and mixed, I poured them into the prepared pan and smoothed the top. Into the refrigerator, the pan went, and I began to lick the spoon I’d been using to see how this stuff tasted. It seemed a bit grainy to me, but I thought that’s what pralines taste, too, so hopefully, it’s ok.
The fudge stayed in the refrigerator for 30 minutes until I took it out and lifted it from the loaf pan using the overhanging cling wrap. I peeled the plastic wrap away and set the fudge on a cutting board. I used a sharp knife to cut the loaf into 18 small pieces. It seemed a bit crumbly, but now I was ready for Shiela’s visit the next day.
Shiela arrived after going to church and then Brad put the burgers on the grill. While we waited for the burgers to cook, I gave Shiela her Penuche fudge and told her to go ahead and give it a try. I was dying to know if it was ok. She took a bite, chewed, gave me an odd look, and then while I was anxiously awaiting the verdict, she took another bite. I wasn’t sure what she was thinking and asked her if she was used to having the fudge with nuts or not and she said she’d never had it with nuts. I figured I’d made a terrible mistake adding those walnuts when she got a smile on her face and said “This is good.” “Whew”, was all I could think.
Shiela had another piece before the burgers were done and then I knew I’d Nailed this recipe. By now, the cherry burgers were ready and after Brad blessed the food, we dug in. Afterward, I told her I had another surprise for her – a cake made with her favorite, Biscoff Cookies. That story will have to wait until next week.
Brad and I tried the fudge before Shiela left our house, and it does have a different texture, not quite fudge, but not quite praline either. We both liked it, even though it was a bit sweet for Brad. I’ll be adding this recipe to my self-made cookbook for future Birthdays with Shiela.
• Vegetable oil cooking spray
• 1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
• 1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
• 5 ounces (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3 ounces toasted walnuts, chopped (1 cup)
• Coat a 5 x 10-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line with plastic wrap leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides.
• Bring evaporated milk, brown sugar, butter, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 236 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 25 minutes.
• Transfer to a mixing bowl, and beat in confectioners’ sugar on low speed. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium, and beat until mixture is thickened and smooth, 2 to 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and add vanilla and walnuts.
• Spread mixture in pan, smoothing top. Refrigerate, uncovered, until firm, about 25 minutes. Unmold fudge by using plastic overhang, and discard plastic. Cut into 18 pieces.