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 secret to perfect fudge? ›

Tips for Making Fudge
  • Monitor the Temperature with a Candy Thermometer. If you end up with soft fudge that turns into a puddle in your hands or hard fudge that is a bit reminiscent of a crunchy candy, improper temperature is likely to blame. ...
  • Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer. ...
  • Beat Thoroughly.
Mar 8, 2023

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 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 is fudge technically? ›

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.

What is the secret to non-grainy fudge? ›

Brush the sides of the pan with a wet brush at the beginning of cooking to dissolve sugar crystals stuck to the sides. Never stir the mixture during cooking or sugar could crystallize again. The mixture may seize and become grainy. Use a candy thermometer or conduct a cold water test to check if the fudge is done.

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 is fudge so good? ›

Between its deeply rich flavor and its silky texture, fudge makes a brilliant treat to pair with coffee. The sweet and bitter flavors complement one another perfectly, making for an unstoppable combination.

Why do they call fudge fudge? ›

The story goes, a baker was trying to make chocolate caramels. However, they didn't get the recipe quite right. When the candy came out as the creamy treat we know today, they said, “Oh, fudge!” and that's how the candy got its name. The first recorded mention of fudge came from 1888.

Why did my fudge turn into toffee? ›

If your fudge has a texture like soft toffee, it could be due to overcooking, using too much sugar or butter, or not cooking it to the right temperature.

What does cream of tartar do in fudge? ›

Cream of tartar is used in caramel sauces and fudge to help prevent the sugar from crystallizing while cooking. It also prevents cooling sugars from forming brittle crystals, this is why it's the secret ingredient in snickerdoodles!

How to prevent sugar crystals in fudge? ›

If the melting sugar splashes onto the sides of the pan, it turns back into crystals and causes the fudge to seize up. To avoid this issue, swirl the pan instead of stirring it with a spoon. You can use a wet pastry brush to wipe down any sugar that sticks to the sides of the pot.

What is fudge explained? ›

fudge, creamy candy made with butter, sugar, milk, and usually chocolate, cooked together and beaten to a soft, smooth texture. Fudge may be thought of as having a consistency harder than that of fondant and softer than that of hard chocolate.

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.

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