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~ Butterscotch & Bits-O-Toffee Brickle Lover's Fudge ~

IMG_6509Butterscotch, caramel, English toffee and American buttercrunch.  These rich butter-and-sugar-based candies are all related, and, I have an affinity for them all.  As a little kid, my hand gravitated to the bag of those little chewy squares of Kraft Caramels, and, when I got a little older, I always kept a few cellophane-wrapped Brach's Butterscotch hard-candies in my purse -- they were a way to enjoy an otherwise long and boring class at school or sermon at church.

IMG_6473Everyone remembers their first bite of fudge -- that creamy, semi-soft confection made with corn syrup and/or sugar, butter, cream and flavoring.  Hands-down, the most popular flavor is dark chocolate, with milk chocolate in second.  Peanut butter, butterscotch, maple and vanilla are all contenders for the third spot.  When I was growing up, Agnes was our next-door neighbor. She loved to bake, and throughout the years her sweet treats made their way to our table often.  

Every year, on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve, Agnes joined our family for dinner and graced our dessert table with a plate of fudge -- we came to expect it.  No matter what the flavor, with or without lightly-toasted nuts and/or coconut added to it, it was always a hit.  When my now forty-something son was about three, he was allowed his first taste of Agnes's dark chocolate fudge. "That's a killer."  Mom's guests roared with laughter and "Killer Fudge" got its name.

My Butterscotch & Brickle Fudge is a spin-off of Agnes's base recipe.

IMG_6505Fudge is an America institution that originated in America.  Like many things, it happened by accident. Fudge was first documented in 1886 by students who were making and selling it at the Malmesbury School in Baltimore, Maryland.  As the story goes, they were trying to make caramels and "fudged" the recipe. This probably explains why fudge, along with another historical accident, salt water taffy, are sold as staples on the boardwalks of the Eastern Shore.  True American-style fudge is very smooth and creamy, not grainy, crumbly or cloyingly, tooth-achingly sweet.  When served at room temperature, it is almost spreadable, and, on the boardwalks they traditionally serve it accompanied by a little plastic "tasting" knife. Fudge is often gussied up with additions of nuts and/or dried fruit, or, by swirling two flavors together.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4cb2f81200dI've tasted a lot of fudge in my lifetime (mostly while walking the boardwalks of the NJ and Maryland shores), but quite honestly, Agnes's delicious, user-friendly recipe is so wonderful, I've never been inclined to experiment with other versions (which all to often complicate the process to the the point of "why bother").  I am here to tell you:  you don't need a degree in food science, a marble slab, or even a candy thermometer to make great fudge.  I am a purist about a lot of things, but let's get real:  fudge was born out of error -- how complicated do we need to make it?  BTW:  Fralinger's in Ocean City, NJ, is one of my all-time favorite "haunts" for purchasing all flavors of salt water taffy and fudge.

The ideal pan & the ideal way to prepare a pan for fudge:

IMG_5996A bit about the ideal "fudge pan": After fudge is cooked (on the stovetop), it gets transferred to a baking pan to cool.  Most recipes require an 8" x 8" x 2" or 13" x 9" x 2" pan, and most folks have one or both.  That said, for a perfect presentation, professional baking pans with square-edged corners (instead of rounded ones) are ideal. Better than that, are square pans with square-corners and removable bottoms, which make removing the fudge remarkably easy.  A few years ago, I made a small investment of about $20.00 per pan in several sizes (4" x 4", 6" x 6", 8" x 8", 9" x 9", 10" x 10" and 12" x 12").  I love them.

IMG_5994 IMG_5994Having a pan like this is not a requirement for any fudge recipe, but it does make for fudge with pretty, uniform corners when cut.  Prior to preparing fudge, line an 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan with plastic wrap that drapes over the sides by 2"-3". Cut an 8" x 8" square of parchment and place it in the bottom atop the plastic wrap.

Making, cooling & slicing Butterscotch & Brickle fudge:

IMG_6377To make butterscotch & bits-o-toffee brickle fudge:

4  ounces mini-marshmallows

1  14-ounce can condensed milk

2  teaspoons each: butterscotch flavoring (all natural and organic preferred) and pure vanilla extract

4  ounces cubed salted butter

16 ounces butterscotch morsels

4  ounces Heath Bits O' Brickle English toffee bits

IMG_6004 IMG_6379 IMG_6379 IMG_6379 IMG_6379 IMG_6379 IMG_6379~Step 1. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the condensed milk, butterscotch flavoring, vanilla extract and marshmallows.  Over low heat, melt the marshmallows into the mixture, stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth, uniform in color and foamy, 5-6 minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_6013 IMG_6393 IMG_6393 IMG_6393 IMG_6393~Step 2.  With saucepan on the still warm stovetop, add and stir in the butter pieces, butterscotch morsels and brickle bits.  Stir constantly and somewhat vigorously, until the butter and chocolate morsels have melted into the marshmallow mixture and the mixture is smooth (except for the brickle bits) and uniform in color, approximately 1-2 more minutes.

IMG_6405 IMG_6405 IMG_6411 IMG_6411~Step 3.  Transfer fudge to prepared pan.  Using a rubber spatula, distribute fudge into sides and corners of pan.  Give the pan several vigorous back and forth shakes to evenly distribute the fudge.  Set aside, uncovered, for 1 hour -- the surface of the fudge will appear matt and dry (no longer glossy or wet).  Cover with the plastic wrap that is draping over the sides of the pan and refrigerate 6-8 hours or overnight.  Overnight is best as the fudge is very firm and easier to cut.

IMG_6424 IMG_6424 IMG_6475~ Step 4.  Transfer fudge from pan to cutting board by pushing up on the removable pan bottom, by  pulling up on the plastic wrap, or, by inverting pan and pushing down on pan bottom. Remove plastic wrap and peel back parchment. Using a ruler and a knife, measure and score top.  Cut into 32 logs or 64 squares.

Arrange fudge on a plate, cover w/plastic wrap & keep refrigerated until 10-15-20 minutes prior to serving slightly-softened.

IMG_6478Butterscotch & Bits-O-Toffee Brickle Lover's Fudge:  Recipe yields 32, 1" x 2" logs, or, 64, 1" squares.

Special Equipment List: 1, 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan, preferably w/straight-edged corners and removable bottom; plastic wrap; parchment paper; kitchen scale; 4-quart saucepan; large spoon; cutting board; ruler; large chef's knife

6a0120a8551282970b0224df34a06e200bCook's Note: I developed a crush for English toffee in London the 1990's.  There was a Confectioner across the street from our hotel and it was the first place I wandered into on my way to take a bus tour of the city.  While the sweet treat in this photo is something that typically gets made around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, if you'd like to learn a bit more about English toffee, read my post ~ Old-Fashioned Chocolate & Almond Buttercrunch ~.  My freezer is rarely without a bag of English toffee bits in it.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


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