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~Milk-Chocolate and Toasted-Coconut Lover's Fudge~

IMG_6359As one who in all seriousness does not crave chocolate, when I do eat it it, my taste leans toward milk chocolate, with Swiss Lindt being my chocolate of choice.  Even as a kid, I pretty much turned my prissy little nose up at chocolate, with one exception.  Every year for Christmas, mom would put a few Russel Stover milk-chocolate toasted-coconut wreaths in my stocking.  For Easter, milk-chocolate toasted-coconut bird's nests went in my basket.  I love them to this day.  

While I didn't invent the idea for milk-chocolate toasted-coconut fudge, once I had a great base recipe for fudge, I was quick to make a milk-chocolate toasted-coconut version.

IMG_6337Everyone 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 coming in second.  Peanut butter, butterscotch, maple and vanilla are all contenders for the third spot.  When I was growing up, Agnes was our neighbor. She loved to bake, and throughout the years her sweet treats made their way to our table often.  

IMG_6559Every 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 Milk-Chocolate Toasted-Coconut Fudge recipe is a spin-off of Agnes's base recipe for making all sorts of fudge flavors.

IMG_6352Fudge 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 Milk-Chocolate Toasted-Coconut Fudge:

IMG_6285To make killer milk-chocolate toasted-coconut fudge:

4  ounces mini-marshmallows

1  14-ounce can condensed milk

2  teaspoons each: pure chocolate extract, pure coconut extract, and, pure vanilla extract

4  ounces cubed salted butter

16 ounces milk chocolate morsels

4-6  ounces lightly-toasted and cooled coconut

IMG_6291 IMG_6291~ Step 1.  Place coconut in a shallow baking pan. Toast on center rack of preheated 350º oven, 6-8 minutes, stopping to toss with a spoon about every 2 minutes during the process.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool about 15-20 minutes.

IMG_6287 IMG_6287 IMG_6287 IMG_6287 IMG_6287 IMG_6287~Step 2. In a 4-quart saucepan, stir condensed milk, extracts, and marshmallows.  Over low heat, melt  the marshmallows into the milk, stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth, uniform in color and foamy, 5-6 minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_6306 IMG_6306 IMG_6306 IMG_6306~Step 3.  With saucepan on still warm stovetop, stir in the butter pieces, chocolate morsels and toasted coconut.  Stir constantly and vigorously, until butter and chocolate morsels have melted into the marshmallow mixture and the mixture is smooth and uniform in color, about 2 minutes.

IMG_6317 IMG_6317 IMG_6317 IMG_6317~Step 4.  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_6332 IMG_6332 IMG_6338~ Step 5.  Transfer fudge from pan to cutting board by pushing up on removable pan bottom, or by  pulling up on the plastic wrap, or by inverting pan and pushing down. Remove plastic wrap and peel back  parchment. Using a ruler and a large knife, measure and score top of fudge.  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_6344Milk-Chocolate and Toasted-Coconut Lover's Fudge:  Recipe yields 32, 1" x 2" logs, or, 64, 1" squares.

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

IMG_6369Cook's Note:  Once cut into desired-sized pieces, store fudge in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment or wax paper, in a cool, dry, place, or in the refrigerator, for up to a month.  To make a large, triple batch of fudge (all at once) for the holidays, cook it on the stovetop in an 8-quart stockpot and pour it into a 16" x 12" x 2"  professional-type rectangular-shaped cake pan.

"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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