Monday, August 01, 2005

Secret Recipes

The Carnivore loves peanut butter. He drools over my Peanut Butter Pie, and he actually smuggled a pocketful of Peanut Butter Fudge out my mom's house when one of my sisters brought a plateful to Christmas Dinner one year. I wanted to do something special for him this weekend, and since I've been trying out dessert recipes lately, I thought I would surprise my husband by making the fudge for him.

Alas, my sister had been sworn to secrecy by the person she had gotten the recipe from and she couldn't give it to me when I asked for it on Thursday. I was nearly bowled over by surprise. I haven't ever known anyone who didn't share recipes. Every night on Food TV, world-renowned chefs share the recipes for the dishes they serve at their elite restaurants. The whole point of my blog is to share my recipes. I learned to share the hard way though, so I suppose I have some warped view of the concept to begin with. After all, I've had to learn to share my mother with 38 other children.

I went home chagrined, but not about to give up. I pulled out the stepladder and started pulling my cookbooks down. By the time the afternoon was over, I had found no fewer than 12 recipes for peanut butter fudge. To my horror, each one was vastly different from the one before it, and since I'd never made fudge before, I was a little nervous to begin with. Not to be deterred (its like falling off a bicycle apparently), I decided I would make fudge that very night. Alas, I didn't have the ingredients to make any of the peanut butter fudges. So I made Chocolate Philly Fudge instead, a recipe I pulled from Best Recipes From the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans & Jars, a cookbook my mother found for me at a yard sale quite a while ago. According to the book, "When Philly Fudge was first demonstrated on television in 1951, over a million viewers requested the recipe." This was the first recipe I've made from this particular cookbook, but now I'm intrigued by how fun all of the descriptions are and I can't wait to try some other dishes.


  • 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 4 1-oz squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used black walnuts)
  1. Gradually add sugar to softened cream cheese, mixing until well blended.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  3. Spread in greased 8-inch square pan.
  4. Chill overnight.

My mother really liked this recipe, as did The Carnivore. I wasn't sure about it at first because, GAWD, its sweet. However, after trying a few more recipes over the weekend, I decided this one was a keeper after all. The texture and consistency were both superb.

On Friday, mom went straight to the source to try and obtain the Real Peanut Butter Fudge recipe for me, but it was not to be had. Admitting full defeat, I narrowed down the recipes I wanted to try to two and I went shopping for the ingredients so I would be set for Saturday fudge-making. There has never been quite so much sugar and corn syrup in my house before this time. I have an incomplete set of Southern Living annual cookbooks, and I checked the master index for 1979-1994. It was in the 1980 and the 1989 books that I found the two recipes I attempted on Saturday.

The first one, a chocolate-peanut butter fudge recipe from November 1989, never fully set, and since I pressed it into a larger dish than was called for, it ended up too thin as well. Mom, as it turned out, didn't even taste the peanut butter. This one was by far my least favorite.

The last recipe that I tried, from December 1980 (during which time I was in the second grade and living in New Orleans with my mother, my uncle, his wife and her two children; and had the best hairstyle so far of my life), was sooooooooooo close to what I was trying to achieve.


  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts (I buy my peanuts whole, and it was an interesting exercise in geometry to chop them. Every time I brought the knife down, peanuts sailed across the room like pinballs. After I finally corralled most of them, I had pulverized most of them into peanut dust. Insert big sigh here).
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Combine sugar, half-and-half, corn syrup and salt in a small Dutch oven.
  2. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. (This step, as it turns out, is harder than it looks. After approximately 40 minutes of stirring, the sugar was not completely smooth, but I assumed it was close enough. It wasn't. Not by a long shot).
  3. Continue to cook, without stirring, just until mixture reaches 234 degrees (This took a quick trip to Publix by The Carnivore to buy me a candy thermometer).
  4. Remove from heat and add butter, but do not stir.
  5. Cool mixture to lukewarm at 110 degrees. (This took so long that I was able to not only whip up a batch of salsa, but I also had time to eat all of it and read most of the newspaper, though everyone knows there is no real news in the Saturday paper).
  6. Add remaining ingredients; beat with a wooden spoon until fudge is thick and begins to lose its gloss. (I'm not sure whats up with this step. By this point in the recipe, there was no beating to be had. The entire concoction was so thick I could barely move the spoon).
  7. Pour (please! you can't pour solid objects) fudge into a buttered 8-inch square pan.
  8. Cool.

Without a doubt, out of the three recipes, this was the closest in taste to what I was going for. Sadly, though, it was very gritty. The Carnivore is sure the grittiness was from the undissolved sugar, but I tend to suspect the peanut dust. Mom agreed that it was gritty, but still tasted fabulous. Regardless, this will take some tweaking, though I'm not sure I'll be up to trying this again very soon. Not to mention I now have a refrigerator full of fudge, even after pushing some off on Mom, Mom's friend and her husband, one of my sisters and her four children, and Fat Baby's physical therapist.

Even Fat Baby has had to start an exercise regimen. In the picture above, he is working on his pull-ups.

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