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.

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 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 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.

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. The crystals are small enough, however, that they don't feel grainy on your tongue, but smooth.

What is the secret to perfect fudge? ›

We'll say it again: resist stirring.

Fudge is a lesson in chemistry—and also a lesson in patience and restraint. After the mixture raches the soft-ball stage, you want to let the fudge cool to about 115° without stirring. Potential grainy moment: If you stir your fudge before it cools to 115 ° F crystals can form.

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.

What is real fudge made of? ›

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.

Why do they call fudge fudge? ›

The exact origin and inventor of this delicious confection are hotly debated. However, many believe the first batch of fudge was created by accident when American bakers “fudged” a batch of caramels. Hence the name “fudge.”

What do Americans call fudge? ›

fudge in American English

a soft candy made of butter, milk, sugar, and chocolate or other flavoring, etc.

Where is the fudge capital of the world? ›

Whether you visit Mackinac Island on National Fudge Day in June or any other day – maybe during the Mackinac Island Fudge Festival in August – come find your favorite flavor and experience the fudge capital of the world!

Why is fudge so hard to make? ›

Making fudge can be a challenging endeavor, requiring precision and attention to detail to achieve the perfect texture and consistency. The process of making fudge involves a delicate balance of cooking, cooling, and beating, and the smallest mistake can result in fudge that is too soft or too hard.

Why is my fudge like taffy? ›

If the fudge is very soft and slightly chewy then it is possible that it did not quite cook to soft ball stage and next time the mixture should be cooked to a slightly higher temperature (soft ball is 112-116c/235-240F and a sugar or candy thermometer can help).

What happens if you cook fudge too long? ›

Too cooked

The result is hard and brittle fudge. To save the fudge, put it in a saucepan with 45 to 60 ml (3 or 4 tbsp.) of 35% cream and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely melted. Then let it boil without stirring until the thermometer reaches 114 to 115 °C (237 to 239 °F).

What causes crystals in fudge? ›

It's important to beat the fudge ingredients to develop the right texture, but you won't get smooth, creamy fudge if you beat it when it's too hot. Beating fudge when it's still over heat creates sugar crystals, aka the grittiness you feel in the fudge.

How is chocolate related to chemistry? ›

The main flavor compounds in chocolate are polyphenols, present in raw cocoa bean and going through various forms during production, and pyrazines formed during production, followed by aldehydes, ketones, and esters.

What is the chemistry behind sweets? ›

In general, candy is made by dissolving sugar into water to create a solution. Granulated sugar, the most common type used in candy-making, is sucrose, a disaccharide molecule made up of glucose and fructose. When you force these two molecules to break apart, a very tasty reaction occurs: caramelization.

How is food related to chemistry? ›

Chemical substances can play an important role in food production and preservation. Food additives can, for example, prolong the shelf life of foods; others, such as colours, can make food more attractive. Flavourings are used to make food tastier.

What's chocolate and how does its chemistry inspire such cravings? ›

Chocolate is the richest natural source of theobromine, but coffee and tea contain some of it too. Theobromine chemically resembles caffeine and has a similar stimulating effect on our brains. The combination of theobromine and caffeine found in chocolate is believed to create the small lift we feel after eating it.

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