You can usually pinpoint the exact moment that I become cognisant of Christmas approaching because I’ll suddenly post an utterly frivolous recipe whose existence clearly serves to augment my annual edible Christmas gift round-up. Case in frivolous point, these Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies, which you’ll see added to this year’s imminent list in a couple of weeks. I mean, I’m also aware that the Fideles are Adeste-ing because I’ve started having those dreams where I wake up on Christmas Day and haven’t organised any presents and everyone is deeply disappointed in me. But only one of these internal alarm clocks results in chocolate, and even though I am still largely in Thesis Replicant Mode (a mode which, admittedly, feeds on itself more than my thesis probably requires at this point) I still heeded the call.
If you need to cook something giddy and impetuous there are few safer bets than a second-hand mid-century book of recipes compiled from women across America titled America’s Favourite Recipes, subheading: Desserts, sub-subheading: including party beverages. I love to read this book when in need of comfort, and they weren’t lying about the party beverages, such as Cranberry Eggnog, a “mock Tom Collins” with two cups of milk in it, and a punch that includes, but is not restricted to, maraschino cherries, pineapple juice, and peppermint extract. These chocolate candies — and I use the American word here since it makes sense, provenancially — are adapted from a recipe in the book by Mrs O.S. Dews, who was, at the time of publishing in 1968, the president of the Officers’ Wives’ Club in Ogden, Utah. Should Mrs Dews still be kicking about, I graciously thank her.
Though there’s a bit of boiling sugar involved here this recipe is remarkably easy and very delicious — admittedly, not a super complex flavour profile, it instead evokes solidified chocolate icing, but this is hardly a bad thing. Also, despite having not a lick of dairy, the combination of toffee shocked into submission by a pile of chocolate really does end up tasting like fudge, with its wet-sand, tooth-exfoliating soft melting grittiness.
The dusting of dehydrated plum powder, scattering on the white baking paper like pohutukawa needles (or, I suppose, a Fargo-esque spray of blood) on fallen snow, is, I assure you, truly for aesthetic purposes only. You could consider sprinkling over edible glitter to give it the old razzle dazzle, lean into immaturity with rainbow sprinkles, or assume a soberly logical stance and simply press extra cashews into the surface of the cooling chocolate candies. Either way, these are delicious post-dinner fortifiers or, logically, edible gifts, and just be glad my eyes weren’t caught by the peanut brittle recipe at the bottom of the same page of this book, which lists 16 inches (!!) of paraffin wax in the ingredients; but then it did win a prize at the Tulsa State Fair…
Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies
You need to pay a little bit of attention here but these aren’t too arduous and they make, needless to say, an excellent edible gift. With their simple chocolate flavour they’re very kid-friendly, but maybe keep them out of the way while you’re boiling the sugar. Recipe adapted from the Favourite Recipes of America: Desserts book.
- 200g dark chocolate
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup golden syrup (or light corn syrup for the Americans)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- salt, for scattering over
- dehydrated plum powder, to serve (very optional)
1: Roughly chop the 200g dark chocolate and set aside. Just leave it on the chopping board, no need to decant it into a separate bowl. You might as well rip off a couple sheets of baking paper and lay them on baking trays for later, too.
2: Place the two cups of sugar, cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup golden syrup, 1/2 cup water and teaspoon of vinegar into a large heavy-based saucepan and cook over a low heat for about fifteen minutes, stirring constantly without letting it bubble up, until the sugar is entirely dissolved, or near enough. You’ll see it on the back of your spoon — it’ll look clear and shiny rather than gritty — and you should be able to feel it as you stir as well.
3: Once the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat and let the sugar mixture boil, without stirring, for three minutes. The second three minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat, and once the bubbles have subsided, throw in the chopped chocolate and stir energetically.
4: Once the chocolate has entirely melted and incorporated and the mixture has thickened considerably, let it sit for ten minutes to cool a little. While this is happening, roughly chop the 1/2 cup of roasted salted cashews and boil the jug for the water. Stir the cashews into the saucepan along with the 1/4 cup boiling water — the chocolate mixture will go from quite dry and crumbly to shiny again — and drop tablespoons of the mixture onto baking trays lined with baking paper. Sprinkle over a little salt and, if you like, shake a little dehydrated plum powder (or any other red fruit, plum is just what I had in the cupboard) through a sieve over the chocolate candies.
Allow the candies to cool and firm up, then store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes around 30 – 35.
American Teen by Ethel Cain, a fitting song to go with this recipe. Whether its an indictment of my age or just the fact that I genuinely prefer very old music, I’ve hit a point where I struggle to care about or resonate with much of anything that hasn’t already existed for many years, but this song broke through my walls and defences. Possibly because it has a distinct 1994-ish energy, but probably because it’s wildly beautiful and exhilarating with the kind of lively guitar riffs that make you want to raise a can of Pepsi-cola up a flagpole and salute it.
The Nitty Gritty by Shirley Ellis, the way this song perambulates and syncopates is so immensely satisfying, as is Ellis’ gorgeous voice, though little is as satisfying as the ludicrously sincere dancing in the video with it, I highly recommend clicking through.
(Birds Fly) Whisper to a Scream by Icicle Works, just the song you want playing as you run through concrete back alleys in the rain wearing a scratchy wool jumper while charmingly and cinematically coming of age circa 1983. Those drums — those drums!!
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