Christmas Baking

December 15, 2005

“Never Fail Fudge” isn’t intended to be a challenge. It’s supposed to be a guarantee. But I’ve managed to screw it up several years in a row.

I’ve been making this stuff or variations on it, since I was thirteen years old. I should have it down by now. It used to work fine when I’d just slop a bunch of stuff in the pan and stir while glancing at the kitchen clock.

But the more I understand about the candy-making process, the less able I’ve been to carry it off. I know there’s a “soft ball” stage and a “hard ball” stage. I seem to be taking it to the “Oh, Hell, what did I do now?” phase.

One year, I didn’t notice that I had the wrong size can of milk. I ended up with fudge that I could pour. I put it on a birthday cake, studded it with plastic trees and dinosaurs and called it a chocolate volcano.

Last year, I used a candy thermometer. It said, “Boil five minutes or until you reach…” Well, ten minutes didn’t take me to the right temp and so I gave up. We ate it with a spoon.

This year, I skipped the thermometer and boiled it for five minutes exactly, using a timer but sure that it wouldn’t set up.

I ended up with a chocolate paving stone that bent the knife when I tried to cut it. The contents of the pan seem to be heavier than the combined weight of the ingredients. If I hit you upside the head with this year’s fudge, you’ll be out of commission until the New Year.

I promised I’d bring a dozen and a half cookies to the concession stand at the swim meet on Saturday. I suppose I could give fudge. To the opposing team. They’ll spring off the blocks and sink to the bottom like stones.

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