By Lauren Chattman
A quick survey of Main Street businesses confirms that Sag Harbor is for chocolate lovers. If you’re shopping for Valentine’s Day you have plenty of choices. Sylvester & Company stocks beautiful boxes of Marie Belle chocolate caramels. Provisions sells fair-trade organic chocolate bars from around the world. There are trays of S’mores donuts with Nutella at Grindstone Coffee. The Variety store sells economy-size bags of fun-size chocolate treats, for filling a heart-shaped piñata. Venture to Division Street for Sag Harbor Baking Company’s chocolate chip cookies and brownies and pick up a hot cocoa next door at Jack’s Stir Brew for the ride home.
If you want to make your own chocolate Valentine’s Day gifts, look no further than the IGA, where you will find everything you need for 10-minute white chocolate and cherry fudge. The Schiavonis have made it easy. Evaporated milk, Ghirardelli white chocolate, cherry preserves, dried cherries, almonds, and Marshmallow Fluff are in aisle two, along with sugar, vanilla, and salt. A quick detour to the refrigerator section for some butter and your shopping is done.
The origin of this great American confection is disputed. Some people, most of them Vassar College graduates, believe that a Vassar student from Baltimore popularized her family recipe by importing it to Poughkeepsie in 1890. The descendents of Sara Murdick, of Murdick’s Candy Kitchen on Mackinac Island in Michigan dispute this claim, arguing that Murdicks have been making fudge on the family’s marble table since their first shop opened in 1887.
Sure, you could drag out your marble slab (what, you don’t have one?) and make fudge the old-fashioned way, cooking sugar syrup to the softball stage, adding the chocolate and cooking for another hour, and then cooling it on the slab, scraping and blending it with butter until smooth, all the while praying that the sugar in the mixture doesn’t crystallize and transform your fudge into a grainy, greasy mess.
Or you could take the easy way out. Use a couple of convenient ingredients to ensure that your fudge will be smooth and creamy even if you are a first-time candy maker. Marshmallow cream, contains corn syrup, egg whites, and gelatin, all of which prevent sugar molecules from crystallizing and becoming grainy in the fudge. While heavy cream is traditionally used in old-fashioned fudge, evaporated milk provides the same creamy flavor with no danger of curdling. It’s slightly thicker and richer than regular milk, with no added sugar. Don’t confuse it with sweetened condensed milk, which will make your fudge too sweet.
For my Valentine’s Day fudge I started with white chocolate, which makes fudge extra-creamy because it contains so much cocoa butter. I wanted pink candy, so I tinted the chocolate with some cherry preserves. Dried cherries gave it extra fruit flavor and their tartness balanced the sweetness of the chocolate. Chopped almonds add a little bit of crunch. Don’t skip the salt. It is crucial in bringing out the flavors of the other ingredients. Without it, your candy will taste one-dimensional.
Keep your fudge tightly wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Small squares of fudge make sweet gifts, especially when packaged in cellophane bags tied up with pretty ribbons.
White Chocolate and Cherry Fudge
Makes 16 squares, about 2 pounds
3/4 cup sugar
1 jar Marshmallow Fluff (7 1/2 oz)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup cherry preserves
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup toasted and chopped almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, making sure that the foil is tucked into all the corners and that there is at least 1 inch overhanging the top of the pan on all sides.
- Combine the sugar, Marshmallow Fluff, evaporated milk, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until smooth. Stir in the preserves, dried cherries, nuts, and vanilla. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
- Grasping the overhanging foil on either side of the pan, lift out the fudge and place on a cutting board. Cut into small squares. Serve immediately or store squares in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.