For the impatient, here are recipe links right away.
This is what I was ostensibly following, though I omitted the walnuts:
This is more like what I actually did (see also bolded text below):
Now, the wordy bit.
My in-laws live in the Vancouver area, so we visit there regularly. One place I really like to go is Grandville Island, which has a bunch of little artists’ and crafters’ shops and a farmers’ market, among other things. In the market there is usually a maple syrup booth. In addition to selling syrup (which we don’t buy, because we order it from Vermont four half-gallon jugs at a time), they sell other forms of maple, namely maple butter (simply maple syrup finely crystallized, no other ingredients), loose maple sugar, and maple sugar candies in the shape of leaves.
And maple fudge, which is the best best best stuff in the world. It’s not cheap, so I never get as much as I’d like, but the person behind the counter told me that she once tried to overdose on it so she’d lose the taste for it and after about 20 pieces she still liked it. She also told me that there are only three ingredients — maple syrup, cream, and butter — and that the company gives away the recipe if you email and ask.
Naturally I have forgotten the name of the company, even though I can clearly visualize the booth. And of course I have long since consumed all of their products that I brought back. But how uncommon can that recipe be?
So I Googled “maple fudge recipe” and the first hit mentioned marshmallows. Uh, no. Further looking found me recipes with brown and/or white sugar and a smallish amount of syrup, and a few that called for imitation maple flavoring. Quelle horreur! (I know not everyone can get maple syrup but…well… argh.)
But I finally found the one linked at the top of the post. And it or another one pointed out that maple fudge is very similar to penuche (which is chocolate fudge minus the chocolate) so I looked at those recipes as well. I was also reminded that corn syrup, while optional, guarantees the texture by keeping the sugar from forming really big crystals, or something like that. I couldn’t remember if we had corn syrup, but the first recipe didn’t call for it anyway, and I have a little bit of a conceptual distaste for it from all of the high-fructose corn syrup in American manufactured foods and drinks instead of sugar. I also saw some recipes with butter, some without, and decided I’d just add some at the cooling stage, when various recipes suggested adding things like vanilla and nuts (which I didn’t).
So, the first recipe it was. I skipped the very first step, which is preparing a dish by lining it with plastic wrap, deciding to butter a square pan instead (because more butter is more yum).
Next step is to boil 2 cups of maple syrup and 1 cup of cream in a (3 quart pot) to 235 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Miraculously, I’d actually located the candy thermometer, so I could do this. I should maybe note that we use Grade B dark syrup here (now known as Grade A Dark and Robust), since it’s considerably more flavorful than the standard and much lighter Grade A which is much easier to find in large amounts.
At some point during the boiling (maybe 20 minutes, most of it spent on the last 20 degrees), I found the corn syrup and squeezed in maybe a tablespoon. This dropped the temperature briefly but not for long.
As the temperature approached 235, I started being concerned about the mixing step. Some of the penuche recipes I’d seen advised putting the bowl on ice and/or in ice water to cool it down faster and help the fudge “set”. I didn’t have that on hand and didn’t know how the maple mixture might behave differently, so I compromised by sticking the metal bowl into the freezer until the temp hit about 234.8.
Once the temp reached 235 I poured the mixture into the chilled bowl without scraping the pot (I think this has to do with crystallization/texture, so I’d probably just scrape it next time since I added the corn syrup for that), wrangling with the very long candy thermometer in the process. Per the recipe, I let it cool 5 minutes. During this time I dropped maybe 2 tablespoons of salted butter onto the mixture without stirring. (I know, real cooks use unsalted butter and specific amounts of salt rather than whatever the proportion in the salted butter happens to be, but I just don’t care that much. Especially with all the maybes in this post.)
And then I stirred. Forever. The recipe says to stir gently until the stuff lightens, loses its shine, and stands on its own without stirring, maybe 5 minutes, but after 10+ minutes of arm-killing stirring I gave up and poured it into the buttered square pan. Granted, I wasn’t stirring gently. But I think the key takeaway here is use the flippin’ stand mixer for this, which I will next time.
While waiting for it to cool enough to cut (and hoping that would in fact happen, since while the stuff had thickened it wasn’t yet holding its shape much), I scraped and ate as much as I could of the fudge on the bowl. I also scraped the pot, getting basically maple caramel that was delicious but possibly dangerous if one has loose fillings.
The result isn’t as crumbly and solid as what I’d bought (and I still don’t know the butter amount), but it’s delicious. And also getting close to gone. Considering it’s Saturday and I made this on Thursday, it’s impressive that there’s still any at all. I would say it’s also a bit stronger in maple flavor, probably from using the grade B syrup, I mean grade A dark and robust. (Spouse called while I was writing this paragraph and reminded me that the classifications recently changed to make it all Grade A + adjectives. Sigh. There are lots of letters left in the alphabet, why go in the direction of using fewer?)
So! Things I will likely do differently next time:
- Add the modicum of corn syrup at the beginning
- Cook for a tiny bit longer
- Add more butter, ’cause I can
- Use the STAND MIXER. Seriously.