Fudge is very much an American confection, and continues the collection of American dessert recipes that grandma collected. In some cases, grandma would note down that the recipe came from the American women’s magazine, McCalls, such as in some of these recipes.
Fudge is believed to date from the 1880s, becoming popular at women’s colleges such as Vassar, Wellesley and Smith in the 1890s.
The skill in making a good fudge is to produce a texture that is both creamy, yet has a fine crystalline texture. The crucial factor is the temperature, both when the syrup mixture is taken off the heat, and when you start to beat the butter into the mixture. Which is why some people would insist on using a candy thermometer when making this. You also need to watch for the formation of sugar crystals on the sides of the pan whilst cooking, and quickly brush them away with a pastry brush dipped in as little water as possible. Some fudge recipes include corn syrup, which inhibits the formation of sugar crystals, but grandma’s recipe doesn’t have this, so more skill is needed to get a successful fudge out of this.
Fudge, like fondants, are confections cooked to the ‘soft ball’ stage, i.e. when a small amount is dropped in cold water it forms a ball that loses its shape when removed from the water.
‘Essence’ is mentioned in the instructions but not the list of ingredients; this refers to vanilla essence.