What is it about a soft chunk of penuche fudge that captivates the taste buds? Sure, it’s sugary-sweet, and that means it will always be popular on some level; but there’s just something about a freshly-made penuche fudge recipe that makes me curl my toes and bite my lip.
I’m a huge fudge fan, so maybe it was destined to be love at first bite. I love my chocolate straight-up and unfettered by any sort of distracting cake or cookie – at Christmas, I’m always found camped out in front of the fudge plate, making short work of my grandma’s family recipe. After a particularly traumatic pumpkin fudge incident, I limited myself to chocolate fudge and didn’t pay much attention to anything but the richest, deepest, darkest varieties as they crosses my culinary path. Blonde fudge? Eh. Caramel fudge? Nah. Peanut butter fudge? Blah.
Penuche? What’s that?
Some of you might remember how I spent the first part of this year in rural Massachusetts, sequestered in Cape Cod during a time of year that can only be described as, “really &#*%*@% cold.” When you’re locked away in self-imposed solitude and the temperature dips down to below 0 degrees, you start reaching for anything within arm’s reach that’s even remotely construed as comforting. As luck would have it, there was single, solitary coffee shop open in a nearby town, where I’d spend as many waking hours as possible. Nevermind that I had to sit out on the highway in the frigid cold, a veritable Steph-sical, waiting for the Flex Bus to Orleans. I was on my way to the Hot Chocolate Sparrow.
Besides being a lovely little coffee house, the Chocolate Sparrow (locals drop the “hot” in the name, for brevity’s sake, I’m sure) was a full-service diabetic coma factory. Besides a small offering of soups and sandwiches, the place had a insanely diverse selection of sweets. Cookies, cakes, pastries, ice cream, waffles, you name it. And, they had an old-fashioned candy counter that would make Baby Jesus cry from cavity-induced agony.
It was here that I had my first taste of penuche. Having exhausted the sample tray of all traces of chocolate, I poked glumly at the caramel-colored cubes left behind. “I’m not cutting up anymore chocolate until either you or the penuche samples are gone,” the counter lady half joked. “Go on, live a little.” She chortled to herself behind her book, amused by a now long-running inside joke we shared about me ransacking the sample tray a few times a week.
After a few minutes of staring and unsuccessfully manifesting a full plate of chocolate fudge, I grabbed one of the penuche blocks and stuck it in my mouth. At first I was underwhelmed, but as the buttery, brown sugary sweetness swept across my tongue, I took notice. The candy was soft and tender, with a notable caramel flavor, and the the addition of toasted pecans, I was in sugar-friend heaven. I bought two pounds and completely decimated my sugar limitation for the day.
Penuche fudge recipes are easy to make. If you’re at all familiar with candy-making, you’ll find this a dream to throw together and enjoy within a few hours. If you’ve not been indoctrinated into the Society of Candy-Making Zealots ™, never fear – besides a pot and a baking dish, the only equipment you’ll need is a candy thermometer.
- 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 2 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk or half and half
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup toasted, finely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
- Line a 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment, leaving 2-inches overhang on two opposing sides. Make sure to fold the paper into the corners of the pan. For those more visually inclined, here’s a video tutorial, using a loaf pan.
- In a heavy saucepan over medium-low flame, heat brown sugar, white sugar, milk, butter, and salt to 236F while stirring constantly. This should take 20-25 minutes.
- Pour penuche into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium for 2-4 minutes, or until fudge is thick and smooth. Lower speed to low and add vanilla extract and chopped nuts.
- Using a spatula greased with butter, spread penuche fudge into lined pan, smoothing out the top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before cutting. If refrigerated, penuche will keep in a sealed container for up to a week. For maximum freshness, don’t cut until ready to serve.
If you like this penuche fudge recipe, check out these other recipes: