I know homemade fudge can seem a little daunting with candy thermometers and all, but I've made this three times now and it seems like a pretty snazzy technique that isn't too tough!
Penuche fudge is basically a vanilla fudge, except it has decadent caramel tones because it is made with brown sugar instead of granulated. Evaporated milk, brown sugar, a few chunks of butter and a pinch of salt are brought to a boil to form a bubbly golden pool that is left to simmer until it reaches the desired temperature (in this case, 236 degrees - soft ball stage). This will take several minutes as you want this to happen slowly - use medium-low heat... however, if the temperature does not seem to be creeping up, increase the heat slightly (try not to go higher than medium) until it starts to move again. The now very hot candy mixture is poured into a mixing bowl with a scoop of powdery confectioners' sugar added.
Rather than letting the mixture cool and beating with a wooden spoon (as many recipes call for), this one has you beat it with a mixer until it thickens and smooths out. When that happens, a splash of vanilla is added - now would also be the time to toss in a cup of toasted nuts, if you want a nutty fudge, but Jeff is darn picky about nuts in his fudge! This makes just enough to pour into a loaf pan without the resulting pieces being too thick.
Velvety smooth, rich and sweet, without being tooth-achingly so, each time we made this I didn't have any issues with grainy fudge or any other candy making disasters. Getting the sugar mixture up to the proper temperature is key for this to set up correctly - if you are unsure about your candy thermometer, you can check it by putting it in a pan of boiling water to see what it reads. Water boils at 212 degrees, so if your water is boiling and your thermometer reads 202 degrees, adjust the recipe accordingly. We use a handy digital one, but I do keep another kind on hand just in case.
Now, back to making it three times. Before sending out the first batch, we had to try a few pieces to make sure they turned out well... surely, you would do the same, no? So... maybe we actually sent out the second batch because we ate all of the first. Oops! It is "Smaller Batch" after all! The third? We decided to make a surprise Friday Treat Day last week and I had Jeff bring some into the office to share.