What the Fudge: The Science Behind Fudge

What the Fudge: The Science Behind Fudge

in Nutrition by

What the Fudge: The Science Behind FudgeWe all have our favorite treats to satisfy our sweet teeth, from Skittles in bulk to chocolate bars to gumdrops. As wonderful, nostalgic, and convenient as bulk candy wholesale is, sometimes you crave something with that warm, homemade feel.

Enter fudge.

What Makes Fudge Different?

Fudge is still a sweet, delicious candy, but what sets it apart from any other chocolate or Kit Kat wholesale lies in crystals. Sugar crystals, in fact.

With any other candy—lollipops, taffy, caramels, chocolate bars—sugar crystals are a bad thing. They make the candy feel grainy. Fudge, however, is a crystalline candy. Unlike those other candies, you want crystals to form to create that firm but smooth texture. Other crystalline sweets include fondant—often used to decorate cakes—and rock candy, which really just consists of enormous sugar crystals.

Sugar Science

To understand why sugar crystallizes, we have to take a step back and look at the structure of sugar. Normal white sugar is more technically known as sucrose. Sucrose is actually made up of two other types of sugar, glucose and fructose, bonded together. Adding heat or an acidic substance causes sucrose to break down into those two respective components.

When cooking a mixture of sugar and water at high temperatures, water naturally evaporates, leaving less for the sugar to dissolve into. Sucrose is all or nothing when it comes to water. If the molecules don’t have water to cling to, they decide to crystallize out of the sugar solution.

With fudge, you have to control the crystallization process. You want just enough to create that firmness. Too many sugar crystals and you’ll feel large, gritty crystals in every bite.

How do you manage sugar crystal formation? For one, glucose and fructose. These sugars actually prevent crystallization by surrounding sucrose molecules and keeping them from joining up into larger crystals. Conveniently, sucrose is made up of both glucose and fructose. Remember, you can break sugar down into those two components with heat and acid. Increasing heat can make things worse (higher heat means faster water evaporation), so consider adding an acid—lemon juice or cream of tartar—to your recipe. Alternately, you can add corn syrup, which consists of glucose.

Butter, much like glucose and fructose, keeps sucrose molecules from joining together to form crystals.

Staying Cool

The key to smooth, non-gritty fudge is less in the cooking and more in the cooling. Recipes often require you to heat the fudge to a soft-ball stage and then let it cool, undisturbed. Stirring during the cooling phase will increase the chances of seed crystals forming.

Seed crystals give sucrose a surface to attach themselves to and can be anything from an air bubble to a modicum of dust to a few sucrose molecules already bonded. As the fudge cools, the seed crystal gets bigger and bigger.

Stirring as the fudge cools would only create seed crystals and help sucrose molecules find each other. By stirring, you’re also introducing a whole host of potential seed crystals. Wait until the batch has cooled to stir. You’ll get smaller sugar crystals for smooth fudge. Above all, don’t scrape the sides of the saucepan into your bowl. Your fudge will get grainy.

Fudge isn’t the easiest confection to make, but with some practice and plenty of patience, you should be fudging your way to the top in no time.