Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fudging Penuche Fudge

Today (July 22nd) is Penuche Fudge day. It completely skipped my mind due to my excitement for the start of the new season of Hells Kitchen.(oops)Normally I would have made this last night so I could take it to work this morning, but … Hey, better late than never, right? For anyone who is not familiar with this New England confection, Penuche fudge attempts to recreate the flavor of the Mexican Panocha, Piloncillio or Panela (being the pressed Raw Sugar “cones”)

This form of semi-refined sugar is similar to "jaggery" in India (which is derived from Palm sap instead of Cane). It's high in natural molasses, thus Brown Sugar is a key ingredient for Penuche Fudge in place of the White Granulated Sugar normally used to make chocolate fudge.
Sadly it seems that a lot of recipes flying around the net now days contain very little Brown Sugar, being comprised primarily of Confectioners’ Sugar. These are often called “No-Cook alternatives”… I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Penuche fudge doesn’t really work like that… I am not trying to be a fudge snob or anything, but the flavor of Penuche requires Brown Sugar and cooking to softball, or it ends up being more of a Vanilla Fudge than anything else… You just can’t fudge penuche... ;)

Penuche Fudge

2 cups Light Brown Sugar
1 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 cup Whipping Cream (Heavy Cream works even better)
3 TB Unsalted butter
1/8 tsp Salt
1 tsp Real Mexican or Bourbon Vanilla Extract (Tahitian is too Floral)
1 cup chopped Pecans
Combine Sugars, Cream, Butter and Salt in a stainless or copper sauce pan (DO NOT USE a NON-STICK Pan)

Place over LOW heat and stir until the mixture begins to boil, then remove spoon and add thermometer. 

Cook until the syrup reaches 238 degrees (Soft ball

Meanwhile - Line your 8x8 pan with waxed paper.

Chop the pecans....

Remove from heat, add the vanilla and let it set until it cools to 110 degrees.

Pour mixture into a mixing bowl; beat mixture on low speed until the luster is gone and penuche has a matte finish (this can take quite awhile... 15-20 minutes, depending)

Mine took way longer, but my kitchen was over 90 degrees so I had to break out the frozen chicken to cool the bowl down cause I had hit the 30 minute mark. (at which point the mixer was getting hot too, thus keeping the syrup warm - Vicious cycle)... LOL

Once it reaches a matte finish... Quickly fold in the vanilla and pecans,

Then press into your wax paper lined 8 x 8 pan

To add a little shine to the top, you can brush the surface lightly with more light cream.
If you do not possess a candy thermometer, you can do this the old fashioned way (the way my Grandmother and Great-Grandmother did it)
Place a bowl of cold water near the stove, check the sugar syrup by dropping a small amount into the cold water.

Let is cool slightly, then fish it out, pressing lightly with your fingers... Soft ball will give when squeezed.

And when set down on the counter, it will hold it's shape for a few seconds before slowly spreading.

Now a warning... I should have probably mentioned this at the beginning... NEVER try to make candy on a humid day. I was reminded of this as I flipped past the Weather channel. Evidently the current humidity level in San Diego is 84%... YIKES! This is too high for candy making, but I was already boiling the syrup, so I trudged forward anyway... We shall see what happens come the dawn... I am still waiting for it to set (It's still really warm in my apartment), but I am posting this anyway. Hopefully I will be adding the picture of the cut pieces tomorrow morning... I have high hopes, because the residual syrup set up well on the beater...
Now I must depart for I have a cup of coffee waiting for me... And I get to lick the afore mentioned beater... ;) 

07/23/09 - OK, Picture added this morning... Yes, it did set up... Not QUITE as firm as I would have liked, but firm enough and extremely creamy and delicious. So I'm not going to complain. It could have been much much worse considering the high humidity. I am one happy camper, as is the IS/IT department at work... They all have a sugar buzz goin. HA HA !!

Penuche on Foodista


DDpie said...

Dude! When I saw the title of your post I thought, "is he insane? in the heat and humidity he's having?" But then I thought, if anyone could pull it off YOU could LOL From the looks of the beater, you did :) Oh, and ITA about the tahitian vanilla ;) Great job!

Spryte said...

Penuche was my grandmother's favorite!! I can remember making it for her once when I was young! I was going to make some yesterday when I saw it Penuche day... but I have no candy thermometer. I had no idea about the humidity thing... but it was wicked humid yesterday... so it's a good thing I didn't! But whenever I hear Penuche... I think of Grammy!

Culinary Alchemist said...

DD - The jury is in.. I am.. Insane that is.. ;) It was a little touch and go there for awhile as to whether it would set or not... The beater blade was pretty tasty, I must say.. ;)

Spryte - Yeah, the humidity thing bites me in the behind a little too often. San Diego is deceptive, it "feels" drier than it really is. I was floored last night when I saw the percentage. Penuche was one of the things my great-grandma Ruby made for Christmas... Then my mom took over after she passed. Good memories. :)

Bob said...

... how could you make Penuche without brown sugar? That's like making brownies without chocolate (and no, carob doesn't count. Heh.)

It looks great, candy making has always intimidated me. Hope everything sets up!

Culinary Alchemist said...

Bob - I can understand... My Mom and Grandmother are aces at this sort of thing.. I still can't seem to get Divinity right.. Ends up more like dried icing... LOL Everything did turn out OK, TG. I added the pic, but forgot to update the text blog text.

Patti T. said...

Oh my gosh, my husband tells me all the time about the wicked penuche his Aunt Arnie used to make. I bet he sure would have liked to have tasted yours. Glad that yours set up despite the humidity.

DDpie said...

Well I see from your updated pic that it turned out fantastic! (dare I doubt you, sigh)

Danielle said...

OMG!! I want some of this. hmmm....maybe this will be my weekend project. although with all that moisture coming up from the south, it might not be a good time. but WOW that looks great.

Connie said...

What could you have done if
it hadn't set up? Mine set
overnight and it's still
like taffy. Is there
something I can do?

Shane Wingerd said...

It usually depends on the recipe. Some fudges can be scraped into a pan with 1/4 milk and 2 TB granulated sugar (make sure it's cane sugar and not beet sugar as beet sugar causes inconsistent results in candy making), melted down and reboiled to soft or firm ball, rested and then rebeaten. (like the Penuche in this post)

Others, such as the sweetened condensed milk type or the marshmallow cream fudges are a lost cause as far as I know... though they can be chilled, rolled into balls, chilled again and then dipped in tempered chocolate.

I hope that was helpful. :)

Anonymous said...

Your finished penuche looks fantastic and I'm about to try your recipe. I was wondering if the penuche comes out smooth and creamy or if it's grainy? My aim is for smooth and creamy. Also, when is the vanilla added?
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to ask: what is a substitute for light whipping cream? Not finding light whipping cream here in California.
Thanks, Shane

Shane Wingerd said...

Greetings, I hope it works out well for you... This penuche is extremely creamy, yet melts in your mouth almost instantly. If regular whipping cream (light) is not available, that is fine... This works even better with Heavy Cream.

I just realized after all this time, that I had left the Vanilla step out...

When you remove the pan from the heat and you are waiting for it to cool to 110 degrees... That is the moment you add the Vanilla... Just toss it into the pan and let it sit there while the syrup cools.