By Angela McRae, The Shopper Kitchen
If you’re like me, you may be planning a trip to the mountains sometime this fall. I’ll be visiting the North Georgia Mountains as usual, and while I’m there, you can bet I’ll be looking to enjoy some of the unique flavors of the season. I always enjoy finding a local produce farm brimming with apples and treats like pumpkin butter, peach bread, and fresh jams and jellies. And if the locals have a fudge shop, I’m in heaven.
When I researched fudge history, I wasn’t surprised to find a mention of Mackinac Island, Michigan. My husband and I visited the island this summer, and though I had been told that fudge shops there were plentiful, I had no idea that the streets of this legendary town would be lined with them! You could hardly walk ten feet without seeing a sign for a fudge shop or, even better, smelling the sweet fragrance wafting through the air as huge mounds of fudge were being shaped across slabs of marble.
According to foodtimeline.org, “American confectioners introduced modern fudge to resort-area vacationers in the 1880s. Mackinac Island is particularly known for this confection.” Later, Ivy League coeds made fudge directly in the pan rather than using any special equipment. Some historians believe that the word “fudge” itself is simply a verb (or possibly expletive!) referring to botched caramels. These caramels, then, were “fudged” by those making them.
Not all fudge is created equal. I’m partial to the rich, velvety-smooth fudge that doesn’t have a hint of a granulated sugar taste. The creamier the fudge, the better I like it. And when the fudge-making mood hits, my favorite fudge recipe is this one.
Penuche (pronounced “puh-NOO-chee”) is a fudge made with brown sugar, butter, cream or milk, and nuts. This caramel-flavored fudge is so rich that one piece will probably satisfy your sugar cravings for an entire day. Try it and let me know if you agree!
Creamy Pecan Penuche
1 stick butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup chopped pecans, divided use (or use a mix of walnuts and pecans or other favorite nuts)
Prepare an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium saucepan and over medium heat, melt the butter, add the brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir for two minutes. Add half-and-half, increase heat to medium, and again bring to a boil, stirring all the while. Remove mixture from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Add confectioners’ sugar and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy, using a wire whisk to remove any lumps. Add 3/4 cup of the pecans and combine. Pour mixture into pan, then add the remaining 1/4 cup of pecans and lightly press them down. Refrigerate until firm before cutting into one-inch squares. Penuche may be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to two weeks. Yields 64 pieces.