Monday, August 1, 2011
Walnut Penuche Fudge and an Early Kitchen Disaster Redeemed
Fudge is an incredibly nostalgic treat for me. The summers of my childhood always included eating fudge, and this was usually enjoyed somewhere on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where fudge and ice cream are two vital food groups to be consumed on a daily basis. Standing in front of the glass display cases of the little candy shops, I would gaze at the different flavors of fudge such as chocolate, chocolate nut, maple walnut, rocky road, peanut butter and chocolate mint. The one that always leaped out at me (and still does) is walnut penuche. This brown sugar confection melts on your tongue in a rich, buttery sweetness and the crunch of walnuts balances out the intense sugar. Try nibbling some with the sun setting on your face after a day spent splashing in the waves.
More reminiscing here... Do you recall your first experiences in the kitchen? Let me tell you about one of mine. When I was about 10 years old, I decided to make walnut penuche at home. My parents were out for a bit and I thought this was a terrific way to spend the afternoon. I pulled out my treasured copy of the Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book, which I knew contained a recipe for Quick Walnut Penuche. While I had memorized the photos and drawings in this cookbook (and had thought about cooking many of the recipes) I hadn’t yet tried anything on my own.
I pulled butter from the fridge and tossed it into a saucepan, turning the electric burner up to high. While that sizzled, I scooped out brown sugar and plopped it in with the now bubbling butter. I took some time to hunt around the cabinet for the sifter for the powdered sugar, and then remembered to pour in the milk. I didn’t make it further than the milk pouring because the hissing, smoking mixture had begun to pop all over the place! And when I tried to stir it I discovered the bottom was a hardened blob that had fused with the saucepan. Did I mention the scorched smell? Big sigh ... my walnut penuche was not to be.
My folks returned home to find me attempting to scrape a burnt buttery mess from the bottom of the pan. I remember my mom peeking in the fridge and asking, “How much butter did you use?” Apparently, I hadn’t mastered the proper weighing and measuring of butter yet, and at least a pound was melted into the brown, rock-hard blob. Fortunately, this early mishap did not daunt my desire to be in the kitchen!
I still associate fudge with summer and the time has come for me to redeem my early attempt at walnut penuche. My mom held onto my Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book all these years (thanks, Mom!) and whenever I fondly open its pages I am transported back to my childhood bedroom, sprawled across my canopy bed, dreaming up menus. Pages are still marked for Frosty Lime Floats, Perfect French Toast, Strawberry-Pineapple Freeze, Stuffed Eggs, Sunny Carrots and my favorite, Chocolate Mint Cups.
I am happy to say that today’s walnut penuche fudge making was a sweet success! While waiting for the fudge to firm up, I flipped through the BHGJ Cook Book and found an overlooked recipe for “Chocolate Peppermint Delicious” (imagine cream, chocolate wafers and peppermint candy in a frozen concoction). Mmm, the book may be spending some more time in the kitchen this summer and I don’t expect any complaints (or, fingers crossed, cooking disasters!).
From the Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book
Makes one 8x8 inch pan
Butter for pan
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup chopped walnuts
Butter an 8x8 square pan and set aside. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar. Cook for 2 minutes over low heat while stirring. Stir in the milk. Continue mixing until the mixture is boiling.
Remove from heat and cool the mixture to room temperature. Using a wooden spoon, beat in the powdered sugar until it is a fudge-like consistency (I used just under 2 cups). Stir in the walnuts and pour into the prepared pan (I used a piece of wax paper to press the fudge down and smooth it). Chill until firm and cut into pieces. Leftover fudge can be wrapped in plastic and left at room temperature, or stored in the fridge if your kitchen is very warm. Enjoy!