7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels (2024)

We won't beat around the bush: Homemade candies and fudge are intimidating. From a bubbling pot of screaming-hot sugar to mysterious phrase like "soft ball stage" to that, uh, bubbling pot of screaming-hot sugar, there's a lot to give any home cook pause. Here's the good news: By avoiding a few simple common mistakes, DIY candies are actually easy to make. From this moment henceforth, you shall be known as the Candyman. Or Candywoman. Whatever; let's make some candy.

1. Using the Wrong Pan

All candy and confections start by melting sugar. You'll need a heavy-bottomed saucepan with tall sides—no excuses or substitutions. Thin and flimsy aluminum isn't the best conductor of heat; it will cause portions of the sugar to burn before it's all entirely melted.

2. Stirring the Sugar

If you've ever had grainy fudge, you tasted the effects of crystallization. "Crystallization is the enemy of candies, fudge, and confections," says Claire Saffitz, senior associate food editor. Luckily, avoiding crystallization is as easy as not stirring the sugar as it melts. Instead, swirl the pot and use a wet pastry brush to wipe down the sides periodically (sugar will inevitably stick to the edges of the pot). Swirling the pot also helps distribute the heat, adjusting for any hot spots.

Chocolate Fudge. Bourbon Sugar. Yes, you want this. Photo: Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

3. Not Using a Candy Thermometer

Sorry, you absolutely cannot eyeball this one. It's imperative you get the temperature exactly right, because how firm or pliable the candy becomes as it cools is dependent on how hot it gets in the pot. If a recipe calls for cooking the sugar until 238˚, that means 238˚ exactly. You can't, uh, fudge it. The soft ball stage, which occurs from 234-240˚, is sticky and pliable; it's used for caramel and fudge. Firm ball occurs at 242-248˚; it's used in marshmallow, meringue, and gummy candies. Hard ball is 250-266˚ and best for nougat and toffee. This complete guide to cooked sugar stages is a very handy tool to have on hand.

4. Leaving Out the Parchment Paper Lining

Candies and caramels are sticky business. In fact, one of home cooks' biggest fears in making them is that they'll adhere to the pan, becoming impossible to pry out. Make the task easier by lining the pan with parchment paper. The paper should be long enough that the edges hang over the sides. Once the candies have set, all you have to do is grip the paper and lift it up and out.

5. Skipping the Cooking Spray

"PAM everything!" says Saffitz. "When I make candies, I coat the pan, the parchment, the bowl, even the spatula with a little bit of cooking spray." This is one of the tackiest cooking tasks you can tackle, so set yourself up for success and get a little preemptively slippery.

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels (2024)

FAQs

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels? ›

Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer

Another key part of a successful fudge texture is when you stir the mixture. Stirring the sugar and milk during the initial stages of cooking allows the sugar to dissolve. However, once the mixture comes to a boil, it's time to put the spoon down.

What not to do when making fudge? ›

Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer

Another key part of a successful fudge texture is when you stir the mixture. Stirring the sugar and milk during the initial stages of cooking allows the sugar to dissolve. However, once the mixture comes to a boil, it's time to put the spoon down.

What can go wrong when making fudge? ›

Fudge usually behaves this way when it's not cooked to a high enough temperature (due to oversight or a faulty candy thermometer). If your fudge is tough, hard, or grainy, then you may have made one of several mistakes: You may have overcooked it, beaten it too long, or neglected to cool it to the proper temperature.

What is the secret to perfect fudge? ›

The key to creamy, luscious fudge is controlling crystal formation. If the sucrose (table sugar) crystals are small, the fudge will feel creamy and smooth on your tongue. But if the crystals are large, the fudge develops a crumbly, dry, or even coarse texture.

What is the secret to smooth fudge that is not gritty? ›

Once a seed crystal forms, it grows bigger and bigger as the fudge cools. A lot of big crystals in fudge makes it grainy. By letting the fudge cool without stirring, you avoid creating seed crystals.

Do you stir fudge when it's boiling? ›

Brush the sides of the pan with a wet brush at the beginning of cooking to dissolve sugar crystals stuck to the sides. Never stir the mixture during cooking or sugar could crystallize again. The mixture may seize and become grainy. Use a candy thermometer or conduct a cold water test to check if the fudge is done.

Can you redo fudge that didn't set? ›

OPTION 4) If you think the reason it didn't set was because you didn't heat it to the right temperature, you could try putting it back into the pan and re-cooking.

Why does my fudge fall apart when I cut it? ›

The amount of time you cook fudge directly affects its firmness. Too little time and the water won't evaporate, causing the fudge to be soft. Conversely, cook it too long and fudge won't contain enough water, making it hard with a dry, crumbly texture.

Why did my fudge turn out like caramel? ›

Fudge can turn into caramel due to overcooking or undercooking, incorrect temperatures, or wrong ingredients.

Why did my homemade fudge not harden? ›

Why has my Fudge not set? The main reason is that your Fudge has not reached the optimum temperature. If your mixture only reaches 110 or 112 degrees Celsius it will always be soft.

How long do you boil fudge to get to soft ball stage? ›

How long does it take to make fudge:
  1. about 18 min to reach boiling.
  2. about 40 minutes to reach soft ball stage.
  3. 60 minutes to cool.
  4. 28 minutes to beat in a KitchenAid (your time for this may vary)
  5. 4 hours to set.

What is the ball method fudge? ›

According to most recipes, the ingredients of fudge are cooked to what is termed in kitchen parlance the soft ball stage, that point between 234 and 240 °F (112 and 115 °C) at which a small ball of the candy dropped in ice water neither disintegrates nor flattens when picked up with the fingers.

What should fudge look like after beating? ›

The fudge is then beaten as this makes the fudge slightly crumbly rather than chewy. Beating the mixture encourages the formation of small sugar crystals, which leads to the crumbly texture. The crystals may not be noticeable in themselves but the fudge mixture will thicken and turn from shiny to matte in appearance.

What temperature should fudge be cooked at? ›

Stir the ingredients to dissolve the sugar until the mixture comes to a boil. If your recipe uses milk, stirring will keep the mixture from curdling. But once it reaches about 236–238 degrees F/113–114 degrees C (the "soft-ball" stage), do not stir it or even shake the pan.

What makes fudge firmer? ›

If your fudge fails to harden in the fridge, it means that you probably didn't cook it to the right temperature. Fudge is a candy, and that means it is extremely picky about temperature - fudge must be cooked to precisely 237–239 degrees Fahrenheit so that sugar forms the desired consistency when cooled.

What are the common mistakes you encounter during your activity in candy making? ›

5 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Making Candy From Scratch
  • You added the sugar wrong.
  • You did not use a candy thermometer.
  • You forgot to coat the pan.
  • You sliced the candy too soon.
  • You failed to store candy properly.
Apr 14, 2022

Why can't you make fudge when it's raining? ›

As strange as it sounds, it is a fact that weather affects fudge making. This is because when the weather is damper with an increased humidity level your Homemade Fudge Recipe will take longer to boil.

Why won't my 3 ingredient condensed milk fudge set? ›

Why is my fudge not hardening? Typically this happens when the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk do not cook long enough in the microwave. If those two ingredients are not entirely melted, the fudge will not set up correctly while chilling in the fridge.

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