Before I do anything else, I would like to dedicate this post to the lovely Ruth, who very kindly told me that what I was trying to accomplish could not be done. Ruth, I hate to tell you this, but I just did it. Third time's a charm, right?
Last night I took another stab at fresh fruit fudge. Those of you who missed my previous forays may want to check out this and this. I was out of strawberries, but I still have a pretty serious supply of peaches, so I went with that. I've been studying all sorts of fudge recipes since my last two attempts, and I've come to a conclusion: my theories about the basis of fudge were all wrong. You see, I, like most people, tend to associate the word fudge with chocolate. And because of this, I assumed that the physics of fudge were based on chocolate. I mean, why not? The physics of truffles are based on chocolate.
As it turns out, the physics of fudge are based on sugar. Having watch the Fudge Factor episode of Good Eats time and time again, you'd think I would have figured this out, especially since the episode is almost entirely about crystals. But sugar crystals aren't the only factor, of course. As it turns out, the fat content has a lot to do with it as well. And, as you might have guessed, so does the moisture content. In fact, these are the only three factors present: crystals, fat and moisture.
This time, I replaced all of the milk and half & half with a mashed up large peach, minus the skin and pit. It had a lot of liquid. All in all, it was probably close to a cup, including pulp and liquid. I was confident that this amount of moisture, being less than usual, would have time to evaporate without picking up that "cooked flavor". I added 2 3/4 cups of sugar, 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of corn syrup and the juice of a lime to the peach. I stirred occassionally while bringing to a boil, and the slapped the lid on for 3 minutes to allow for the condensation to wash down the sides. I removed the lid, slapped on the candy thermometer and brought it to 229F (keeping in mind my high altitude, at sea level it would be 236F). I pulled it off the heat, put 2 more tablespoons of butter on top to melt in, and moved the pan to an ice water bath. When it reached 115F, I pulled it out of the bath and stirred vigorously with a wooden spoon. It started out looking pretty clear, but eventually it started to lighten up and pick up a little opacity. When it got gloopy and my arm felt like it was going to fall off, I poured it into an 8x8 pan lined with parchment and let it sit overnight.
It set up! It actually set up! I cut it into squares this morning and tried one out. Oh man! This stuff is intense. I think that the peach might actually make it seem sweeter than it really is. A couple of notes: I meant to stir in a little vanilla as a flavor enhancer just before stirring. I also meant to add a pinch of salt to the sugar before bringing it to a boil. This recipe still needs some tweaking to keep it from being too sweet, but at least it did set up, and can now properly be called fudge.