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Fudging in French... + dessert recipe

La Charlotte de L'isle - patisserie in Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse
Forward this post to a French friend. Today's edition, on fudge, is a reverse-dictionary entry: instead of translating a French word, we'll begin with English. This is dedicated to all of our French readers--so happy to know you're reading. You keep me on my toes! (photo of a sweets shop taken in Paris)

fudge (n) (fuhzh)

    : espèce de caramel mou (a kind of soft caramel)

fudge (v)

    : tricher (to cheat)

chocolate fudge cake = le moelleux au chocolat
butter fudge = le caramel mou 

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Le Fudge est une confiserie anglaise... réalisée avec du beurre, du sucre, du lait et généralement parfumée avec du chocolat ou de la vanille...

Fudge is a candy (or confectionery) made with butter, sugar, and milk and commonly flavored with chocolate or vanilla.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse 

The Accidental Confectioners

After my father left early yesterday morning, I remembered an unfulfilled goal I'd set before he arrived: I was to pick Dad's brain a little each day--ask him all about his life and that of my ancestors.... Only, si vite que ça, three weeks had gone by and, poof, he and my belle-mère Marsha were gone!

I sat there in bed last night, eating the last two squares of fudge I'd found in the fridge. As the chocolate melted in my mouth I began to remember one story I'd gotten out of my dad: how surprising it had been to learn that he once loved to make fudge!

My dad, just like his mother was, is a skips-dessert type--so it was amusing to learn that the two enjoyed the bucolic pastime of candy-making. 

"In the 50s," Dad explained, "it was kind of the new fad. Everyone was making fudge."

(Later, I would google "fudge" and better understand why my no-dessert grandmother knew how to make this decadent confiserie: historically fudge came into public consciousness after it was made at college campuses to raise money. Among the first universities to participate in a fudge auction, were Vassar and  Smith college. My grandmother Annette was at Steven's Finishing College (for women), probably making fudge like the others. I wonder.

Dad went on to say that it was easy to make fudge, you only needed three ingredients: cocoa powder, butter, and sugar! "Mom and I just mixed it all together, heating it. Next we let it harden."

As Dad spoke, I looked over at my belle-mère, Marsha, who listened along with me. Wouldn't it be a fun project for Jackie (who would be spending the month of July in the States, with Dad and Marsha) to make fudge with her grandfather? It would be a wonderful souvenir. At the very least it would be an activity Dad and Jackie could enjoy together (should fly-fishing prove unpopular).

Marsha lit up as the two of us hatched a plan to get grandfather and granddaughter in the kitchen together. Locking eyes with my belle-mère I whispered, "I think we have all the ingredients here now--for a healthier version!"

 And just like that--illico presto--stepmother and stepdaughter (make that belle-mère and belle-fille, for isn't that much better?!) were in the kitchen-turned-laboratoire.... for a trial run.

I reached for the coconut oil, the cacao, and the honey as Marsha nodded in agreement: this should work!

My belle-mère agreed that coconut oil would be a perfect substitute. We discovered that both of us used it on a daily basis: Marsha uses it in her morning nutribullet -- and I use the organic coconut oil as a daily moisturizer.

I measured one cup of the oil, before transfering it to a bowl for mixing. Because it is summertime, the oil is almost liquified, so it wasn't necessary to heat it first.

Next, Marsha measured out the chocolate powder (I found a box of 100 percent cocoa powder in the cupboard), before carefully folding in the powdery chocolate (which tended to rise like a puff of smoke as Marsha stirred it. Atchoum!).

After, I measured out 3/4 cup of honey, then poured it into the bowl. That's when the intensive stirring began....

After a few minutes Marsha passed the bowl to me. "Your turn!" Having passed the bowl back and forth a few times we'd whipped up an almost pourable fudge! I grabbed a plastic spatula and Marsha guided the flow of chocolate into a cake pan (we had no wax paper. This was the best we could do!).

I remembered a bag of crushed pecans that had been in the fridge for months. Marsha and I stuck our nose in the bag and determined the spiced nuts were unspoiled--and ready to become the perfect fudge topping. On they went! Marsha then set the pan in the fridge for a few hard-to-wait-out hours. 

"Do you think it's ready yet?" Marsha asked for the third time. Finally, she fudged, pulling out the pan and lifting out a square for us to sample before dinner. As the chocolate melted in our mouths we locked eyes. C'était réussi! The fudge was a success! 

"It tastes kind of like a Mounds bar," Marsha noted.

"It's delicious," I agreed. "But I wonder if Dad and Jackie should stick to the classic butter-sugar-chocolate recipe?"

"It's true that not everyone will like this version," Marsha agreed. "You might have to be used to the healthy substitutions (of coconut oil and honey) in order to have a taste for it."

The real test came after dinner, when the fudge platter made the rounds at the dinner table.... and the accidental confectioners were delighted to see that everyone reached for seconds!


Tip: though refrigerated for a few hours, the fudge melted quickly on our fingers. Marsha suggested serving it alongside ice cream -- something that would help preserve it for a few more minutes :-)

Update: after Dad and Marsha's departure, when I ate those last two comforting squares, I noticed the chocolate didn't melt as fast. So an extra day in the fridge helps. I leave you with the recipe:

Healthy Fudge

  • one cup organic coconut oil
  • one cup chocolate powder (unsweetened, 100 percent cacao)
  • 3/4 cup honey 
  • toppings such as crushed nuts, coconut flakes, dried fruit...

Mix all ingredients together. Pour onto wax paper (or into a pan). Note: To loosen the chilled fudge, Marsha set the pan in an inch of warm water--for a brief moment! Then she was able to cut the fudge and lift it out of the pan.

Healthy fudge (c) Kristin Espinasse
We sprinkled crushed spiced pecans on top (made by our friend Phyllis Adatto, of French Country Wines. That's the deep pan we used to set the fudge (normally we would have used a cookie sheet and wax paper...) The pan's diameter was the right size -- small enough to allow the poured fudge to pile up for a thick enough square. 
Healthy fudge (c) Kristin Espinasse
I set the fudge on a pretty pottery dish that Marsha's son, Michael, gave us -- 15 years ago, while on a mission in Europe.

To comment on this post, click here. I'd love to know your ideas about what to add to this fudge recipe. Or come back after you've tried the recipe--and tell us how to improve it! Click here to comment.

French Vocabulary

si vite que ça = as quick as that
la belle-mère = step-mother (also means mother-in-law)
la confiserie = sweet, candy -- also "sweets shop" 
illico-presto = pronto 
la belle-fille = step-daughter (also can mean daughter-in-law)
le laboratoire = laboratory 


This recipe would be great to make for the holidays, so keep it in mind. (Here is Marsha and Dad. Picture taken on Christmas, 2009).

  Dogs of France and Europe (c) Kristin Espinasse

End of post photo--to leave you with a smile.The only reason this one is titled "Homeless Dog" is because of the poubelle or garbage can that lends to the imagination. But how many homeless dogs do you know who take the time to put on a shirt? Besides, this dog wasn't dumpster diving, he was practicing the fine French art of gleaning!

Looking forward to sharing a "Dogs of France: Part 2" edition with you sometime. Meantime, enjoy this photo of a "dressy" character I ran into at a ski station on Mont Ventoux. To see the Dogs of France (and Europe!) post, click here and share it with an animal lover.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety