The Christmas I was 13, I had a boyfriend named Matt. He was smart and witty and the dreamiest guy I had ever met. We could finish each others’ sentences, had many of the same likes and dislikes and we had a very innocent, if not adoring, courtship. Previous to Christmas he was invited for dinner one weekend. For whatever reason, I got it in my head that I was going to make fudge for dessert. I read as many recipes as I could find but having never made candy of any kind I was nervous about the difference between ‘hard ball’ and ‘soft ball’ and the dreaded horrors of crystallization that every cookbook and magazine recipe warned against. I consulted my mother, who although she was great cook, was not the kind of cook who went all out for things like candy. (I can clearly recall her describing candy making as “too finicky for my liking!”). Since she didn’t think it was prudent to buy a candy thermometer for one batch of love-sick fudge, she recommended we find a quick fudge recipe that had marshmallows in it. She explained that the gumminess of the marshmallows made up for the “finicky” cooking of sugar. We found a recipe. It seemed easy enough.
The morning of the day that Matt was to come for dinner I measured and mixed, I cooked and stirred, and finally poured the silken chocolate mixture into a pan to set. In my excitement and anxiety I must have opened the refrigerator door a hundred times or more to ensure that the glossy surface was turning matte, that it was firming perfectly, that it would be sheer Heaven when it was finally enjoyed and he would know the love that was in it. Four o’clock came around and I bundled up to meet him at the bus. It was a delightfully snowy December that year and the city was hushed with falling snow. Mittened hands clenched, we returned. Dinner was successful, everyone liked him, he liked everyone. It was essentially as perfect as my early teen heart could bear.
Then, dessert. I unmolded the fudge, cut it carefully into perfect squares, stacked them on a plate and brought them to the table, beaming. Everyone was impressed. Tea was poured and everyone took a bite of my stupendous confection. The taste was excellent; chocolaty but not achingly sweet. The texture, however, was all wrong.
My heart sank.
Leave it to my niece (then 9) and my cousin (then 5) to add some levity to the situation. “It’s good. But it’s kind of gritty.” Other terms like “fresh concrete” and “wet sand” were used. In hindsight I was more embarrassed than necessary, but I refused to lose face even when we all dissolved into laughter and it was referred to as “beach fudge”.
The relationship may not have lasted, we down graded to “just friends” the following spring, but the teasing moniker “beach fudge” has lasted all these years. I have made it again, many times, each one with complete success — make sure your sugar is fully dissolved! — but even still, a decade and a half later, when I proclaimed I thought I’d whip up a batch of fudge for Christmas, my niece Justine smiled and said “Oooh! Beach Fudge?”. I guess I’ll never live that one down.
Quick Chocolate Fudge
1½ C sugar
½ C butter
½ C evaporated milk
1 C chocolate, chopped (or chips)
2 C mini marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla (or other flavouring)
Prepare an 8″x8″ baking dish by greasing lightly. Cut a strip of parchment or foil 8″x16″ and press into pan, leaving “handles” out the top. This will help you lift the fudge out of the pan to cut and serve it. Lightly grease the parchment or foil. Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sugar together until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add the evaporated milk and continue to cook until the mixture boils. This may take up to 5 minutes. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat so it is at a simmer and cook, stirring regularly for 5 more minutes. Add the chocolate and marshmallows, stirring constantly util they are melted. Stir in the vanilla (or other flavouring).
Pour the mixture (careful! it’s very hot and sticky!) into the prepared pan. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until fully set. Cut into 1″ squares. To store, keep refrigerated in a sealed container.