Software developer by day. Impatient chef by night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Peanut Butter Fudge, Take 1

This last weekend I decided to continue a budding family tradition of making peanut butter fudge. I marched into the kitchen on Saturday night after putting the kids to bed, determined to not leave until I had made peanut butter fudge. I looked up a few recipes in cookbooks, and was presented with the following options:
  1. A classic fudge recipe, which involved using a candy thermometer. I didn't have a candy thermometer on hand, and I don't trust my ability to judge when a confection is heated to the soft-ball stage (without the thermometer).
  2. A "simple" fudge recipe, which didn't require such precise heating. However, it called for two cups of small marshmallows. I didn't have any marshmallows on hand. However, I did have a jar of marshmallow cream, on which I found the next option...
  3. The recipe on the back of the marshmallow cream jar. This recipe was similar to the simple fudge recipe, except it didn't have a peanut butter fudge adaptation, and I didn't want to use the 3/4 cup of butter that it called for.
I was already in the zone, so going out and buying something was completely out of the question. It would have interrupted everything. I was ready to make a masterpiece; surely I couldn't let such trivial matters ruin it. Therefore, the only option left was to make up my own recipe.

I decided to use option #2 as the basis for my recipe, since it conveniently had optional instructions to make peanut butter fudge. The base recipe called for 1/2 a cup of butter, the alternate recipe said to substitute 1/2 cup of peanut butter for the butter. I decided to substitute the whole jar of marshmallow cream for the 2 cups of marshmallows, since the other recipe told me to use the whole jar.

It called for one 5 ounce can of evaporated milk. I only had a 12 ounce can, so I altered that part a little bit to be a more round number in relation to the can that I had: 6 fluid ounces, which is 3/4 of a cup.

It also called for 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces or chopped bittersweet chocolate. I looked up a substitution; the best that I could find effectively said 2 parts cocoa, 1 part butter. Now, you have to understand that butter is a precious resource to me, so I use it sparingly. I thought, "I'm substituting peanut butter for butter in a different part of the recipe, so why not do it for this part?" The decision was made, I would alter the substitution: 2/3 cup of cocoa, 1/3 cup of peanut butter.

Now, I really don't like measuring the same ingredient multiple times; clearly it would be much simpler to just combine the two measures of peanut butter. 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup = 5/6 cup... Hmm... I didn't have a nice way to measure 5/6 cup, so I rounded it up to 1 cup. Badda Bing! My new recipe was born:
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5-ounce can of evaporated milk
  • 6 ounces of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup of peanut butter
  • 2 cups tiny marshmallows
  • 1 jar marshmallow cream
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Line a 8x8-inch baking pan with foil, coat it with non-stick cooking spray
  2. Decide to ignore the part in the book that say to butter the sides of a 2 quart sauce pan.
  3. Combine the sugar, evaporated milk, and peanut butter in a 2 quart sauce pan, and warm over medium-high heat. Stir with your favorite wooden spoon constantly unless you want ash-flavored fudge.
  4. Notice that the book says "10 minutes or until boiling", interpret that to mean "until bubbly". When it starts to bubble (at about 6 minutes), lower the heat to medium.
  5. Forget to set a timer until after it has cooked for a little longer. Realize that the book said to continue cooking for 6 minutes after lowering the heat. Clumsily use one hand to set the timer to 5 minutes while frantically continuing to stir with the other.
  6. Take it off the heat, madly dash around the room collecting and measuring the remaining ingredients (the marshmallow cream, baking cocoa, and vanilla). Stir them in until the marshmallow cream is completely melted.
  7. Beat it with the spoon until your arm feels like it will fall off, or for one minute.
  8. Pour into prepared baking pan, cover, and place in the refrigerator.
  9. Sample the remainder by licking the wooden spoon and by scraping the sauce pan. Feel proud of yourself that it actually tastes pretty good.
We left it in the refrigerator overnight and checked it the next morning. It actually set up! Well, it wasn't quite as firm as some other fudge that I've had, but come on! At least it holds its shape! The only other thing that I wasn't completely satisfied with is that ... how do I put this? ... Let's just say that the marshmallow flavor isn't quite as subtle as I had hoped. All in all, I think that it turned out quite well considering all of the last-minute alterations that I made. Our two-year-old even gave it her stamp of approval.

I'm going to try again next week. I think that I'll cook it a little bit longer, and maybe I'll use marshmallows instead of the cream. On the other hand, I think I'm onto something with that larger dose of peanut butter...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tag, I'm it.

Hello all, welcome to my new blog. My dear wife just "blog tagged" me, and announced to the whole world that I would be starting a blog, so here it is.

Now for the fun part; I'm supposed to mention seven things about myself that not very many people know. Without further ado:

  1. I busted my nose pretty bad way back when I was just a toddler. If I understand correctly, it involved a relative, a ball, a concrete foundation, and my nose (of course). My dad had converted the old garage into a living room. Unfortunately, due to the way the foundation was set, there was a little concrete ledge around the perimeter of the room, inconspicuously painted the same color as the walls. Apparently some relative was playing a go-fetch-the-ball game with me, the toddler. After a few rounds, the ball rolled over near the side of the room, I chased after it, and tripped at the wrong time. I was rushed to the hospital and had several stitches, which all got pulled out by my grubby little nubbies over the next few days. Stitches itch. Disclaimer: this story is entirely constructed from vague memories and things that other people have told me, any part may be entirely inaccurate.

  2. The tag line of my blog says that I write computer software for a living. What is less known is that I started doing so when I was a little kid. One day my dad brought home a new computer (a dinosaur by today's standards). A few years later he showed me that if you turn it on without a cartridge or disk, it started up in a mode that let you write computer programs. I don't remember what year I started, but I'm guessing that I was 7 or 8 years old.

  3. When I was in third grade, I had a full-blown epileptic seizure in the middle of the classroom. I guess my teacher handled it pretty well, because I'm still alive. Yet again I was rushed off to the hospital and had to stay there for a week. I was diagnosed with epilepsy. The doctors prescribed a medicine called Dilantin, which I kept using for the next ten years.

  4. I played the clarinet in the school band for seven years.

  5. I once broke a tooth by biting into a pea pod. No, really, I did! Well, it wasn't a real tooth, it was a fake one. It was actually the third generation, after two other fake teeth that met similar fates. The second one was lost due to a less glamorous reason; I got sick, lost my previous meal, and lost the tooth with it. The first one broke by biting into an apple. The real tooth had a hard history during my childhood, it became aquianted with a metal bar on a playground, then later with my sister's kneecap on the trampoline, and finally met a basketball that was thrown at my face in a particularly violent game of basketball in the middle school gym. It finally gave up. Yes, all of my fake teeth since then have been the removable kind, and no, I'm not interested in getting a permanent one.

  6. When I was a junior in High School, I wrote a piece of music to be played by the high school band. Yes, I transposed the different parts and all of that business. We played it at the end-of-school-year band concert. It was the only 5 minutes of fame I ever got during my entire high school career. It even got a standing ovation. I put together another piece the next year, which I dare say was much better than the first one I did, but the new band teacher wasn't the least bit interested in letting us play it. Oh well. That leads to my next one...

  7. One of my dreams is to someday make a little home music studio, with a collection of both acoustic and electronic instruments, a rack of recording/playback equipment, and whatever other sound gadgets I can collect. It could be a sound-proof room so that people can use it to practice instruments as loud as they want without anybody else getting upset. You get the idea.