SUGAR SLURRY II - THE BOIL
DEDICATED TO TP SKAARUP AND HIS RECIPES
THE BOIL - WHY IT'S IMPORTANT[from A Simple (Faulted) Recipe - Fantasy Fudge]
BRING TO A BOIL.
KNOWING WHEN TO SAY WHEN
SOFT-BALL DROP TEST
We consider the items in GREEN here:
3/4 cup Butter or Margarine
3 cups Sugar
2/3 cup Evaporated Milk
Mix butters, sugar, and milk into a 3 quart saucepan and
bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to boil for 5 full
minutes on medium heat or until the candy the
thermometer reaches 234° F.
The Boil - Why It's Important
The creation of the Sugar Slurry is the "make or break" step for
The Boil is the "make or break" step of the Sugar Slurry.
The Boil is of the perilous process in fudge making where the
water content of the sugar slurry is controlled. Learning to boil
without inducing crystals is important. Knowing when to stop is
crucial. Using TIME of boil alone is one of the least accurate
methods. Using a Candy THERMOMETER is probably the most
accurate. So how do you know when to stop?
Stir with a wooden spoon prepared by spraying with a non-stick
vegetable spray (i.e., PAM or Crisco).
• Metal spoons conduct heat and get too hot to hold - so I Scraping the sides during the boil helps to prevent sugar
don't recommend them.
• Plastic spatula will melt since this solution is much hotter
than boiling water.
• Wooden Spoons are just right.
crystallization on the sides of the saucepan. Scraping the sides
during the cooling helps create sugar crystals. Now there is some
controversy on this point. Some recipes call for ABSOLUTELY NO
STIRRING during the boil or subsequent cool down. I don't
understand the logic of this method except that it reduces the
likelihood of crystallization during the cool down. But the way I
recommend making fudge (you'll see soon) stirring doesn't matter
since I don't add the flavor base directly into the hot pot, instead I
pour the hot mixture over the flavor base.
Using a rechargeable hand-held mixer (i.e., Black and Decker)
makes life easier during the stir. Use low speeds if you use an
electric mixer. Remember, this is a VERY HOT mixture and you
don't want it flinging out of the saucepan.
BRING TO A BOIL...
The basic reasons for boiling are:
•It dissolves more sugar
•It heats it up to help melt the chocolate chips (flavor base)
•It boils away even more water
•It melts the butter
While the recipe says "bring to a boil" you shouldn't just turn the
burner on High.
Instead warm at Low-Medium until all components are
dissolved/melted then turn the boiler on Medium-High until boiling
begins. Then lower the temperature to about Medium to sustain a
rolling boil. [A Rolling Boil is a boil that cannot be stirred down.]
Continue to gently stir to prevent regions of overheating. Be Careful!
This lava-cum-sugar slurry is more like molten lead than boiling
water. The slurry will cling to your skin and continue to burn.
Continue with rolling boil for about 6-8 minutes. The directions say
5 minutes. This is a ball park estimate which can't possibly
consider all the stoves in all the world at all altitudes. So how do
you know how long to boil?
Shakespeare on Boiling.
"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the
native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their
currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. - Soft you now!"
More and more water leaves the mixture as the boil continues. This
raises the boiling point. Once the boiling point has reached about
233-238°F then you're done.
One sign that your burner is on too high is your inability to stir the
mixture before it scorches a little on the bottom. This brings small
brown flakes to the top which get stirred back in. This does not
mean the boiling time is over, it only means your burner is too hot
and has to be turned down. A small amount of flakes is okay and
won't affect the ultimate taste or texture. Scorching for long periods
of time leads to "caramelization" in which your sugar starts to
convert itself back to a form more like molasses. This is bad.
Sugar —> Caramel —> Carbon Black —> Elemental Carbon. Not
good. Throw in a little potassium nitrate and sulfur and you can
make an explosive fudge. Very not good. Makes the relatives
unhappy. Postal workers don't like it either.
[For high altitude boiling reduce the 234°F by 2°F for each 1,000
feet above sea level. Boil using the same parameters. - Got this
from a cooking book and I cook at sea level so I can't confirm these
Add the butter after the boil. Adding it with the sugar and milk will
result in poorly dissolved sugar which crystallized prematurely
resulting in fudge with a grainy texture. Butter may also alter the soft-
ball (drop test) which would lead you believe the fudge will set
when it really won't.
Get a candy thermometer. It should cost under $5. "Isn't this
meant for the Professional Fudge Maker?" No. Exactly the opposite.
I've made enough fudge that I've become pretty good at the Drop
Test so the candy thermometer is just used to confirm what I
already know. Candy Thermometers are intended for those who
make fudge only a couple of times a year and need some objective
measurement as to when to stop the boil. If you're going to invest
$10-$15 on the ingredients you might as well invest the $5 for
insurance. The "dial" type of thermometers are notoriously
inaccurate. I recommend the thermometer that looks like a
Calibrate your new candy thermometer. Water should boil at 212°
F. Measure the boiling point of water with your new thermometer.
Add or subtract any difference when determining the end-point of
the boil of your sugar slurry.
Stopping the boil at 234°F really means 234°F. Fudge will set at
boils as low as 230°F but will crystallize at boils above 238-40°F.
So 234°F is a good average. Don't sit and watch the thermometer
go to 236°F 'just to be sure.' Remember, over boiling is as bad as
You've missed the boil!!! Help Me! Things happen fast when
boiling and all the sudden the candy thermometer which read 232°
F is now reading 242°F! How can you save this fudge? Simple.
Remove the fudge from the boiler and add 1 tablespoons of milk or
water, stir, then place back on the stove. The Boiling Point should
fall about 2-4 points... if it's still too high after adequate mixing then
remove and repeat again., then bring to a boil at 234°F- 236°F and
SOFT-BALL DROP TEST
(also called the Cold Water Test; also called the Soft Ball Test;
also called the Drop Test)
In the absence of a candy thermometer this test can be used to
estimate the boiling point of the sugar slurry. Drip a few drops of
the boiling sugar slurry mixture into a glass of cool water. Now fish
out a few cooled drops with a clean spoon. If it dissolves then
you've not boiled long enough. Form the drops into a clump in your
hand and roll between your thumb and forefinger. The way it forms
a ball tells you where you are in your boiling:
• None (<230°F) - the cooled drop dissolves away. Lots of
boiling to go.
• Thread (230-234°F) - rolls easily into a long thread but not
a ball. Getting close.
• Soft-Ball (234-238°F) - rolls into a ball that can be flattened
between thumb and forefinger. You're done!
• Firm-Ball (239-245°F) - rolls into a ball but resists
flattening. You're overdone. Remove immediately. Consider
adding a tablespoon or two of milk and trying again.
• Hard-Ball (246-250°F) - Stop. You've made taffy.
[This is a quick assessment of the water content of the boiling
slurry. Remember, water is the enemy of fudge... so you need to
boil most of the water out of your sugar slurry before adding the
NEXT - FLAVORINGS
Continue To Boil…Until…
Continue to boil for 5 full minutes on medium heat or until the
candy thermometer reaches 234°F…
I love this sentence. This is the Fudge gods attempt at humor. The
statement can be interpreted in one of two ways:
1. Boil for 5 minutes at either:
a. Medium Heat or
2. Once the thermometer reads 234°F; or does it
2. Boil on Medium Heat for
a. 5 Minutes or
2. Until the thermometer reads 234°F.
Obviously the first interpretation right? Or was it the second?
This misconception is probably the greatest
reason for fudge failure known to man.
The first interpretation would make sense until you remember your
fluid thermodynamics. If you put a pot of cold water on the stove and
bring it slowly to a boil, all the while keeping track of the
temperature, you'd notice the temperature of the water to slowly
increase at a steady rate until it reaches the boiling point (212° F).
Then the temperature levels out and stays at 212°F until all the
water is gone. That's the definition of boiling point. The temperature
at which the liquid converts to a gas and escapes. All the water
which could possibly be hotter than 212°F has converted to gas
and left the solution as steam. This release of steam takes with it
energy to keep the rest of the solution at the boiling point and not
above. So when the directions say to boil at 234°F for 5 minutes
this doesn't make any sense. It's like saying, "boil water at 180°F
for 5 minutes." It boils at the temperature it boils at (or for water it's
Sugar slurry comes to a boil around 220°F for me. Then the
temperature registered on the candy thermometer rises slowly but
steadily as the water content slowly evaporates away... so now it
boils at 226°F... now 228°F... now 230°F... 232°F... 234°F... 236°F...
Oddly enough the temperature reaches 234°F right around the time
the process is done and the color turns to a tan to dark brown.
KNOWING WHEN TO SAY WHEN...
Boiling for strictly (5) minutes will cause the fudge to fail more often
than not. So when do you say, "when"? What if you don't have a
There are four (4) basic ways to determine when to stop the boil.
Ranked from worst to best they are:
3. Viscosity (Soft-Ball Test)
4. Candy Thermometer
The slurry will be pretty fluid and be a little off-white/tan color. Cook
for 7 to 9 minutes.
Continue to cook (usually about 7-9 minutes) until you notice that
the color has now changed from that pleasant white/tan to a more
dark tan color. This color change (at least to my eyes) occurs over a
1-2 minute period usually around minutes 6-8. Continue to boil for
another minute and remove... you're done. The color change occurs
when enough water has left the solution (Elvis has left the
building!) that the milk proteins begin to cook (and denature).
VISCOSITY: SOFT-BALL TEST
Place a cool glass of water (not ice water, I use the measuring cup)
and a spoon on the counter next to the boiling sugar slurry. After 5
minutes of boil, drip a couple of drops of the hot slurry into a spoon
then dunk into the cool water. After a few seconds remove the
spoon and pick up the cooled slurry between your thumb and
forefinger. The slurry should roll into a ball which flattens easily -
this is the "soft-ball" test of viscosity. Repeat this test at minute 6, 7,
8, 9, 10... of boiling until the proper viscosity is set up. For more
precise information on the Soft-Ball Drop Test refer to the bottom of
this page. The Drop Test is the preferred method of determining
the end of the boil when a candy thermometer is not available.