Chocolate Fudge + Bourbon Vanilla Sugar

December 22, 2014

I make lists on long plane flights (surprise.) But I must have stared at the in-progress “Holiday Baking/Treat” list for over an hour before anything came in mind to list. Suffice to say, this has never happened before.

When I was a little girl, our kitchen turned into a full-scale holiday treat production facility; I’d bet the root of my pastry chef future was buried under those hours in the kitchen mixing, decorating, plotting and making with my mother and siblings. My mother would break out her green recipe scrapbook filled with tried and true recipes and we would flip it open to the familiar pages containing the recipe for her sugar cookies, her pumpkin + penuche frosting cookies, gingerbread, jam thumbprint, wedding cookies, candied fruits, and on and on. Each year, it seemed was covered with a little more flour, the front cover was hanging by a thinner and thinner string, and the placement of the recipes among the others she had collected over her lifetime became more and more imprinted in my memory.

I have a similar scrapbook filled with recipes I’ve clipped, saved, accumulated somehow from somewhere. Digital media, and healthy collection of cookbooks and my own notebooks mean that I pull it from the shelf less often, and that whatever makes it into the book in hardcopy is even more coveted. I’ve pasted the handwritten recipe cards she filled out with her favorite recipes to the first pages and I always turn to those at this time of year and smile. 

This year (while we were working, traveling and just navigating life of late) my mother, as expected, settled in her kitchen across town and very much in her ways – has spent the past few weekends baking away and, while I’ve been occupied with other projects, she’s churned out a healthy supply of her famous pumpkin cookies, snowballs, gingerbread men and all the others favorites that would have ordinarily filled my list. Without me doing a thing, these wonderful tastes of my childhood will fill our bellies; so what is there left for me to do?

Chocolate Fudge + Bourbon Vanilla Sugar

I realize now that my inability to list on the plane has everything to do with the fact that this year is different from the others, and so too must the list be. We’re home, with family, in our own home, for good. We get to make our own traditions…! What a strange and wonderful thought! “The list” stayed empty until I finally sat down to think about it again this past weekend, peeling through the pile of holiday magazines that has amassed while we were in Hawaii, and in reading through the inspirations that I’ve plucked from here and there all month. This Chocolate Fudge + Bourbon Vanilla Sugar stood out from the crowd; sparkling and decadent, and different from anything my mother ever made. 

I took the first batch to a holiday party last weekend where it knocked the socks off of the resident bourbon experts (whose tattoos I admire a great deal, by the way.)  Then my own socks were knocked off when Bon Appetit Magazine featured my photograph of the treats on their Instagram feed today. Quite a few of you have asked me for the recipe and so, here it is – adapted ever so slightly from the original recipe printed in the December 2014 issue.

I don’t know about you, but I’m traditionally not a fan of fudge. Because traditionally, its chalky, rich, and cloying. This fudge is different; it’s absolutely rich, but not cloying, and it has a nice little sumpin’ from the bourbon, a crunch from the bourbon vanilla sugar, and a smooth texture that will keep you hunting and pecking for just one more stray bite long after you’ve put it away. It was unbelievably easy to put together (really, you need only to have the time to let it cool completely and the patience to wait to slice into it until its completely cool.) The method for mixing the ingredients is different from you might find in other fudge recipes; you mix together a milk base and melted chocolates that are roughly the same temperature. This technique is important because you never risk burning the chocolate and when its mixed properly, you have a completely beautiful shiny fudge that you’ll want to present this time of year, no matter who your guests are.  

This bourbon + vanilla sugar is worth mentioning as well; I’m making more batches of it to rim bourbon glasses for holiday toasts by substituting the turbinado sugar with superfine cane sugar. Something to keep in mind, and just another tradition we’re going to try on for size around here this holiday. Use the best bourbon you have on hand here; you won’t be sorry!

The biggest celebrations of the season are upon us! I hope this finds you all inspired, full of love and good food, and enjoying all that this wonderful time of year brings. -xo from Colorado! 

Dark Chocolate Fudge + Bourbon Vanilla Sugar
  1. 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
  2. 1 cup turbinado raw sugar
  3. 2 tablespoons of your best bourbon
  1. coconut oil spray or other nonstick vegetable oil spray
  2. 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 72%), coarsely chopped
  3. 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  4. 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  5. 10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  6. 2 tablespoons of your best bourbon
  7. 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  8. ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  9. 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
  10. Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
  1. adapted slightly from Bon Appétit Magazine, December 2014
for the Bourbon + Vanilla Sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 150°. Scrape the contents of the vanilla bean into a small bowl; stir in turbinado sugar and bourbon. Spread the mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let dry out in oven overnight, leaving door slightly ajar. The mixture should feel like turbinado sugar again in the morning.
  2. Do Ahead: Store bourbon sugar airtight at room temperature up to 2 months.
to make the Chocolate Fudge
  1. Line an 8x8” baking dish with parchment paper, folding it as neatly into the corners as possible and leaving a generous overhang on 2 sides; lightly coat with nonstick spray.
  2. Warm the chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let bowl touch water), stirring occasionally, until almost completely melted. Alternatively, you could microwave the chocolates in very short bursts. Never ever microwave chocolate for more than 20-30 seconds at a time, stirring well between each burst and making sure you don't have any little chunks of chocolate sitting on the bottom getting burned. When warming chocolate, slow and gentle is ALWAYS the prescription. Burned chocolate is unworkable! ) Set aside the melted chocolate.
  3. Combine condensed milk, butter, bourbon, corn syrup, and kosher salt in a small saucepan; scrape in vanilla seeds and add pod. Heat over medium until barely hot (about the same temperature as the chocolate). Remove the pod and discard.
  4. Gently stir one quarter of milk mixture into chocolate with a rubber spatula. Add another quarter of milk mixture, stirring to incorporate (it might look broken and greasy; don’t worry, it will come back together). Continue with remaining milk mixture in 2 additions, stirring vigorously until fudge is very shiny, smooth and almost elastic (about 5 minutes.) Scrape the chocolate fudge into the prepared pan and tap the pan on your work surface gently until the top of the fudge is smooth. Sprinkle evenly with bourbon sugar and sea salt. Let cool for 10 minutes at room temperature, then cover and chill at least 4 hours until completely cool.
  5. Turn out the cooled fudge onto a cutting board and slice into 2x¾” rectangles, 2” squares, or triangles.
  6. Do Ahead: Fudge can be made 1 week ahead. Wrap tightly and chill.
Adapted from adapted slightly from Bon Appétit Magazine, December 2014
Adapted from adapted slightly from Bon Appétit Magazine, December 2014

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