Monday, May 10, 2010

Coffee and Walnut Fudge

The other day at work, I did something really stupid.

So stupid I considered shutting down my email for the entire rest of the day just so I didn't have to face the inevitable consequences of my actions.

So mortifying that when I told my co-workers about it, their mouths dropped and I could see the relief on their faces that it hadn't happened to them.

And because I know how annoying it is for someone to talk around something without giving you any details, let me give you the cliff's notes: I basically sent an email to someone who never should have seen it. It was from someone I work for (a member of our company) and contained a disparaging remark he had made about the high maintenance of one of our customers.

I sent it to the customer.

And the only reason I learned of this mistake is that the customer replied. To all (i.e. me and the member).

At first, I didn't know what to do. I deleted the email as fast as I could and tried not to throw up. I sat at my desk ignoring the phone ringing, trying to figure out what to do next. Should I apologize and if so, to whom? The customer? Our member?

Should I tell my supervisor? Should I tell my co-workers?

Should I flee the building?

Eventually I got myself together enough to apologize to our member and hope he never ever mentioned it again. But I was still in a complete funk that I had made such a stupid, careless mistake.

And then I got really, really paranoid.

Oh my gosh, the VP's coming over here. He's totaling going to yell at me. Oh no, oh no, oh noooo. Oh my God, I'm getting fired. Am I fired? I am SO TOTALLY fired.

Oh. He just needed the copier.

*Ping* Email received. Oh no, oh no, it's the member who's totally pissed and he's going to ream me out. I can't look, I can't look! I should just close my email for the rest of the day, stop answering the phone, crawl under my desk, and start eating my hair.

Here comes the president of the company. Don't make eye contact. Don't make eye contact! Look busy! Type, type type!!!

I finally calmed down enough to climb down off my cliff of mortification and despair, and once most everyone had gone for the day, I even admitted my faux pas to some of my co-workers so we could laugh about how totally heinous it was. Because with something that bad, there's just nothing you can do about it, but laugh. Or cry. And I DON'T cry at work. I wait until I'm in my car.

The next morning, when I opened my email, I saw the member had replied to my apology. I checked all my other emails first, so that at least I would have gotten through them before the self-loathing set in. Finally, only one remained and I clicked on it with a sense of dread in my gut.

Two words.

"No problem."

I sighed a small sigh of relief and tried to relax.

Until the paranoia returned.

VP looking very serious and telling all of my co-workers: "Guys, we're going to have a quick meeting in the conference room that I need everyone to attend. Yes, right now."

Holy shit. He's going to tell everyone what I did. Did he just give me A Look? He did. He totally did. OMG. He's going to make an example of me and I'm going to be totally humiliated. I may just die of shame. Maybe I should just leave now. Where's the nearest exit?!

Turns out the meeting was about something completely unrelated. Silly me.

So after that stressful experience, I was hankering to make something relatively easy that I could bring with me on my trip to my sister's graduation from law school (yay Alex!!). You can never go wrong with chocolate in my family, and I thought fudge would be something everyone would enjoy. Plus, I think my family's going to kill me if I don't start sending them baked goods in the mail. Must research how to FedEx a whole cheesecake.


regular sugar (not superfine), corn syrup, heavy cream, milk chocolate, walnuts, butter, coffee extract (which I couldn't find so I used instant coffee)

I started by chopping the nuts, weighing the butter and chocolate, and dissolving the instant coffee so I wouldn't have to multitask while watching my candy thermometer like a hawk.

 I used about a tablespoon of instant coffee and added about 2 1/2 tablespoons of hot water because I wanted a concentrated coffee flavor. Typically, you would add I think 1/4 cup of hot water to that amount of instant coffee.

I put the sugar, cream, and corn syrup into my large pot and stirred to combine. 

I put this over a medium heat and continued to stir until I felt like the sugar had mostly dissolved. It was still a little grainy I think, but had gotten a lot thinner (which was weird since I'm used to mixtures thickening as they cook). This took about 5 minutes. I raised the heat and brought the mixture to a boil, stirring all the while. Once it came to a boil, I put my sugar thermometer* in, lowered the temperature slightly, and stopped stirring. 

*I really like the thermometer I bought, but the only means of clipping it to the side of a pan is at the very top, and I have yet to use a pot tall enough to accommodate it. Instead I have to just balance it in the pot and hope it doesn't fall over, splashing me with searing hot sugar. Why isn't there a clip in the middle somewhere? And who are all these people with their damn tall pots? Like when I have to get even my shirts tailored to fit my 5'2'' frame, I am yet again faced with my shortcomings.

I don't know if you can tell by the pictures, but as the mixture boiled, it got higher and higher in the pot. I knew this would happen which is why I used a large pot, but I was definitely getting a little nervous as it continued to climb. The recipe says to let this boil until it reaches 255 degrees Fahrenheit, but then there is a parenthesis that mentions that it may only be necessary to bring it to 230 degrees in the U.S. since cream here is thicker than in the UK. I crouched by the stove and watched the thermometer like a hawk as the mercury crept up to 230, also looking nervously at the boiling cream creeping dangerously close to boiling over.

As soon as the temperature hit 230, I removed the pot from the stove and added the chocolate, walnuts, butter, and coffee, stirring to combine. (If I had wanted the fudge to be grainy, as some people prefer, I would have stirred the mixture for 2-3 minutes as soon as it came up to temperature and before adding the rest of the ingredients. But I didn't do that. I'm not enough of a fudge connoisseur to know how I like mine.)

I made sure to stir slowly since there's a note in the recipe to be careful as the mixture doesn't look as hot as it is. 

230 degrees? Searing hot boiling cream that just keeps getting bigger and bubblier? Gee, thanks for the warning. If not for the note to keep the spoon away from my face, I may have just slathered it on like a face mask. Mmm, delish. 

Once the chocolate and butter had melted, I poured it into a baking dish I had buttered and lined with parchment paper. There's no specification as to what size baking dish to use (SO HELPFUL), so I guessed and chose a 9 by 9. Thankfully, the mixture juuust fit.

This smelled really yummy and the last thing to do was just to let it sit overnight. Easy!

The next morning as I was packing to leave for my sister's graduation, I surveyed the fudge, getting ready to prepare it for transport. I thought about lifting the whole block out of the pan to cut it, but wasn't sure I could. I started by cutting it into squares in the pan, like you would brownies.

This is where the trouble started. The fudge was still completely soft and not at all set like it should have been. I managed to lift the block out of the pan, just to see if perhaps it was firm enough to separate.

It was not.

This was the very first thing I've made that was truly inedible (although Dan might have proved me wrong if I had given him a chance. He made a small cry when I threw it in the trash. Clearly he's not as devoted as my stepfather who once ate cookies out of the trash that I had burned to prove they weren't ruined. They were, and he was just being nice). Maybe I used the wrong pan so the fudge was too thick to set up correctly. Maybe the sugar wasn't completely dissolved, but I don't think that would have made such a difference. Or maybe I should have let the cream mixture boil to a hotter temperature. While it did reach 230 degrees, it also should have turned light brown when it was truly ready to be removed from the heat, which it didn't. A detail I failed to notice while I was cooking. You'd think an English major would read a little more carefully.

And just because I'm a glutton for punishment, a closeup! Of my failure! To make something so simple, thousands if not millions of people make it every year!

I will not be sharing this with any of my fellow classmates at the FCI. I think they'll make me return my chef's coat. 

So, in summary, things I don't do well: Email. Make fudge.  Shameful.

Next Indulgence: Sachertorte


  1. hahaha..."I can't tell's shameful."

  2. just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all.

    Coffee Thermometer


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