Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Grr-eat Secrets to Italian Hazelnut Fudge

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"Take 2 fudge and call me in the morning."

I've had chocolate fudge on the brain for a week. While I gave my body a vacation and enjoyed my mini-fast detox diet (salads, low-fat jarlsberg cheese, veggies, apples, oranges, berries, water, and chamomile tea), I was preparing myself for the homemade chocolate fudgefest last night. I did it. At last, I made chocolatey fudge with an Italian twist... (And it was the best Rx to get me through another companion animal challenge.)...

Flashback... I had to do it. After all, one week before autumn arrives--the rustic red Italian baking dish from Sur La Table arrived on my doorstep. Made in Italy, its size (13" length x 8 1/2" width x 3 1/4" depth) could work for an upscale fudge pan, right? No matter. This beautiful piece of bakeware tagged "Italian Baker with Handles" was going to be used for my first Italian entree pasta dish but I just couldn't wait. It was a "sign"--giving me the green light to go ahead to christen my new European dish. Moving forward... If you do a Google search for Chocolate Fudge recipes you'll be overwhelmed with dozens and dozens of recipes--using exactly the same ingredients. I like to concoct my own style to keep it easy, failproof (I'm still in Baking 101 mode), healthy and tasty as possible. During my research for The Healing Powers of Chocolate, I noticed that many of the gourmet European chocolatiers do use real and fresh ingredients, including quality chocolate, butter, sugar, and cream. So, I was on a mission to do that, too, sort of.

Here's my Italian-type fudgy tips:
  • Use hazelnuts. These crunchy cuties boast protein, iron, fiber, calcium, and other good stuff. They truly made this fudge work for me in presentation, taste and texture.
  • Use an Italian dish during the chilling process. It is a nice effect and will whisk you away to Europe (sort of).
  • Use premium all-natural premium semi-sweet chocolate, 60%-70% cacao content.
  • Use real butter (unsalted is good) but I splurged and ended up with Challenge butter (uses real California milk). Note: Since writing The Healing Powers of Olive Oil--butter is rarely in my fridge. Olive oil is my fat of choice as it is Italians.
  • Use premium milk. Note: To cut the fat I chose 2% low-fat evaporated milk with vitamins A and D.
  • Use creamy stuff. I hesitated to go the marshmallow cream route but the sweet goo does contain corn syrup (Italians have been known to eat it); as a kid I recall it was the ingredient that made our fudge turn out, not flop.
  • Use EVOO to grease your dish before pouring the chocolate mixture into it. (No, I didn't do it this time around but would not hesitate next time.)
  • Use Mediterranean chocolate flavorings--rose...Espresso, almond, and rum. Lemon or ginger? Or, if you want to splurge on ready-made gourmet fudge--click your mouse!
  • Cut the recipe portions in half. Remember, European women don't get fat if they follow the traditional Mediterranean diet and lifestyle: Smaller portions, eat decadent foods like chocolate, and get a move on. Think small.

Callie's Italian Hazelnut Fudge

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 stick butter (unsalted preferrably)
1/3 cup 2% lowfat evaporated milk
1 cup of all-natural premium
semi-sweet baking chocolate, small chips
3 1/2 ounces marshmallow cream
8 -10 ounces hazelnuts (or walnuts)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine sugar, softened butter, and milk into a sturdy saucepan. On medium heat bring to a boil. Stir it up--often. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes--continue to stir it up. I didn't use a candy thermometer and did use my sixth sense to tell me it was good to go by the texture. Drop in chocolate chunks and marshallow creme (I did this while the concoction was still on the hot stovetop burner)--and was amazed how quickly the chocolate melted and morphed into a nice, creamy chocolatey mixture. With a wooden spoon, spread the fudge into a butter or olive oil greased baking dish (nicer than a tin pan). Sprinkle hazelnuts on top. Cover with foil. Put in the fridge for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours till firm. Cut into petite 1/4" to 1/2" European chocolate size squares. Use foil between layers of fudge and put in nice dish with a cover on top-into the fridge to keep fresh.

The end result: This morning I woke up to a cup of French roast, a bowl of fresh late summer juicy raspberries, and a mini square of Callie's Italian Hazelnut Fudge. Did it do the trick? You bet. Last night, I discovered Simon, my six year old Brittany had an external lump growth (the size of a mountain tick) on his back thigh and I was worried. One vet visit later: $125 to remove it (just a local anesthetic). It was a pesky skin tag. No worries. Simon is back home, sleeping next to me and Seth, his canine pal. Grr-eat dog(s)! One more thing: The premium chocolate compounded with all of its feel-good compounds was there for me like a good friend to help boost my mood and lessen anxiety during this doggie ordeal.
P.S. I have leftover ingredients left which means it's meant to be to whip up another batch. Using flavoring, such as Italian butter rum or espresso may just add that extra kick (for me, poor Simon--we're exhausted!) and to the fudge.
* Recipe is a spin-off of the popular Internet-circulated classic--Kraft's "Fantasy Fudge" (using my choice of food brands, ingredients, and directions). I did include Kraft Marshmallow Creme.


  1. Been rethinking my batch of fudge. Natural flavorings are the way to go. Excited about trying all the different exotic flavors (just like the ones in the chocolates I enjoyed during my "research" for The Healing Powers of Chocolate).

  2. According to The Writing Gourmet Poll, Chocolate Fudge is the Winner...Pumpkin, Peanut Butter, Divinity fall behind. Go figure.