A few years ago, my family decided it was time to cut down on Christmas gift-giving a bit, and we'd all pick one name and buy just for that person. Spouses excepted, of course--I'm mean, we're not Christmas jihadists. This was a relief, honestly, because I was feeling rather overwhelmed by the season.
Little by little, though, more exceptions were made. My mom bought a little something for everyone--which meant everyone really needed to get something for her. And the annual Baking and Exchanging of 1,000 Cookies went into effect. If I can't buy you a gift, at least I can spend the same amount of time in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove for you! OK, I exaggerate a little. But not much.
I realized earlier this week why I hate making Fannie Farmer's Peanut Butter Chewies, which have become kind of a tradition. Oh, they're yummy, but (ye gads!) they take forever to roll into little balls.
Then I discovered Ghiradelli's fudge recipe.
Folks, if you need to give a little something to someone this year and don't know what to buy and you don't feel like baking all afternoon, this is the answer. It doesn't take forever, and let me state this for posterity: It's the best fudge I ever ate. Er, tested. I mean, I had to test it, right?
I've tweaked it just a tad to make it a bit less sweet, and (I think) easier to make. So, here goes:
1 cup semi-sweet chips (that works out to exactly half a bag)
1 cup Ghiradelli bittersweet (60% cacao) chips
2 oz. of unsweetened baking chocolate (I recommend Ghiradelli's 100% cacao bar--it's better then the standard Baker's brand)
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk (that's one can)
2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted in the oven (very, very optional)
How I do it: Line an 8-inch square pan with waxed paper. Put all the chips and the unsweetened chocolate (chopped) into a Pyrex bowl. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over it and stir so all the chocolate is covered. Heat in the microwave for about 45 seconds at a bit less than half power (I did it at 40% power). Take out, stir well, repeat. Do this until all the chocolate is melted--probably three or four times (and you might go down to 30 seconds for the last round of heating). All microwaves are different, of course, so your mileage may vary--but remember: Just do this until everything is melted; you don't want to boil it. Stir in the vanilla and nuts, if you're using them. Spread into the waxed-paper-covered pan, and refrigerate until the fudge has set--a couple of hours. Then cut it into small squares. And your chocolate-loving family and friends will be devoted to you forever. This comes out more like a truffle than typical fudge and is super smooth.
If you don't like using a microwave, the original instructions call for melting the chocolate with the condensed milk in a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. And the original recipe calls for all semisweet chips instead of the half semisweet/half bittersweet.
Nuts or no nuts? I put in pecans for the first batch. But I'm not crazy about nuts in my candy, so I left them out for batch two. It's delicious either way.