Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Maple Walnut Fudge Chronicles (Long and VERY Strange)

This is how it started--

An e-mail from Mike to me, Ryan, Emily, Elise, Gaby, Dina, and later Debby.

On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 6:40 PM, mike windham <> wrote:

There will be a substantial cash award to the person who determines what went wrong with this effort at cooking candy.

Maple Walnut Fudge...doesn't that sound tasty?
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup milk
1 cup marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped nuts1 tsp vanilla

As the recipe stated, I mixed everything except the nuts and vanilla together in a large saucepan, and over medium heat, melted it slowly. I began the stirring process. Finally after about 10 minutes it started to boil, and I continued stirring. The recipe said to continue stirring "until the mixture forms a thread when you lift the spoon. About 20 minutes".

So I continued stirring. For a total of 50 minutes. At which point it was the consistency of water. There was no "thread". You can imagine my surprise. I tossed in the nuts, and poured some vanilla in, and brought it back to the boil, stirring the whole way. Still the consistency of water.

Finally out of boredom and wrist fatigue, I poured it into my prepared 13 x 9 baking dish, and refrigerated.

Today it has a very thin crust that might be considered something like candy on top. The rest of the dessert is the consistency of thick syrup. I drank some today, and it tastes nice, and it would make a wonderful topping for ice cream when used in very small quantities, as it is really, really sweet. Sweet as in take your breath away sweet.

But I did nothing wrong. The formula (from is obviously incorrect. What do you think might be the problem here? I am interested in knowing the chemistry of cooking like this.

I definitely cannot afford a candy thermometer, so do not recommend that.

I'm offering a cash reward to the one of you who can make me understand the theoretical chemical aspects of formulating candy. (Emily and Dina are excluded from this offer, as their life skills are known to lie elsewhere.)

Very truly yours, Mike Windham


The offer of a "cash reward" naturally drummed up MUCH interest. No one really cared (except Elise) whether the fudge turned out or not. We just wanted to enter the contest.

This from Elise:
I'd like to take a guess or two.
One, maybe the recipe left out something like flour?
Or, (two) maybe you need a specific type of maple syrup.

I do realize that these guesses are weak at best, but I was left off the "bad" list in which Emily and Dina made, and so I'm now convinced that I can actually cook.

Also, I do not require a cash reward. I would only like permission to eat (or drink) any fudge that anyone in the world would like to cook for me. Sincerely, Elise

My first testy response:

I've had pralines do that. No answer. I've never used maple syrup and marshmallow cream though. Try sugar, butter and milk and see if that will get thready and then add the syrup and mmc. If you care enough

A MUCH more enthusiastic response from Dina:


First of all, I want to say that I DEMAND THE SUBSTANTIAL CASH AWARD Mike offered.

It’s not fair leaving us (Emily and I) out of the competition. Right, Em??

Second, I must say that Mike DOES NEED NEW GLASSES… there are a “couple of details” Mike ignored while making the recipe:-

The recipe says: “Cook, stirring OCCASIONALLY…” Mike stirred the mixture ALL THE TIME.- Then, the recipe says: “… about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and LET COOL…” As per Mike’s email, I understand he didn’t let the mixture cool.-

And finally, the recipe says: “Add the nuts and vanilla to the fudge. Stir until the mixture starts to harden around the edge of the saucepan… blah, blah, blah… Cool completely…” Mike put the saucepan on the stove again. He was supposed to do it without heating it again.There you have it. In conclusion: Too much stirring and too much heat. I want my money. A wire transfer would be just fine.Have a nice day!!


Once I saw the competition had heated up, this was my answer:

You forgot to include Debby - the REAL cook. She'll figure it out for you.

Dina, I think you're grasping - for the money! You may be right, but I think if it was going to do the right thing, it would do it even if you stirred too much. I still think it was the maple syrup.

Dina again:
OH, WOW… Was I THAT OBVIOUS???I’m sorry… It’s just that I really need to buy new tires for my car… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

The competition gets too much for me:
WAIT. I'm still thinking. Which is more important - tires or my coffee maker? How much is this cash award? If it's less than $5, I may not be interested. What kind of milk were you using? If goat milk, that may be your problem. I've heard of difficulties with goat milk....maybe...

Now we have the voices of reason:
First Ryan:
Alright.. Okay.. I'm here. What's happened? What, mystery solved? I apologize, ran into some Internet problems last night but we seem to have everything resolved. And it seem we have everything solved here as well.

Indeed, too much stirring. That's where I would lay blame. That, or bad heat. This stuff is hard to do right without a candy thermometer.

And for those scientific types -

Anyways, again.. sorry I'm late to the party.. and Dina is right. Fudge isn't something that you can just beat into submission, Mike. It needs a gentle hand.

Then Debby:
Hey Mike~~I studied this recipe and I believe it has way too much liquid in it—none of my recipes for fudge include that much liquid.

Also, if it was raining when you cooked it~~it has a tendency to not harden. The stirring does not affect fudge and its consistency—although it does affect a cake.

Hope this helps!! If I get any reward $$$ I want you to apply it to your gas to come home~~ok????? If you will come—we will make a batch of fudge together!! Becky and aunt Ch will love it!!


Dina trying to butter up :) Mike AND Ryan:

You know what? I’ve read the explanation about sugar from the link Ryan sent.I think I have the right answer now for The Fudge Mystery…

Maybe Mike should have used less butter: “The fact that sugar solidifies into crystals is extremely important in candy making. There are basically two categories of candies - crystalline (candies which contain crystals in their finished form, such as fudge and fondant), and noncrystalline, or amorphous (candies which do not contain crystals, such as lollipops, taffy, and caramels). Recipe ingredients and procedures for noncrystalline candies are specifically designed to prevent the formation of sugar crystals, because they give the resulting candy a grainy texture […] Fats in candy serve a similar purpose. Fatty ingredients such as butter help interfere with crystallization—again, by getting in the way of the sucrose molecules that are trying to lock together into crystals.”

Scientifically yours,Galindo

And finally Gaby:

Hello everybody:
Dina is completely right: Too much butter!! The mixing part is right, is the amount of butter the wrong.

But Ryan is the real winner, I think, because he gave the scientific fact, even the link to read the explanation; and Dina just pointed out, so, sorry sis, tires until you save enough!!

Ohhh and you can make it without a candy thermometer: It is done when you put some drops of the boiling mixture in a glass of water and it fells to the bottom of the glass like tiny smalls pearls, then you know this is ready!

I just hope Mike don´t give the cash reward spreaded on that fudge hihihi.Meanwhile I found this couple of nice recipes, so you can compare the amounts of butter.

PS. Hmmmm: I think I would try this ones, all this chit chat makes me hungry.
Love love love Gaby

So if anyone is still reading, this is the final verdict and summation of the whole mystery:

Mike's last email:

Let me see if I can recap this firestorm of emails in the sequence they were presented to me:

Elise: Maybe it needs flour to enhance the viscosity. (I give this one a good grade for understanding the chemistry of heated solutions and how to explode the starch molecules.) Not interested in any awards...she just wants fudge to eat or drink.

Dina: Mike needs new glasses...and definitely Mike was too rough with his stirring. Now give me my tires. Uses all her English skills to make it clear that this was my fault. Offers to translate all of this into Spanish.

Becky: Becomes very angry with me about the use of maple syrup in fudge.

Dina: Begins nervous laughter due to her drooling lust for new tires.

Becky: States clearly that if Dina gets tires for an award, then she definitely gets a coffee maker. And shares with the group that no one should ever use goat milk in fudge. GOAT MILK?

Ryan: Agrees with Dina that Mike is a violent and dangerous stirrer. "Be gentle with me", said the fudge. (Sounds like a B movie at the drive-in theatre in Andalusia in 1963.) Then reconsiders and wonders if we don't maybe have bad heat in Texas for cooking fudge. Mentions the Cooking and Chemical Engineering Channel web link

Dina: After shopping for tires in Guatemala City, decides to investigate Ryan's web site. Finds wonderful buzz words such as amorphous, crystalline, di octal sulfo suxonates, tris 2-3 dibromopropyl phosphates and too much butter

Debby: Does her best to bring some sense to this cacophony. Uses the ancient Andalusia divinity candy rule about don't make it when it is rainy. (In west Texas, Debby. No way.) Unselfishly wants me to use the award money for gas to return to Alabama and make fudge for Mrs Ray and Becky with her. Refreshingly, Debby has no interest in tires or coffee makers.

Gabriela: Agrees with the too much butter hypothesis, and wants Ryan to have the credit...I believe this is clearly the first time a Guatemalan lady has agreed with Ryan about anything. Asks that her sister Dina be disqualified from any awards, because she is...her sister. Sends a good looking alternate recipe that involves whipping cream, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Gaby feels that maybe Dina was right about my vision failing, and puts the amount of butter in this new recipe in four inch fonts so my poor vision will be able to discern it.

Emily: Is afraid to email because a 140 pound cougar is stalking the city parks in Seattle. I am unable to afford a candy thermometer...and out of food money for two months because I used four cups of white sugar---two pounds of white sugar--on a formula that did not work.

Of interest, I did find that this liquid I have in the refrigerator is just delightful when substituted for the jelly in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

If I can find the wisdom of Solomon, there will be announcements tomorrow as to the substantial awards.

Saludos,el gran Tigre.


And as a reward for reading to the end------



  1. Take the reward money and buy a thermometer.

  2. Too easy. Then there would be no excuses.

  3. 1) I cannot believe I read this whole thing before going to work this morning.
    2) Suggest that this stuff be battered and fried.
    3) Una hermana de Guatemala dice hay mucha, mucha mantequilla - no es posible.
    4) Rough translation - it is not possible to have too much butter. That is an oxymoron.
    5) If Mike is the ox, then I must be ........


  4. 1) Like a novel you can't put down, huh? Or a train wreck in the making that you can't look away from.
    2) Now that makes my teeth hurt.
    3)Show off.
    4) I still think it's the maple syrup.
    5) Won't touch this one.

    We need a recipe from you, Alan, to go with Gaby's fudge ones that I'll post tomorrow.

  5. Anybody can tell me what is an oximoron?
    Me alegra que Allan pueda hablar español, tendremos una larga charla cuando nos conozcamos algun dia.
    Im so glad that Allan can speak spanish, we will have a long chat when we finally meet eachother some day.

  6. Yes, Gaby, those Windham guys are gifted in many languages. So, I'll let them explain oxymoron to you. (Oh, Alan doesn't have a horse, in case he tries to tell you he does.)

  7. Gaby - Me llamo Alan. Mucho gusto. Mi hermano, Miguel, dice puede hablar espanol, pero es un chiste. Tambien, se llama "El Tigre", otra chiste. Quizas, El gato.

    No hablo espanol. Tengo algunas palabras, pero no hablo.

    En ingles - an oxymoron is a statement considered to be a contradiction in terms, for example - military intelligence, or jumbo shrimp. Does this make any sense?

    My sister-in-law refers to an incident (this will be in present tense, as I cannot do past any better than I can spell in Espanol) cuando estoy en Torreon, Mexico y mis equipajes estan in Cuidad Mexico. La pregunta a la senorita en el hotel fui "Tiene un cepillo por mi caballo?" Cabeza o pelo......mucho mejor. They could not understand how I got a horse into my room.

    Que la stima. Saludos, El Viejo, Alan

  8. Alan: What a funny story!!! I can bet they are still scratching their heads wondering where you can hide that famous horse.

    It is very nice to meet you finally; We have to work in your pronnunciation then, you have an awesome spelling.

    And Becky: You have to write a novel about all this fudge thing, including the horse story. It would be a best seller.
    Love Gaby.