Here is a cookbook review and note on a recipe-in-progress.
Suzen and I were at a farmers market in Lower Manhattan last fall. That fall was warm, and lacked the surprise snow we have just experienced. I was lugging food and very thirsty and there I saw something wonderful.
Fany Gerson, a very serious pastry chef from Mexico, had a stand with aqua fresca. And she had a copy of her book: My Sweet Mexico. Her drink brought relief and her book brings inspiration.
Fany has traveled back and forth across, and up and down, Mexico. Our images of Mexico tend to Mexico City, beaches, Aztec pyramids, and that troublesome border. There is a vast other Mexico, and that is where Fany has explored and compiled this collection of sweet treats.
Most of the recipes are ones you will not have seen, unless you too have been to Mexico. Many of the recipes are regional or even city treasures. Somewhat like Italy, Mexico is divided by mountains into regions, each with its own climate and agriculture. And thus recipes.
My Sweet Recipes offers many temptations:
- Spiced Chocolate Cakes with Sweet Tomatillo Sauce
- Candied Pumpkin
- Lime Meringues
- Coconut Stuffed Limes
- Sorbets Aplenty: Quince, cucumber, Apricot, Lime and Tamarind
- Fany’s favorite Tres Leches Cake
- Tomato Jam Empanadas
- Pecan Fudge Caramels
- Pistachio Caramels
- Milk Fudge
- Fany’s Mexican Wedding Cookies
- Aceite de Vanilla
That last recipe is for a vanilla liquor. I’ve started it, and after a week of “nurturing” I tell you about the results. A sugar syrup is infused with vanilla beans, poured into a jar, and topped off with rum. It’s sitting on my shelf now.
The headnotes for the recipes are wonderfully informative. Those Mexican Wedding Cookies you have loved? Well, they came to Mexico from Spain. And they got to Spain from the Arab conquest of Spain that lasted, in total, for seven hundred years.
Suzen and I will be trying many of these recipes over the next couple of weeks. That Candied Pumpkin seems the perfect side dish for Thanksgiving!
A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, there was a cosmic catastrophe.
Okay, there is some slight exaggeration here. It was not long ago, just last century. And it was this galaxy. In fact, it was this planet. But it was a catastrophe: I lost THE recipe.
THE recipe was the best recipe ever. The most important recipe ever. I had used it dozens of times. Nurtured it. Shared it. Been praised for it. Won hearts with it.
And then it was gone. My life was changing. I moved from California to New England. I actually moved five times in less than two years. And somewhere in the process, a single piece of paper with that recipe was lost. I hated myself. My therapist said I should.
I have searched and searched. And now, I may have found it. I say “may” because, as I will note, I remember something a bit different but I’m very, very, very happy with this recipe.
You will be told that man cannot live on fudge alone. That is a lie. Supplemented only by steak and Caesar salad, you can go a long time.
This is the best fudge ever. Ever. There are multiple reasons for this. First, the taste is delicious, what fudge was meant to be. Second, the texture is sublime, your teeth just easily slip through the mass of chocolate encountering resistance only from the nuts. No hard crunch through crystallized sugar. Third, and very important, you make this without a candy thermometer.
Because this is a family site, I will not go into my true feelings about candy thermometers. Suffice it to say that:
- They are hard to use
- They never clip properly to the side of the pan
- When they are on the side of the pan, they keep slipping
- And being on the side, they probably do not register the correct temperature
- Finally, the stupid things are impossible to read: they steam up, gum up with fudge, …
You want a fudge recipe that does not call for getting to that 234° critical point. And in that recipe I lost, I most distinctly remember that it called for simply cooking for fixed amount of time. No thermometer, no fumbling, no angst.
The original recipe was “monk something” from the Los Angeles Times in the 1970s. In a recent Google search, I found this recipe for Brigittine Monks’ Fudge at cooks.com. I recall using corn syrup in mine and this recipe does not use that, but after 40 years I am just not sure. What I do know is that this recipe has a secret ingredient: butter. I have compared the no-thermometer fudge recipes from a dozen sources and this is the only one that uses butter. Plus marshmallow cream. The result is super creamy and smooth. This is as good as my original recipe, probably better.
Another difference here is that you cook only the sugar and the evaporated milk [NOT sweetened condensed milk]. The marshmallow fluff is added only after cooking. Recipes on the fluff jars call for cooking the fluff, and I believe this recipe is superior in retaining the soft texture from that fluff by NOT cooking it.
When you make this recipe use a VERY oversize saucepan. When this reaches the boiling point, it suddenly blooms in volume. A too small pan will result in a gooey mess overflowing all over the stove and you’ll spend quite some time cleaning it so your wife does not know it happened. I’m just warning you about that possibility. [Suzen, this never happened. That stove was dirty before I started.]
Brigittine Monks’ Fudge
Yield: 3+ pounds of heaven
- 4 ½ cups sugar
- One 12 or 13 ounce can evaporated milk
- 9 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
- 7 ounces of marshmallow fluff
- ½ pound unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 cups chopped nuts [walnuts or pecans]
Butter a 9×13 inch baking pan.
Bring the sugar and milk to a boil, cook exactly for 6 minutes over medium heat. Remove from the stove and add the remaining ingredients. Beat the mixture until everything has been thoroughly incorporated the mixture beings to firm up. Do not stir the mixture until it becomes too stiff to pour.
Pour into the butter pan. Cool to room temperature. Store overnight in the refrigerator.
I used milk chocolate chips instead of the bittersweet. The combination of semi-sweet and milk chocolate is excellent.
To serve, take the fudge from the refrigerator and allow to warm a bit before serving. If very cold, the fudge does not have the smooth, soft texture that I personally prefer.
Source: Adapted from cooks.com