First, There Was a Mess
Made With — Chocolate Chips, Corn Syrup, Cream Cheese, and perhaps Peanut Butter
It started a year or more ago.
To reminisce a moment, assuming you are old enough or have had sufficient life experience, you know that an idea fixed in a mind can prevent something from happening. And you know the release of that idea allows the mind to consider potential solutions it could not entertain before that point.
It happened to me.
For years, I made Amish-recipe chocolate candies and published the recipes. They were chocolate-covered goodies, mostly. But also shaped chocolate and chocolate-based candy.
The recipes in the first book used powdered sugar for thickener.
In all subsequent recipes, I never added extra sugar or sugar substitutes. None of the recipes I published had added sugar. Even the desserts I made for my wife and me, with recipes still unpublished, never had extra sugar added.
During the years, "no added sugar" had become a thing with me. It was a personal brand I was proud of.
When I first decided to develop microwave fudge recipes, I dived into it with the "no added sugar" concept healthy in my mind.
The chocolate had its own sweetness. Frozen concentrated fruit juice was obtained. It was thawed and intended to be used for both flavor and the additional sweetness it provided.
You probably know this, but in case you do not, let me say that chocolate and water do not play well together. They abhor each other and get into fights, so to speak. With even a hint of water, chocolate changes texture. It seems to scrunch its shoulders and refuse to cooperate anymore.
Concentrated fruit juice contains water.
Therefore, one of the first things I had to do was find a way to blend chocolate and juice.
After much trial and error, I found a solution. Instead of using melted chocolate, I used baker's cocoa. The dry cocoa powder was carefully blended into the thawed juice. And I do mean carefully. The dry powder liked to fly out of the bowl in puffs and splotches. Patience was required.
When the two were blended, the result was a damp paste-like glob. It tasted yucky.
Microwaving the glob helped. Much of the yucky left. Still, some remained.
The mixture needed to be sweeter and it needed more chocolate flavor.
If I added more concentrated fruit juice for more sweetness, it got runny. Microwaving turned it into something too tough to chew. Further, it had insufficient chocolate flavor.
If I added more cocoa powder for more chocolate flavor, the mixture tasted bitter.
Honey came to the rescue. When honey was added, the amount of concentrated fruit juice was reduced. Also, the amount of cocoa was increased for a better chocolate flavor.
To make an acceptable flavor and texture, microwaving had to be done until the mixture actually boiled.
Because the mixture was hot as it was poured, it melted the wax of the wax paper being used to line the receiving container. I tried this and that and eventually ended up using aluminum foil for lining with a very light coating of butter.
When the candy cooled, the texture ended up somewhat unsatisfactory. It was also too sticky, more like taffy texture than fudge. It tasted good, though, because I like honey.
The honey flavor permeated the chocolate taste. There was the taste of the fruit juice, too, but it was subtle compared to the honey. While I liked those flavors with the chocolate, not everybody would.
Even though some people would like the fudge, the recipe was not good enough.
Could it be called "fudge"? It probably should not have that identity.
The final decision not to publish that particular recipe came when I realized there was no way I could truthfully say it was easy. The recipe was work. Compared to that recipe, all the candy recipes in my books were joyously easy.
No, I did not give up. But I did put it on hold. I needed to separate my focus from the recipe, do other things for a change. Maybe I would think of something that would work to make it easier and, hopefully, taste awesome.
Some months later, it happened.
My fixation on not adding any sugar loosened enough for me to consider the possibility.
When I accepted that, the solution flew into my head. Corn syrup.
With corn syrup, no fruit juice would be needed. Without water, I could use chocolate instead of baker's cocoa.
Soon, I had easy, tasty, properly-textured microwave fudge and microwave peanut butter fudge recipes that were easy to make. I mean, really really tasty.