I’m a bit of a Last-Minute-Kate. Whether for university essays, exam revision or just plain old form-filling, I’ve always had a tendency towards procrastination and prevarication in the face of deadlines. So the fact that I’m posting my entry three whole days before the deadline for Sugar High Friday #61 is something of a miracle! Please remember this and think kindly of me when I revert to type afterwards ;-)
When I chose the theme for this month’s SHF, my thoughts turned immediately to my Mum’s orange trifle. Sweet and comforting, I’ve been known to make single portions for both myself and L when the evenings are long and dark and the rain is falling outside. However, as you can see, I’ve already written about this wonderful pudding at length for a previous SHF when the theme was Childhood Delights. Although I believe it’s impossible to overpraise my Mum’s trifle, perhaps submitting the same thing to two separate SHF events might have been overdoing it slightly …
And yet it’s remarkable how often a search for comfort leads to a trip down memory lane.
Way, way back in 1979, I was five years old and the proud owner of a two-wheeler Raleigh bicycle.
You can’t really see the bike in this photo, so you’ll have to believe me when I tell you that it was very shiny and very, very purple. I had also just succeeded in riding it without stabilizers when the photo was taken, which is why I’m looking very happy if somewhat chilly.
It was a few months after this photo when I set out with my Mum and my baby sister to take our dog for a walk. Naturally, I was full of beans and was allowed to ride my bike while my Mum pushed my sister in her big, heavy pram (yes, that’s my Dad in the photo and not my Mum, but you get the picture – just remember specifically that this pram was very big and very, very heavy).
After safely negotiating the one main road that ran down the length of our housing estate, we came to a network of footpaths that were a safe haven for wobbly five-year-old bike riders. I knew that our own circular route back home would lead eventually to an incredibly steep and long hill (by my five-year-old standards, anyway).
“I bet you can’t ride to the top of the hill without stopping,” my Mum challenged me.
“Bet you I can!” I countered as I pedalled furiously ahead, my chin set determinedly.
At the foot of the hill, the path curved around to begin its ascent. Suddenly, as I turned, my wheels slipped in some gravel and my bike careered sideways, tipping me to the ground. I slid a few yards through the gravel and fell awkwardly on my left arm.
Mum, dog and pram soon arrived at the scene of the disaster. My bike’s handlebars were twisted, my left arm hurt furiously and the shortest way home was up that hill. It wasn’t looking too good until Mum bribed me with the promise of a packet of sweets from the VG shop at the top. I gritted my teeth after that and somehow my Mum and I managed to push/carry/drag the heavy pram, the bent bike and the bemused dog all the way up the slope. I still have flashbulb memories of the struggle!
My Mum kept her word and bought a Cadbury’s Finger of Fudge for me as a reward for my bravery. It was just the sweet, sugary treat that I needed at that moment. Its soothing mix of melting chocolate and smooth, creamy fudginess successfully transported me away from the dull, throbbing pain in my left arm. Even today, the familiar jingle of the 1980s advert is enough to carry me back to that very day when I was comforted by a finger of fudge (and my Mum’s cuddles, of course … but the fudge does feature prominently in my memory!).
(Incidentally, did you notice the similarity between the Cadbury’s Fudge jingle and the Lincolnshire Poacher?)
A visit to the hospital later, it turned out that my arm had been broken in the fall. So, just to complete the story, here’s a picture of me looking quite enigmatic with a pot on my arm. I’m not sure what the grey shadow on the right is … the ghost of Christmas past, perhaps?
Although I can easily walk down into our village today and buy a finger of fudge in the local shop, I wanted to try to recreate this sweet comfort treat for myself at home. After all, I may need the recipe distressingly soon if even the very taste of this iconic chocolate bar becomes little more than a distant memory in a Kraft takeover of Cadbury …
A Finger of Fudge (basic fudge recipe adapted from Simple Sweet-Making)
1 lb granulated sugar
1/4 pint milk
2 oz butter
1 tsp liquid glucose
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dissolve the sugar in the milk in a 4-5 pint saucepan. (This is the part I find the most difficult – it sounds so simple, but it always takes me forever to achieve (or not, as my many failures testify). This time, I used my fingers to stir the sugar, which seemed to help. I also transferred it several times into a clean pan when the sides seemed to be getting gummed up with sugar crystals – I probably lost a bit of the solution in the process, but I kept going regardless. And this is the best fudge I’ve ever made, so I couldn’t have done too much wrong … However you achieve it, just make sure that there are absolutely no sugar crystals left in the solution before you reach anywhere near boiling point).
Add the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate.
Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan (the mixture didn’t reach up to the immersion point on mine at the start, but once again I carried on regardless – all turned out well when the mixture bubbled ferociously up the sides of the pan) and boil to 238 degrees F (soft ball stage). Stir the mixture from time to time as its temperature rises to prevent it from burning, but stop stirring as it reaches the soft ball stage.
Carefully stand the pan in a roasting dish filled with ice water to stop any further rise of temperature. Be careful not to knock the pan or stir the mixture at all. Leave it for 10 minutes or until the fudge has cooled to about 110 degrees F.
Here, the instructions say to beat until thick then turn out onto a board and knead until smooth. (In my own doubtlessly flawed attempt, I found the fudgy caramel thing to be far too sticky to beat, so I scraped it onto the work surface and pulled it about a bit with a bench scraper. I then gave up in frustration and left home to collect L and M from school. When I returned, I was astonished to find that the sloppy goo had actually started to set in a fudge-like manner in the centre of the flattened shape in which I had discarded it.)
Form into logs about an 1 1/2 inches long. (Think Play-Doh.)
Dip into melted chocolate and place on trays lined with baking parchment until dry.
When dry, break off the drippy bits of chocolate and give to small children in need of comfort.