Dan’s post on making his favorite dessert, Baklava, for Thanksgiving inspired me to make my own favorite dessert, which I’ve avoided making for years. Why avoided? Because it only comes out right (for me) every few times, and because I feel awful after eating it because it is pure fat and sugar.
Easier than this recipe would be to eat a cup of brown sugar and throw away the rest of the ingredients. You’ll feel about the same and won’t have to do the work it takes to fail.
Unlike Dan’s Baklava, I actually do associate Penuche with Thanksgiving. When I was young, my mom would make penuche fudge every Thanksgiving, and she and I would each eat about 1/3 of the pan, and feel miserable afterwards. It was awesome. And her success rate was much better than mine.
If you haven’t heard of penuche fudge, it’s because it’s a New England thing. Well, and a Southern thing, but they call it “Brown Sugar Fudge Candy,” which is hardly as fancy. It’s pronounced “puh-noo-chee” and comes from the Mexican word “panocha” which is coarse grade of sugar.
Wikipedia says that July 22nd is national Penuche Fudge day, which I think is damn foolish. In New England, that’s about when it’s most hot and humid and mosquitoes everywhere. Why would you want to feel ill and like a failure on top of that?
Still game? Good. I like fools with spirit. Here’s the recipe.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2/3 cup milk (regular or soy or nut)
- 2 tbsp corn syrup (EDIT: I now use Brown Rice Syrup, ratio 1:1)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
Mix all of the ingredients together in a saucepan, except for the vanilla and butter. Cook on stovetop over medium heat until it reaches 234˚, mixing with some frequency to keep it from burning to the bottom (if you don’t have a candy thermometer, theoretically at this point you can “drop a bit into cold water and the drop will hold together in a round ball,” but I always had an even higher failure rate when going by that method).
Instead of by stovetop, you can cook it for 10 minutes or so on high in the microwave. Stop occasionally to test the temperature. Just don’t put your thermometer in the microwave. Please. Really. I mean it.
Take it off the burner (it will be a dark brown at this point) and drop the butter in. Don’t mix the butter in or mix the goop at all until it drops down to 120˚
Phew. You’ve made it through the hard part! Now, the home stretch.
Just kidding. Now is the hardest part. First, add the vanilla. Now, start mixing it vigorously anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes. The moment it starts losing it’s gloss, scoop it into a greased pan (8 inch or so) and try to spread/flatten it. If you stir it even a minute too long, it will begin to turn hard on you. This time when I made it, I waited just a fraction too long, and had to press it quickly and emphatically into the greased pan with my fingers, and was semi-successful.
When eating, you will want to eat a lot, be the happiest and most amazed person on your block, and then wish you could die. Perhaps have orange juice and pickles nearby for emergency tastebud recovery.