Fudge, Part Deux

Today, Katie is broadcasting from our official blog test kitchen (which wow, looks remarkably like her own kitchen!). She’s tackling her old culinary frenemy…that cursed confection, sneaky sweet, diabolical dessert otherwise known as…FUDGE. Take it away, Katie!


It’s hard to believe it has been nearly six years since I tried and spectacularly failed at making Monsieur Bon-Bon’s Secret “Fooj” from the book Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang by Ian Fleming. Six years! C’est impossible! But after six years, dear blog readers, it’s finally time. Let’s trying making fudge again.

I found a recipe in a charming book titled Peeny Butter Fudge, written by Toni Morrison, Slade Morrison,and illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Simon & Schuster, 2009 – read here by Sankofa Read Aloud). There’s nothing better than spending the afternoon with Nana. She adds love and extra excitement to play time, story time, even nap time! But the best part is helping Nana make her yummy, delicious fudge before Mom comes home.

With just five ingredients and clearer directions than the “fooj” recipe, my confidence was high. I carefully followed the instructions exactly as they were written. When it came time to let the milk/sugar/chocolate mixture boil for five minutes, I set a timer and pulled out my candy thermometer (purchased when I attempted to make acid drops from Harry Potter). I remember reading that fudge must reach a certain temperature to solidify and have the correct texture, so I watched the thermometer closely. I also admit I was a bit nervous when the mixture needed to boil for longer than five minutes before it made a tadpole shape when dropped into a glass of cold water.

While the pot was taking its cold-water bath in the kitchen sink, a series of unfortunate events drew my attention away from the task at hand. The pot must have rested in the sink for too long because when I tried to add the peanut butter, the fudge was hard. Absolutely rock hard. I frantically tried putting the mixture back on the stove to see if it would soften up as I mixed in the peanut butter, but the result was a colossal, clumpy mess. Fudge failure, yet again.

I wasn’t about to give up on Nana and her peanut butter fudge, so I started over from scratch. Armed with the knowledge from both of my failures, I focused wholly and completely on the fudge and finding the sweet spot of victory. And somehow, against all odds, I did it. I made fudge!

Peeny Butter Fudge is delightfully rich and provides the perfect flavor mixture of chocolate and peanut butter, which is one of my favorite dessert combinations. I provided samples for my teen son and his neighborhood friends to try, and all of them said “this is so good!” My son also said it tastes exactly like the filling in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Collectively we give Peeny Butter Fudge our official seal of tastiness approval.

There’s an art to making fudge. You must balance a fine line between delicious success and disastrous failure. I’m very grateful my third attempt was a charm. And though I still consider myself an amateur fudge maker, I’m definitely planning on making Nana’s fudge again.

The Snack of the Swan

My son is bird-obsessed these days, so I presented him with E.B. White’s classic, The Trumpet of the Swan. He loved it and I was soon fielding questions about swans, trumpets, and what watercress sandwiches taste like. I’m not a swan or a trumpet expert, but watercress sandwiches? That I can do!

A quick Google search reveled 559,000 recipe results. In the end, I went with the simplest one: white bread, mayonnaise (or in our food allergic house, Vegenaise), and fresh watercress. I did have a little trouble locating the watercress, but finally found success in the produce section of Whole Foods.

And what did my son think of the sandwiches? Here’s his full report…

To be honest, it did not have much of taste, sort of like spinach. But it did have a bit of spicy aftertaste. Which was not much compared to the mustard cabbage I once tried. That was a dark day. I am obsessed with waterfowl (scientific name Anseriformes). And in one part of the book, the swan eats some watercress sandwiches, and it is said in the book that all the swan really wanted was the watercress. I guessed that waterfowl eat watercress, and other stuff that grows underwater. So we tried it to see what it tastes like. So overall, it wasn’t bad or anything. Just a little bit tasteless. Maybe next time I’ll try bird seed.

Yes, I was a bit surprised. Watercress is a tad spicy. Not unlike arugula. However, the spice added a nice kick to counter the creamy mayo. Nom nom nom. Watercress is also a gorgeous green. I couldn’t resist garnishing Fred Marcellino’s illustration of Louis being presented the bill for twelve watercress sandwiches, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Boston (Harper Collins, 2000 paperback reissue).

If you are looking for a few more recipes, yummies, and challenges heading into the holiday season, you might want to try some rock cakes, say hello with this chocolate pen, or take our literary food quiz!

Witchy Kitchy

witchy kitchy

From the well-stocked shelves, to the bubbling cauldron, to the secret storage space…this kitchen is ready to concoct some scintillating brews. It also folds down into a snappy little travel case, complete with your shopping list clipped to the outside!

witchy kitchy travel modeWe read One Witch, written by Laura Leuck, and illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Walker & Company, 2003). A witch visits her ten sets of (unusual) friends to gather ingredients for the ultimate brew. She cooks it up, sends out invitations via bat, and a massive party ensues – including a special bowl for you! This is a fantastic counting book, plus a real family favorite. My kids asked me to read this book to them year round!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 small tissue box
  • Poster board
  • A selection of construction paper
  • 1 wooden coffee stirrer
  • 1 mini cauldron (or paper cup)
  • 1 ingredient bottles template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 2 plastic sample cups
  • 2 snippets of drinking straw
  • 2 buttons
  • 1 small rubber band
  • 1 spooky shopping list template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We used our standard craft boxes for this project, but I’m also going to show you how to build it with large and small tissue boxes. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the project:

witchy kitchy birds eye viewAs you can see, it’s a box within a box. The left side of the kitchen is the unfolding countertop/secret storage area, the the right side is the fireplace for the cauldron (which we stoked with brown poster board logs and red paper crinkle, but construction paper works too). The front of the fireplace is a V-shaped door that folds down. Use markers to create the stones for your hearth.

If you want to make the project with tissue boxes, the key is to flip the tissue boxes upside down and cut the bottoms into lids. Here’s the large box:

witch kitchy tissue box alt step 1The issue, of course, is you have a big hole in the floor of your kitchen. No problem! Just glue or tape a piece of poster board over the hole (shown here in yellow):

witch kitchy tissue box alt step 2To make the unfolding countertop/secret storage space, flip a small tissue box, cut the bottom to make a hinged lid, cut the box down to the proper height, then attach it inside the large box. Cut the V-shaped hearth door and you’re set!

witch kitchy tissue box alt step 3The shelves along the back of the kitchen are basic poster board pockets. Cut and color the various bottles in your template to stock your kitchen:

witchy kitchy shelvesIn the secret storage are little plastic sample cups for mixing, snippets of drinking straws, plus (optional) ingredient bottles repurposed from old-school film canisters. We filled ours with fabric flowers, foam beads, and green paper crinkle. I also added little cleavers I cut from silver mirror board.

witchy kitchyBut my FAVORITE item in the kitchen is the cauldron. We used plastic mini cauldrons, but you can also fashion a cauldron from a paper cup. To hang the cauldron, cut little notches in the sides of the boxes, then slide a wooden coffee stirrer into the notches.

The outside of the box gets a poster board carrying handle, as well as a shopping list you can either tape or clip to the front:

witchy kitchy travel modeThe box does get a little heavy. In fact, our lid kept popping open. So we added extra support in the form of two buttons, which we hot glued to the lid and body of the large box. Wrap a rubber band around the buttons, and you’re set!

A week after this project, we ran into one of our story time kids. She wants you to know that “THIS IS MY FAVORITE TOY AND I PLAY WITH IT ALL THE TIME I MAKE SOUPS THAT I FEED MY BROTHER!”