Cardamom is one of those spices I find quite polarizing. Most people either love it or hate it. I first tried it in a dish my mother used to make called Rasmalai. An Indian dish of sweet cheese balls served with a rich, flavoured milk. My diligent mother would make everything from scratch, even the cheese – she would later confess it wasn’t a love of cooking she had, but a love of the finished product which motivated her. The milk for this dish is condensed over the stove, and I was tasked with the job of stirring it continuously as it did so. It is flavoured with rose-water and cardamom and has a beautifully delicate scent to it. I am sure this dish is responsible for my current love of the spice. I find the smell quite intoxicating and am almost guaranteed to love anything with cardamom.
It was only just over a year ago, that my friend Eating Edinburgh posted this recipe. She is not one to enjoy sweets or desserts, preferring the more savoury dishes, so this stuck out immediately as a worthy recipe to try. I made it as a hostess gift for some friends who were cooking a lovely dinner for us. It was an immediate hit, with them and us. It is now on the list to keep making when we do meet up with them, and for any other opportunities, when I can find the time.
Part of the charm of this recipe is the presentation, as small bites dipped into dark chocolate. It avoids the sickly, over sweet feeling I usually associate with eating a ‘chunk’ of fudge. I also think it dresses up what would be a boring, not overly attractive looking lump of sugar and cream. It makes a beautiful gift which is perfect for the festive season. And of course, all the imperfect bits are best for using up the leftover chocolate and taste testing for product quality!
I find it is extremely helpful to have a sugar thermometer for this recipe. If you don’t have one, then I wouldn’t rush out and buy one just for this. You can use a glass of cool water and drop a few drops of the bubbling syrupy mixture into the glass of water. Once you are sure it has cooled (we are dealing with temperatures over 120C, so be careful!) you can pick up the ball from the water and press it between your fingers. You are wanting what is called ‘Soft Ball’, so the drops should form a ‘ball’ in the water and be somewhat firm but still soft if squeezed between your fingers.
Makes enough for a 20 x 20 tin
- 20 Cardamom Pods
- 450 g Caster Sugar
- 400 g Double Cream
- 50 g Butter
- 1 Tbsp Glucose Syrup
- pinch of Salt
- 150 g good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cacao)
20 x 20 cm tin, lined with parchment
Using a mortar and pestle, crack each of the cardamom pods open to remove the seeds. Discard the empty pods. Then grind the seeds into a fine powder – if you have a spice grinder you can use this instead.
Add the cardamom, along with all the other ingredients, with the exception of the salt and chocolate, into a large heavy bottomed saucepan. (It is best to err on the side of caution here and go large. It will expand significantly whilst boiling. The first time I made this I had to quickly change it over to a much larger saucepan before it boiled over.)
Stirring occasionally, gently heat the ingredients until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. The mixture should be mixed together at this stage – after which you will want to avoid stirring as much as possible, to avoid a grainy fudge from crystallised sugar.) At this point I usually have a silicone pastry brush and a cup of water to dip the brush into, which I then use to go around the edges of the saucepan to ‘wash’ the sugar from the edges of the pan. The water won’t affect the fudge and will evaporate very quickly, it also allows you to remove the sugar which comes up the edges without stirring – and again, avoiding the crystallisation of the sugar. This gives you the best texture for your fudge.)
Fit your sugar thermometer and turn the heat up, bringing the mixture to a steady boil. You can stir occasionally to avoid the sugar catching at the bottom. I also continue to use the pastry brush of water around the edges to prevent the sugar from sticking to the edges – and ultimately means you don’t need to stir the mixture nearly as often.
At this point you will find the heat of the mixture will rise quickly and then plateau abruptly. I find the last few degrees seems to take forever, but it will creep up eventually! You are aiming for 116C, for the soft ball stage. This is what will allow the fudge to set and keep it from being too soft. When it has reached 116C, remove from the heat and leave it untouched until the temperature drops to 110C – this happens much faster than heating up, so keep an eye on it.
Once the temperature has dropped to 110C, add a pinch of salt. Then, keeping the thermometer in place, begin to stir the mixture vigorously until it drops to 60C. This will be a workout for your arms, but it is essential to the creaminess of the fudge. Once the temperature has dropped, pour the warm mixture into the prepared tin. Smooth the top and allow it to set at room temperature overnight. (Avoid placing it in the fridge as it won’t set properly.)
The next day, remove the set fudge from the tin and using a sharp knife, cut it into bite size chunks. (I went for 1.5 x 3 cm, which worked nicely.) Break up the chocolate into a bowl, for a double boiler, and melt over low heat, stirring gently. Dip one half of each piece of fudge into the melted chocolate and place onto a tray lined with parchment, leave until set.
I recommend storing in an airtight container at room temperature, if you are wanting to keep it for a few days. Although, I found it was okay for a couple of days placed in a lined gift box without drying out noticeably.