By Marnely Murray
If you’ve ever been enticed by the sweet aroma that wafts up and down North Water Street in Edgartown, you know how good a slice of Murdick’s Fudge is. And if you’ve longingly watched as the candymakers craft batch after batch of fudge and brittle, wondering how simple ingredients like sugar and cream create such a deliciously complex final product, it’s time for a trip to Murdick’s.
After watching from afar for the past seven years, I was ready to step behind the white fudge fence and learn from the masters themselves. A call to store manager Mike McCourt set up a time and place, and I, giddy with excitement, had a date with fudge. Confectionary class was my favorite three weeks while attending culinary school, because sugar has been my drug for the past 32 years. (If you’re my dentist reading this, I swear, I only had one piece of brittle and immediately brushed my teeth. I promise!)
Luring kids and adults alike into the shop, Murdick’s has made homemade fudge and peanut and cashew brittle since 1887. The time came for my date with fudge, and as I walked in, they were getting ready for the first batch by weighing and measuring the ingredients for chocolate peanut butter fudge. Below, I’ve broken down the steps that go into creating the perfect batch of fudge.
- In a large copper pot, cream and sugar are stirred together, along with imported chocolate for this batch, until it reaches 240°F. The copper pot is a staple at all fudge and candy shops. It’s highly recommended because it heats up quickly and disperses heat evenly, which you need to ensure consistent cooking of the sugar. At Murdick’s, it’s cooked for exactly 17 minutes, stirring throughout with a long wooden paddle, which also ensures even distribution of heat.
- Once 240°F is reached, the team works quickly to pour the liquid fudge onto a marble table lined with stainless steel bars on the sides. The fudge is too liquid at this point, so without the rods, it would run off the table quite quickly. If you’re wondering why the use of heavy, expensive marble is necessary, the explanation is quite simple: Marble absorbs and stores heat, so it regulates the process of cooling down.
- The fudgemaker then uses a scraper to move the fudge around, making sure to get to every spot on the table. This allows the fudge to cool down and at the same time prevents crystallization, because no one likes a grainy slice of fudge.
- Once the fudge has cooled a bit, the bars are removed and paddling begins. This is the moment the fudge starts to take shape, as the fudgemakers fold it over itself until they create the perfect log. For this batch, coils of peanut butter mixed with powdered sugar are brought in, layering the peanut butter mixture into the fudge log.
- Folding over and perfecting the shape takes place, as they create the shape that fits perfectly in Murdick’s famous slice boxes. Once shaped and cooled, the fudge is expertly cut into slices and packaged for us to enjoy.
It takes approximately 35 minutes from start to finish to make a batch of fudge, and using all the tables in the Edgartown shop continuously, the team can make about 90 pounds of fudge an hour. There are 15 types of fudge flavors to choose from, and Mike assures me there are no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or stabilizers (other than the marshmallow in the s’mores flavor, because you can’t have s’mores without marshmallows). Granted, fudge is a sugar-packed item, but a treat once in awhile is what keeps me going.
Now, let’s go back to the reason marble tables are used, and how Murdick’s transitions from making fudge to making peanut and cashew brittle. Since marble absorbs and stores the heat so well, Murdick’s has this down to a science. The ideal marble slab to use for brittle is a marble table that’s already been used for around five batches of fudge that day. By then, the marble has reached an internal temperature of 120°F, also known as the best temperature to pour brittle onto. Why not just make brittle and get it out of the way first thing in the morning, you might ask? Well, if the marble tables are too cold, once the hot brittle is poured onto the cold tables, it’ll start hardening too quickly, limiting the time the candy makers have to spread, stretch, and cut the brittle, resulting in thick, inedible candy. Candymaking is a science like any other; time and temperature play an essential role in its process.
To make brittle, granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, and water are all cooked to 300°F, a much higher temperature, since this time we are making a hard candy. Cashew brittle was on deck the morning I visited, and it’s interesting to note that raw cashews are used in the process. “Using raw cashews gives the brittle much more flavor, since they are added at the end of the cooking process and cook in the syrup. The essential oils of the cashew then disperse throughout the mixture, ensuring there’s cashew flavor all over the brittle, not just in spots with a nut in it,” Mike said as we watch the candymakers in action. Making brittle is a nerve-wracking process, at least for me to watch. These guys were pros and knew exactly what they were doing, but since time is so critical for brittlemaking, the moment that mixture was poured on the oiled marble table, they jumped into action, spreading it and dividing it among the three tables, stretching it with long specialty knives. They want to get the brittle as thin as possible, so you’re not heading straight to your dentist after a bite.
Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted a warm piece of cashew brittle straight from the table. As I took a bite (and thought about my dentist), I was in candy heaven. The brittle melts in your mouth, and as you bite down, the cashews burst with flavor. For an experience meant for candy lovers, I urge you to take a moment out of your day and stop into Murdick’s to watch this process, open for anyone to see from start to finish at the Edgartown location. As I walked home with a slice of chocolate fudge in my bag, I knew what my next project would be: recreating that amazing hot chocolate Murdick’s makes during Christmas in Edgartown. You know what I’m talking about.
You can purchase Murdick’s online at murdicks.com, or stop into one of their shops on-Island: 21 North Water Street in Edgartown, 5 Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs, and at the corner of Union and Main Streets in Vineyard Haven. Not only can you shop for fudge, but they can also create full sweet bars for your events, like weddings or family reunions. How dreamy would a dessert bar of fudge, brittle, and caramel corn be?
This story by Marnely Murray originally appeared on mvtimes.com.