When I think back to my holidays at home as a child, two things in particular hold tight in my memory: wrapping paper and fudge.
My parents had three children when they were newly married and quite young; and, once the oldest one hit seventeen years of age… they had me. Needless to say, when I was a little kid, my brother and sisters were having their own little ones. And during the holidays, they would all flock home to bring every single one of the children and grandchildren together. To my parents, this meant an exorbitant amount of gift giving. And what do you need when you have an exorbitant amount of gifts? Wrapping paper. Lots of it. Throughout the month, we couldn’t go to one single store without buying them out of the “premium” stuff. Had to be extra thick and at least 200 feet long.
Wrapping paper was actually a bigger deal in my family than the presents themselves. We even had a large closet dedicated entirely to it during the month of December. Then again, we also had an entire closet dedicated to random socks… so maybe my family was just a little weird like that. Whatever the reason, Christmas was the season for my parents to stock up on tons of wrapping paper.
Yet, no matter how much paper we hoarded that year, we would always run out. Inevitably, each Christmas Eve at about 9 pm, my dad would make a mad dash to pick up another 5 rolls of wrapping paper… as he was the designated present wrapper. Once he had located the last few remaining rolls in town, he would bolt home, never tiring of the endless wrapping until all presents had been effectively (and beautifully) concealed. I was like his little elf… helping to tape down the ribbon as he combed the open edge of the scissor blade across the long strand to make it curl up into tight ringlets. Sometimes he even let me sneak a looksy at a couple of my gifts, to quicken the wrapping time (it’s true), plus he knew how much the suspense killed me. I sincerely loved spending every Christmas Eve with my dad.
Our Christmas tree each year was a sight to behold. It was also quite formidable for being a simple three-piece artificial tree. Somehow it seemed to reach all of 7 1/2 feet tall; and it was always adorned with eight million Mylar icicles along with tiny white lights, making it quite suitable for New Years Eve celebrations as well as Christmas. My mother liked to hide the tree in our “fancy” living room (you know, the room that no-one entered lest we be scolded), away from my cats, and dog, and lizards, and hamsters, and birds that I happily kept as company to her discontent. Many times, the cats would make their way up the center of the tree, only to reach their highest point and bring themselves and the tree down to the ground. It was clearly their favorite time of year. Some years the dog would even get involved.
At the peak of our family Christmases, when all of my siblings had at least two of their own children each, our trusty tree was no longer suitable to oversee the presents. In fact, the enormous tree with the gifts pouring out from underneath was no match in girth for the second mound of presents that piled up next to the tree. It was an awesome amount of wrapping paper, which neutrally hid the outrageous amount of “giving” hidden beneath.
Next to the Christmas tree, on a table with boxes enhanced heavily with – you guessed it: wrapping paper – stood 20 pounds of my mother’s Christmas fudge. I kid you not… she made a ton of fudge every year. And, of course, as more and more kids came into our family, so did more and more fudge.
Interestingly enough, she made this fudge only during this time of year… and I never cared for it too much. It was insanely rich, and chocolatey, and creamy, and filled with walnuts and most likely, delicious. But, I just wasn’t all that fond of it. I did always eat at least 1 piece every year… just to get me into the holiday spirit. And then it usually gave me a tremendous bellyache. Something about that fudge just did not jive well with me, which was fine with everyone else in my family who happily devoured all of it in less than 3 days.
Don’t get me wrong- with my sweet tooth, I love me some fudge. I just had my taste buds set on a different type of treat. My mother also made another fudge – peanut butter fudge- all year long. She called it “peanut butter candy”, and I absolutely loved it. It was, in fact, one of the first recipes that I learned to make.
The recipe I share with you today is a combination of both my mother’s Christmas fudge and her peanut butter candy. I think this new version may become my staple family holiday fudge. It is dense and peanut buttery and very addicting. Not quite rich enough to give you a belly ache after just one bite… but pretty darned close.
Addictively Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
makes about 20 pieces
First things first, get all the ingredients measured out and ready to go… the key to this fudge is to work fast once the sugar has cooked well. Also, just like in grade school- be sure to read all directions before attempting to make this stuff. It’s ridiculously easy… but has a little wiggle room for error if you’re not well prepared.
So, have on hand:
1) In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, heat margarine until melted. Add in brown sugar and non-dairy milk and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a hard boil.
2) Once it comes to a hard boil, set your timer for exactly two minutes. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring the entire time it is cooking. This step works best of you are stirring with a wooden spoon and rinsing any of those pesky sugar crystals off as they collect on the spoon. Re-introducing those guys during candy making can be a disaster.
3) When the two minutes have come to an end, remove from heat and quickly stir in your peanut butter and almond extract. Then promptly add to confectioner’s sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix briefly just until all sugar has been incorporated into the peanut butter mixture.
4) Pour into prepared dish and wait for it to harden up a bit. If you are like I am sometimes (kinda slow) you may actually need to “pat” the fudge into the tray. This is fine… it’ll still set up nicely.
5) Once the fudge has cooled slightly, melt chocolate chips over a double boiler and drizzle all over the fudge.
6) Let chocolate re-harden and then serve!