First, your cooking music. You’re welcome.
Alright, now let’s get down to business. W and I have been making candy, mostly fudge, for the last week. As of this morning, we’ve made 5 batches of said fudge and 1 batch of English Toffee with chopped pecans. Why so much fudge?
A little back story.
As a graduation present, my grandparents bought me a very nice stethoscope. This one. The Littman 3200 stethoscope, as you can see from the specs, is demonstrably The Shit. I haven’t spent the requisite 500 hours holed up with my manual to figure out how to use all the features (read: any of the features except the bell/diaphragm options and volume controls), but dudes, even without the bells and whistles this thing is the coolest. I can HEAR stuff. Of course, since everyone gets a chest x-ray and CT anyway, the stuff I hear often doesn’t count for much, but I could not love my stethoscope more. Gadget-gasm, for reals ya’ll.
So, what do I do with my excellent stethoscope? Well, for one thing, I never take it off my neck…until I do. Last week I was eating lunch at a little table off the side of the ED, and my stethoscope kept bumping into my food. This is because my belly prevents me from leaning over the table to avoid spilling food all over myself, forcing me to hold my bowl up to my chin like a doofus. Yeah, you see where I’m going with this, and I’m totally blaming my unborn child.
I take my stethoscope off and hang it off the side of a cardboard box that is sitting on the table before me. Then I eat, and chat, and get a new patient in one of my rooms, and jump up and run off. Leaving my stethoscope in the box. The box that, on the side facing the rest of the ED, had a large sign reading…
…wait for it…
“FREE TO A GOOD HOME.”
Oh, yes. Yes I did.
Needless to say, when I returned an hour later going ohholycrapIleftmystethoscope, it had been extracted from the donation box of 10 cent novels and taken home by somebody. A somebody who no doubt was incredibly impressed with their luck, because damn, that was a kickass stethoscope.
I put up a couple of notes near the box, and asked around, but nobody had seen anything. I figured that the stethoscope was long gone, and I resolved never to tell my mother, EVER. Nobody can handle that kind of heat, you feel me? It drives me batshit to lose things in the first place, but to lose something special and expensive and awesome, engraved with “Emily Rousse, RN,” just killed me. But oh well, I guess. I’m a moron: I put it in the donation box. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, I PUT IT IN THE DONATION BOX.
As a last ditch effort, I sent a little email to my orientation supervisor/nurse educator Michelle, explaining that I am a huge idiot, and asking if she could maybe send out a department-wide email, just in case someone picked it up or knew who did.
The next day when I showed up at work, I found out that Michelle, the head of the security department, and various other staff members had spent 4 HOURS going all CSI on the security tapes and had tracked down and contacted the person who snagged the stethoscope. It was returned a few hours later (by James from Radiology, who mentioned that he was a little freaked out to receive a call from the head of security informing him that he had been seen with a stethoscope belonging to me. I was like, dude, MY BAD. I PUT IT IN THE BOX. If I’d seen it in there, I would have been like “hey, cool stethoscope!” and grabbed it too). They went far, far out of their way to help me get it back. It was one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for me, and I wanted to find a way to say thanks. I really love my job at SGMC, and this is part of the reason why–I cannot count the number of people there who have gone out of their way to help me, to answer my 100,000 questions, check on me when I’m falling behind, and to make me feel like a part of the team.
Hence, the candy idea. The plan was to make a box, half fudge and half toffee, for Michelle and another box for the head of security, and then a separate box of fudge for the rest of the ED.
My candy-making experience, up until this adventure, had been entirely under my mother’s protective, cheerfully bossy wing. Venturing out on my own, I decided to use the recipe that she’d written down for me.
A bit more music, to tide you over.
Yep, that should do it. Moving on.
“Ada Johnson Hale’s Miles City Montana Fudge”
Butter the sides of a heavy, 3-quart sauce pan
4 c. sugar
2- 5.5oz cans evaporated milk
1 c. butter
Cook and stir over medium heat to 236 F (soft ball stage–drop a 1/4 tsp of mixture into 1/2 c. room temperature water: if mixture makes a soft ball you can pick up, it’s ready). This takes about 12 minutes.
Remove from heat, add 1 12ox package chocolate chips and 1 7oz of marshmellow creme. (Here you can also add nuts, but I always omit them. If you want them, add 1 c. of chopped nuts). Add 1 tsp vanilla, stir until it’s all perfectly smooth, then pour into your prepared (lined with parchment paper) dish.
How did it go, you ask? Not so great.
Batch 1: Totally edible, but a little grainy, and not as chocolately at I’d like. More sweet than chocolate, you know? So I got this totally genius idea. Add more chocolate, right? Right!
Batch 2: NOOOOOOoooo. Don’t add more chocolate, are you insane? What follows is a terrible and bizarre chemical reaction that I wish I’d filmed. Everything…separates. The chocolate stuff becomes crumbly and begins to ooze this plasma-like stuff, which I think is greasy water. Then it hardens into clods of chocolate-flavored dirt, surrounded by plasma. Ugh.
At this point W breaks my candy thermometer, and we get a new one that has “soft ball stage” labeled at 240 F.
Batch 3: Almost perfection. W stirred so that I could sit down (really, I am almost completely useless at this point), and we pulled it off the heat at roughly 1 degree below “soft ball” on the thermometer, added the chocolate and creme and vanilla, beat it up, and poured it in the dish. Right away, while stirring, it was apparent that this batch was different. It was creamy and shiny and didn’t set up right away. After we got it in the dish it retained a shiny surface, and hardened below into silky deliciousness. Still a teeny bit grainy but 1,000x better than Batch 1. And no plasma, so it kicked Batch 2’s creepy ass all over the place. This stuff is very good, and went into the boxes.
Batch 4: Tried to do everything the same as we did with Batch 3, except with better chocolate (switched from Nestle chips to Ghirardelli, same amount), and let the temperature get all the way up to the “soft ball” line. Dammit, What the Hell? Got a little bit of the plasma, and a lot of bad grainy texture. Overall, a fail.
Here is where I ask for audience participation:
What did we do wrong? I thought it might have something to do with the chocolate again, but those two chocolates are essentially the same. They even cost almost the same at the grocery store, which was why I upgraded. The temperature was higher, but I swear it couldn’t have been more than a degree or two. Fudge is not that sensitive, right? I’m lost here.
At this point I was mad, so I decided to take a break from fudge entirely, and worked on the toffee. I was expecting it to be a hash, honestly, because it’s even more candy-like than fudge (which in my mind spells trouble), and because the recipe I was using (this one) didn’t include any temperature guidelines and instead instructed you to create a “dark caramel.”
I was all, pffffft. I don’t know what you mean by “dark” exactly, and I totally bet this shit will burn. But ya’ll, it didn’t! It was fast, easy, and delicious. I cannot recommend this recipe more highly–it’s apparently me-proof. And, as you’ve seen, that means a lot.
Back to the fudge debacle. At this point I was pretty sick of the whole thing and ready to throw in the towel, but W wanted to try a different recipe and see if there was a way to make the whole operation more chocolatey and less sweet/buttery.
4 c. sugar
1 12oz can evaporated milk
4 tbsp butter (salted, but this was accidental)
1 pinch salt
1 and 3/4ths bags semi-sweet chocolate chips (the nice kind)
7oz marshmellow creme
1 tsp vanilla
Cook it up to roughly 232 F, then treat the same as regular fudge.
Batch 5: Excellence. Much better chocolate flavor, only the very hint of grainy texture, overall a definite win. I wish it were as shiny as Batch 3, but oh well.
At this point, I’m ready to tear my hair out. I don’t understand this stuff, dammit. Help a person out. What is going on here? What is that plasma? How does it work? How do you get all the components (shiny, creamy, smooth, deeply chocolatey, not too buttery but not too dense either) together in one fudge? We have yet to make a second batch of the William recipe, so I don’t know if it’ll even be repeatable. I’ll keep ya’ll updated.
A little more music.