Gastronomic Gifts I: Fudge Two Ways

December 3, 2008


[There’s just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays.  This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I’m determined to make at least a few in my kitchen–and thought I’d share my ideas in case you’d like to partake, too.  ]


Back in the day (haven’t you always wondered about that expression?  I mean, which day?), I used to bake entirely conventional, non-vegan, sweets and treats. As a graduate student with a job as a Teaching Assistant as well as a scholarship, I was lucky enough to have both a flexible schedule and sufficient finances to indulge my love of culinary invention.  My favorites at the time were cheesecakes, light and fluffy (and, in particular, a chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake–yep, studded with globs of raw chocolate-chip cookie dough), whipped cream-topped layer cakes or pavlovas, and thick, dense, decadent brownies of all spots and stripes (top contender there was an intensely dark chocolate brownie with hidden pockets of Caramilk chocolate bar strewn throughout–cut the brownie and be treated to surprising little bursts of oozy, gooey caramel, enveloped in creamy milk chocolate. . . there must be a way to do this in a [semi?] NAG-friendly version!).

In any case, what I really loved was baking for the holidays.  Between studying for finals, I’d take breaks by whipping up assorted cookies and bars, and filling dainty, decorative tins with dozens of them as Christmas gifts for my friends and colleagues. It was a fun challenge to find 12-15 recipes for cookies in differing flavors, textures, shapes or colors, so that the varying hues and contours complemented each other visually when placed together like pieces of a mosaic in the tins.   Most years, I went so far as to draw a legend on a circle of paper (placed atop the cookies before closing the tin), like the kind you get in boxes of mixed chocolates, illustrating each different flavor and shape so people would know in advance what they chose (can you say, “anal”?).

Even though my schedule isn’t nearly as flexible any more (not to mention my hip joints), I decided that this year, I really wanted to resurrect that tradition for the holidays.  And while cookies are still on the list, I’m going to focus more on slightly less perishable items, so that I (and you) can send these goodies to loved ones far away, or as parting gifts with visitors who pop in over the next few weeks. 

One thing I’ve never made as a gift, though, is fudge.  When the HH and I were first together, we once took a weekend junket to Niagara-on-the-Lake (not far from the Canadian side of Niagra Falls) to trundle around and see a play at the Shaw Festival.  Well, I said I was going for the play, anyway.  What I really looked forward to was a visit to a little candy shop that’s become semi-famous for its fudge.  Have you ever tried fresh, satiny homemade fudge, like, 30 seconds after it’s set? 



They say chocolate is better than sex, but really, chocolate fudge is even better than chocolate.

Still, I’m aware that no self-respecting holistic nutritionist or health-conscious foodie would foist fudge on friends (and no self-respecting writer would pen such an obviously hokey alliteration!)  Craving all that is chocolate, smooth, and fondant-like, I sought out a healthier version–but one that would still embody the same indulgent, creamy, and, most importantly, chocolate–qualities of “real” fudge.

Well, I’ve found it!  Today’s recipes are both based on a Carob Fudge I saw ages ago on Deb’s blog.  I’ve been waiting to try it since then, and this seemed the perfect occasion.  Of course, since I can’t even imagine a non-chocolate variety, I played with the recipes somewhat and created not one, but two cacao-flavored versions.  The first is orange-scented, studded with tangy bits of chopped dried apricot, while the other is draped over clusters of mixed nuts and dropped into little truffle cups to serve as individual candies.  I have no doubt that whomever you choose to bestow these upon, they will devour them most gratefully.  Perhaps best of all, this is incredibly quick to make!

Mum, we love the idea of food-based gifts for the holidays!  But why did you take out the carob–now we can’t have any. . .

I’d also love to hear what you’re whipping up this year as gifts.  Do you have any old favorites, or perhaps some newfound treasures?  Leave a comment (or a link to a recipe) so we can all increase our gift-giving repertoire!

I also thought this would be the perfect submission to the Monthly Mingle:  Low-Sugar Sweet Treats, this month hosted by Dee at The Daily Tiffin and originated by Meeta at What’s for Lunch, Honey?.  This month, they’re requesting desserts low sugar. 

Chocolate-Orange Fudge with Apricots

adapted from Altered Plates



Smooth, rich and as dense as cream-based fudge, these squares are a perfect post-prandial sweet to help settle a meal (or, in my case, the final course of the meal itself).


Fudge Nut Clusters (variation)



These little confections are perfect to serve at tea or on a dessert tray for a buffet celebration.



55 Responses to “Gastronomic Gifts I: Fudge Two Ways”

  1. Halie Says:

    Truly decadent! I have never made fudge, but you have inspired me! My mom really likes fudge and I’ve been wanting to do something special for her since she is undergoing radiation. Now I have found the perfect treat!

    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  2. VeggieGirl Says:

    Must. have. that. fudge.

  3. shellyfish Says:

    This entry was a great read, Ricki (hip joints, alliteration & cookie legends galore!). And Caramilk bars? Oh, childhood, how I miss thee. Sundays meant feeding the Buffalo at Bellevue Park, and stopping at Mike’s Milk for a sweet…I loved those things! And Smarties, but I digress into a chocolate-covered coma.
    This fudge recipe sounds so good & easy…I’ll let you know if I try it.

  4. ttfn300 Says:

    holy cow. totally making these 🙂

  5. Kiersten Says:

    Homemade fudge is so amazing! I love eating it’s just about set, but still really soft. I’m definitely trying your recipe for the holidays this year.

    So far my plan is to make lots of cookies, which I do every year. I used to make 12 kinds too every year, but I’ve had to cut back.

  6. Deb Schiff Says:

    I do like your version! Great going!

  7. Jes Says:

    Those are the perfect holiday gifts! Your stories of grad school and baking sound like me right now…although I use baking as my main tool for procrastination (that last seminar paper? nah, I’ll make a cake instead!)

  8. jessy Says:

    oh boy! i’m not the world’s biggest fan of chocolate – but reading this post totally started a craving for some! mmmmmmm! i especially love the fudge nut clusters. totally going to try them out! because if chocolate fudge is even better than chocolate…well, i’m totally gonna have to give your recipe a go. thanks, Ricki!

  9. Courtney Says:

    Thank you! I have been looking for homemade holiday gifts, and this sounds fabulous! I am so excited to try it! Can you tell by the amount of exclamation points in my comment?!

    I usually make biscotti for holiday gifts–which I am still going to do this year–but the fudge will be an excellent addition. I like doing biscotti because it can be made in advance and frozen, and I give out a lot as gifts to co-workers, friends, etc., so that is a real plus. I normally make 4-5 different kinds and then package up a few different ones in each package to give as a gift.

    Thanks again!

  10. Shelby Says:

    I don’t even remember the last time I had fudge..ahh it looks so good!!!!!!

  11. those look amazing. I actually have a very similar version (down to the mac butter, even!) but they melt at room temp. However, this gives me new ideas…

  12. Alisa Says:

    For those who live in the US, Trader Joe’s has a cashew-macadamia nut butter (already blended!). It is yummy and I think just around $5 or $6.

    That fudge looks yuuuuummyyyyy

  13. lisa Says:

    I love holiday baking too! Have been wondering what sort of sweet gifts to make, think I might have to try these. My mum in particular loves fudge… and your ingredients list and pics has me drooling.

  14. vegan fudge? you are an evil women, but i love it.

  15. Oh the nut clusters!! This would be great for my weight gain diet, you know, because I would eat the whole batch in a day!

  16. Vegetation Says:

    Oh yum. Fudge is one of my favourite treats and the fact that you’ve healthified chocolate fudge….(the only problem would be me who would not be able to stop, even whilst frozen, no doubt I would be eating it that way too!)

  17. Johanna Says:

    I am sure I would be so tempted to just eat the mixture before it sets. My current gift challenge is coconut ice which I am hoping to improve on since I first made it recently. I like the sound of your biscuit boxes complete with the guide – just my sort of thing! Am also curious about how much healthier nut butter is than cream? (and have also seen someone post a vegan condensed milk recipe recently that would also be interesting to try)

  18. Andrea Says:

    Foist away, I say. That fudge looks like the perfect thing for our gift exchange at work. Everyone will be suspicious ’cause they know I’m vegan. Maybe this will convince them that it’s okay to be vegan! And maybe for our neighborhood holiday party, where no one worries that the food is vegan. They love it.

  19. Diann Says:

    Mmmm, those nut clusters are killing me! Thanks for completely decadent gifting ideas.

    I like to bake the standard holiday cookies, but I always make gift bags of Texas Trash party mix, gift jars of spicy mustard, and granola for my mom and brother.

  20. Ricki Says:

    Thanks so much! I hope the fudge helps to cheer up your mom 🙂

    Please, help me out and come take some before I finish it all!

    Thanks 🙂 . I used to love Smarties, too. (And, of course, I ate the red ones last). So let me know what you think if you try it out!

    Hope you like ’em!

    I know what you mean–I won’t be doing the 12 types this year, either.

    Glad you like it!

    Ah, yes, memories of procrastination–I mean, grad school! 😉

    Not a fan of chocolate? Okay, I’ll still let you read my blog 😉 You might actually prefer the original, carob, version. I’m sure it’s great!

    Exclamation marks just express things a bit more emphatically! I tend to use them myself quite a bit, as you may have noticed 😉 . Biscotti as gifts are such a great idea–they do seem to last forever (I was GOING to end with an exclamation mark–but am too self-conscious about it now!–OOPS, I did it again.) (!!)

    Glad you like it! I haven’t had “real” fudge in a very long time, either.

    This was a bit soft at room temp, but once in the fridge it firmed up beautifully. You can always decrease the agave for a firmer texture.

    Thanks for your comment–glad you like it! They do actually sell the pre-blended type here, but I didn’t have any on hand and did have the other two available. But I’m sure it’s much easier just to buy the pre-mixed!

    So glad you like the look of it! It’s a bit less rich than “real” fudge, but still pretty irresistible.

    Happy Herbivore,
    Mwa ha ha ha! Evil is fun.

    Yep, great for weight gain. . . take it from me! (I did eat almost the whole batch in one day, which is why I won’t be making any more any time soon. . . )

    I haven’t actually tried it frozen, but really, what could be bad?

    Yes, it’s very tempting (see above). Re: nut butter vs. cream, it’s healthier mostly because it contains NO cholesterol and very little saturated fat. In addition, nuts provide protein and fiber (no fiber in cream). And, of course, for those who don’t eat dairy, nuts aren’t it!

    I’d love to hear what people think of it at an exchange! Now you’ve given me an idea for the holiday table at my own office. . .

    I’ve never heard of Texas Trash (though am sure I’d like it, based on the name alone). What is it? And granola–of course!

  21. These sound delightful. I agree that there is almost nothing better than melt-in-your mouth fudge freshly made! The nut clusters would go over really well with my family and friends.

  22. Maris Says:

    Those fudge nut clusters look amazing! If I brought this to my office it would be gone in 10 minutes, flat.

  23. Georgia Says:

    oh my oh my – i dont know whether i would be able to stop myself from eating these if i made them as a gift!!!

  24. This is the perfect Christmas gift! I have never cooked with carob, but I’d like to try.

    I love eating fudge because usually one piece is enough. Then again, there are some days I keep going and going. :0P

    I love your cookie map. How clever!

  25. Vegan_Noodle Says:

    What a great thing to bake for the holidays! I love holiday baking too, and really need to start planning this years! I am totally going to do fudge in mini-cups. What a great idea for portability!
    This year I was also thinking of sending pizzelles, biscotti, and veganized “mounds” bars from one of my mamaw’s recipes (I’ll post the recipe when I do veganize it).

  26. lindsay Says:

    Hey Ricki-

    Yes Neil got your e-mail he has been super busy with work so he hasn’t had a chance to really respond to any e-mails lately. He however is waiting anxiously for his package, I am waiting anxiously for mine as well. I am glad you enjoyed the chocolate we will need to try it…there is also a dark chocolate seaweed one that I sent my exchange partner, Bianca, and she said that one was amazing too!

  27. Claire Says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I was just trying to figure out what to do for my teaching collegues- i could do a 6 or a dozen cups per person. no one has a nut allergy that i know of.

    variation- hazelnuts? dried cherries? what about a nice morello (sp?) cherry in the middle of this fudge? i think you’d have to do a two-part pour, a little in the bottom, and then cherry, and then top it.

    Alisa- thanks for the TJ’s cashew-mac butter tip. that really helps, as it sounds i’ll be making a big batch.

    Ricki- I should email you my happy mother’s day candy- it’s a mashed potato ball sweetened with sugar and coconut, then dipped in dark chocolate. the weird name is what i called it as a child after my mom and i made it for a friend for mother’s day. one of those family names that just sticks. if you like coconut and amaretto flavor, you’d love these. my mom made dozens for our church cookie sale, and they were always the first to go. let me know if you’d like to try it.

    Thanks for the great idea!

  28. Susan G Says:

    Wow,that fudge looks amazing! That is always our thing on vacation – to find fudge. Thanks for printing the recipe!

  29. Ricki Says:

    Vivacious Vegan,
    Glad it appeals! Let me know how your family/friends like it if you give it a try.

    Sounds like what happened here in our house!

    That’s why I’m not making any more–too dangerous 😉

    Still Life,
    Unfortunately, one piece doesn’t seem to be enough for me. But it’s still worth trying 🙂

    Vegan Noodle,
    What a list! I can’t wait to see the Mounds bars (um, and what is a pizelle?)

    Thanks! I can’t believe you didn’t try it yourself–YOU MUST GET SOME!! That chocolate is almost as good as chocolate fudge!! (which is better than chocolate, which is better than sex. . . etc.) 😉


    Thanks so much for your comment! I did try to email you, but there’s no email address associated with the comment. . .hope you come back to read this!

    I love your idea to hide a cherry in the middle of some fudge. . . hadn’t thought of that, but I bet it would be spectacular!

    You’ll laugh, but I have been saving a recipe for over 15 YEARS for something called “potato candy” that was apparently made during the (last?) depression. It’s mashed potatoes, icing sugar, and I think that’s it–then cooked, rolled out and filled with coconut!! Sounds so similar to your recipe. But I’ve avoided it because of the sugar–I try to keep away from refined sugar, because it creates horrible cravings and binges. However, I might try this out with Sucanat or even agave nectar. So yes, please do send the recipe!

    And do let me know if you give the fudge a try.

  30. mihl Says:

    I make truffles and chocolates for my family every year and these sound so good that I have to add them to my recipe list immediately. Thank you!

  31. Liz Says:

    Oh boy, Ricki. These sound a-ma-zing. I will surely be making these for friends and family as I know every recipe I have made of yours has been a big hit!

  32. Liz Says:

    Oh and ditto to Claire — those mashed potato sweet balls sounds great!

  33. Usha Says:

    Just looking at these delicious and decadent fudges is giving me some huge chocolate craving…love it 🙂

  34. Lysy Says:

    I just made some fudge last weekend but yours looks miles nicer – lots creamier and yet much healthier as well!I love the idea of making a key to your edible presents – definitely the sort of thing I would do!

    BTW, you were wondering if molasses would do as a substitute for treacle? I looked on the treacle tin and it’s described as ‘cane molasses’ – so I think that’s a yes!

  35. Rockin’ recipe! I’m sending this one to my sister, she’d go gaga over yummy carob fudge!

  36. Don’t pack up yet! I’m wearing sweat pants today (it’s in the 30s F)! Dallas has the weirdest weather; if you don’t like it one day, just wait!

    Oh, but if you DO come to Dallas to escape the cold, will you bring me some fudge?

  37. Ashley Says:

    Ooo wow these look good! I love that you did a little legend for the cookie tins. Brilliant idea. Now I want to do that! However the (anal) thing I can’t get over is putting a bunch of different cookies (textures and smells) together in a tin together. Did you ever find that to be a problem?

  38. Lisa Says:

    I love fudge and often give it for gifts. I totally identify when you say it is better than chocolate. And I love those Fudge Nut Clusters in the foil cups. They look like the perfect size for a scrumptious treat!

  39. giz Says:

    Ricki – totally mind blowing.. this is that addictive stuff that I need to stay away from and totally can’t resist. Besides, the radio today said that although we all complain, the weight gain over the holidays really amounts to 1.5 lb for 90% of the celebrating population.

  40. bex Says:

    Ricki thank you! These are exactly what I’m looking for!

  41. Thanks for setting me straight on the chocolate Ricki! I apologize, I read through your recipe twice but you know how the eye glances over things. I read the agave nectar and assumed the carob! My sister would still like it though and I posted it to her Facebook page.

  42. Astra Libris Says:

    WOW!! Your fudge recipe is incredible!! I can’t wait to fix these! Your use of cashew butter is absolutely brilliant… I wish you could see me bouncing up and down with excitement over here… 🙂

    (I was also recently tagged with a MeMe, so instead of tagging you with the MeMe amidst the business of the holidays I just took the opportunity to talk about the awesomeness of you and your blog… 🙂

  43. Bethany Says:

    wow, they look amazing. apricots and chocolate are so good together.

    I love chocolate, but even more when it has things in it. thanks for sharing the recipes.

  44. Aly Says:

    Sugar overload! In a good way. I love holiday baking too, there are so many kitchen creations just asking to be tinkered with!

  45. Meeta Says:

    Ricki, this looks incredible! Perfect for the MM!

  46. Lisa Says:

    Goodness, your vegan treats are always so tempting.

  47. sammyss Says:

    I have bookmarked this recipe, it looks incredible! definately making it for Christmas 🙂

  48. […] today I made: Chocolate-Orange Fudge With Apricots,  Gingerbread Men and Roast Cumin […]

  49. Vegyogini Says:

    I used to love fudge as an omni. My friend’s mom used to make it every year and it was the only time I’d eat it. I’m going to have to give this recipe a try!

  50. Lauren Says:

    Yum! Is there a way to not use agave? Would raw honey work?

    I am an omni but your blog and recipes are fabulous. 🙂

  51. Ricki Says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your fabulous comments! I am guessing that fudge is a favored holiday recipe! 😉

    Lauren: Re: using honey as a substitute, I’d say go for it as long as you know in advance that (a) honey has a MUCH stronger taste than agave; and (b) it also has a tendency to crystallize when chilled. I’ve never tried this recipe with honey, but don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Let me know how it turns out if you do try it!

  52. bex Says:

    So I finally made this
    and it was awesome! Thanks for the recipe!

  53. Lauren Says:

    Hi Ricki, I tried your fudge with a bit of honey, stevia, and almond butter ’cause I couldn’t find your cashew butter. Delicious! One of these days I’ll get around to blogging about it, and link back to you.

    Wonderful blog with stellar photography! I always drool over your photos. 🙂

  54. Soma Says:

    My gosh ! These are just gorgeous littl babes! Love combination of choco. & fruits. orange & apricots are my love & i can imagine how sexy they are going to be with chocolate:-) Bookmarking this!

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