Friday, January 1, 2021

Four-Ingredient Fudge (the cream cheese makes it gourmet)

This is not the year for us to declare that we're on a diet in January. Given current events, punitive salads with no dressing would push us over the edge. And so, we're going to start off this year with, of course, chocolate. This recipe came across the electronic wires a while ago, and we have been thinking about it ever since.

Easy Cream Cheese Fudge
1 (18 oz) package semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1 can condensed milk
1 (8oz) package cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla (or more if you like it)

Grease a square pan.
Beat the cream cheese until softened. Add the vanilla and condensed milk in 3 or 4 additions, beating each in thoroughly before adding the next. (You could pour the milk in all at once, but adding it incrementally will reduce lumps.) Stir in the chocolate.
Pour and spread it into the pan and refrigerate a few hours until it sets. Keep refrigerated.

In theory, with nothing more than a microwave and an electric mixer, we can make fudge! Or at least, we can make something closely resembling it. A lot of enthusiasts of effortless recipes may recognize this recipe- it's been floating around various advertising pamphlets and community cookbooks for a long time. A version of this appears in a 1965 condensed milk recipe handout. Today's fudge improves on the Borden recipe advertisement with one extra ingredient... 

Yes indeed, cream cheese-- that key to gourmet living! Or at least, the easy way to make any recipe better. Cream cheese icing has miraculously fixed many a disappointing cake, and of course what is a cheesecake but an excuse to eat massive quantities of cream cheese on a graham cracker crust? To this, we add one of my favorite things to come from a can. This is not an exaggeration-- if I wasn't trying to stay the same size, I could eat condensed milk with a spoon. 

In very short order, we had this sort of batter-like substance. I was suspicious about whether this runny (yet delicious) glop would actually set. In theory the cream cheese will harden a bit in refrigeration, and of course the melted chocolate will re-solidify. It didn't seem like either one of those would be enough to turn this sugary gravy back into something that doesn't require a spoon. But whether this recipe succeeded or failed, at least it did so in 10 minutes or less. 

You know how at first this seemed too hopelessly runny to ever turn into fudge? We soon had the opposite problem- the melted chocolate gave this goop the thickness and strength to attempt to eat the beaters. The mixer motor was making unnerving whining sounds, and we had to get out a spoon and beat it ourselves.

 The mixer was making a sad noise and also emitting a bit of a burnt-electricity smell, so we turned it off, laid it away to recuperate, and got out a spoon. After heeding the wisdom of Her Not-So-Serene Highness Fanny Cradock, who advised viewers to think of someone they've never really liked but they're too well-bred to say anything so they take it on whatever they're making, we had the creamiest, dreamiest, loveliest chocolate batter.

This stuff poured out of the bowl with that slow, thick drip that they always use in chocolate and makeup commercials to make you salivate while the slow-motion plays. We put it in the refrigerator so it could set faster because patience does not exist when chocolate is this good. When we finally could cut it, had the perfect fudge texture and tasted like a very dark chocolate cheesecake. If you like your chocolate a bit milder, you could easily use less chocolate chips.

But with that said, it re-melts as soon as it un-chills. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but you can't just leave it out on a plate like you would fudge. Like a lot of those recipes where they put the number of ingredients in the title, it's not quite what it claims to be. It's a close-ish approximation instead. This, um, fudge is better than a lot of those "[number]-ingredient cupcake/bread/tacos/whatever" recipes because it's got chocolate in it. Also, a lot of those recipes fail because they never bake right. Since this didn't see the inside of an oven, we forestalled that shortcoming.

With that said, it tastes close enough to chocolate cheesecake that you could just embrace the fact that it only stays set when it's cold, pour it into a graham cracker pie crust, and serve chilled. I'm already considering making a lot of little whole-pie graham crackers in mini muffin pans for it.  (Plus, containing it in little crust-cups would give you a bit of time to leave them out of the refrigerator.) You know, for the future when we can all meet up in large groups again. If you also would like to try the experience of using graham cracker dough to make single-cracker pie crusts, try making this to put in them. It's very easy, so fast to make, and we all know how good graham crackers go with chocolate.


  1. Hello from Cincinnati! I stumbled on your blog several months ago and have enjoyed following your cooking adventures. Thank you for sharing your triumphs and failures - it’s nice to read a relatable cooking blog.

    1. Thank you for the compliment! It's so nice to be found relatable. That really means a lot.