It’s December, my friends, time to be making all those wonderful treats you grew up with for the holidays. Leading up to the new year, each week I’ll be posting a recipe that is a multi-generational tradition in my extended family. I’m sure every one of you has some family recipe gem that you make every year without fail, because it just wouldn’t be Christmas/Hanukkah/Eid...(this is why we now use the multi-purpose term ‘holidays’) without it.
Up first, penuche. My mother’s older brother George, a good old boy from Arkansas, believe it or not, started this tradition by making up a batch of penuche with his own callused hands and giving it to my mother. Penuche is one of my all time favorites. For the uninitiated, it is nothing more than fudge made with brown sugar instead of chocolate.
Try not to drool.
2/3 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp of butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Butter a 9x5x3 loaf pan. Combine sugar, milk, corn syrup and salt in pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage*. Remove from heat and add the butter. Cool the mixture without stirring until the bottom of the pan is lukewarm. Add the vanilla and beat vigorously and continuously for 5 to 10 minutes with a wooden spoon until the candy is thick and no longer glossy, and holds it shape when dropped from the spoon. Stir in nuts and spread the mixture evenly in the buttered pan. Cool until firm and cut into squares. Makes about one pound of penuche.
*Soft ball stage. Drop a small amount of the hot mixture from a spoon into some cold water. If it forms a soft ball which flattens when you take it out of the water, it’s the right temperature. Or if you have a candy thermometer, you can skip the whole water-dropping business and cook the candy until it reaches 234 degrees.