When you hear the word fudge, you probably think of a decadent chocolate confection. But chocolate is not always a vital ingredient. A fantastic (and tasty) example can be found in an Indian specialty called doodh peda--in most English speaking countries, though, it’s referred to as milk fudge. In any language, this dairy rich confection is highly delicious.
So what is milk fudge?
It’s a confection made when sweet milk and butter are cooked down to form a firm candy or bonbon which is fudge-like in texture. It bears a resemblance to a candy called pastillas de leche, which is popular in the Philippines, as well as a candy called dulce de leche en table (dulce de leche caramel “tablets”). The milk fudge in this recipe, however, is inspired by Indian versions, and is characterized by a fairly short cooking time--since the sweetened condensed milk is not cooked long enough to caramelize, it retains a flavor that is lighter and more milky tasting than a caramel candy.
It seems that milk fudge is made in a number of different ways, but most versions will involve sweetened condensed milk, powdered milk, and ghee (a clarified butter). Some versions are even made with paneer (a soft, often homemade cheese). The recipe that follows is fairly simple, rich in sweetened condensed milk and melted butter. The dough is formed into round little cakes with an indent pressed in the center, which makes them look sort of like thumbprint cookies, but rest assured they are quite different: with almost the texture of marzipan, and a taste that is milky, rich, and decadent. While the spice and pistachio nuts are optional, they add a wonderful scent and taste to the finished product and are therefore strongly recommended. For a sweet serving idea, consider gifting these confections in a handmade fudge box.
About the powdered milk: Although some recipes will say that you can use full fat or low fat powdered milk, it seems that the most readily available type in grocery stores is nonfat dry milk. Products labeled “instant dry milk” will work as well.
Mixing the powdered milk and sweetened condensed milk:
As you will see, the powdered milk really enjoys being bumpy and lumpy. As the powdered milk dissolves, forcing out any lumps will become easier. So don’t be afraid to dedicate a little time and elbow grease to mixing together the powdered milk and sweetened condensed milk with a wooden spoon. Time spent doing this early on in the recipe will pay off later, as you will spend less time kneading the dough to force out any remaining lumps. Oh, and don’t use a whisk, because the mixture will be way too thick!
Why cut the butter into pieces?
Cutting the butter into pieces will reduce the surface area, and make it melt quicker in your milk mixture, making a smooth, cohesive dough. It wouldn’t be desirable to have your milk mixture coming to a low boil when you still have a big lump of unmelted butter in the mix!
Pistachios and cardamom:
As noted above, these ingredients aren’t necessary for the success of the finished good, but they do make it awfully tasty. If pistachios or cardamom are not to your liking, feel free to swap within reason. Cinnamon can be substituted for the cardamom, and different types of nuts can be substituted for the pistachios. Of course, the flavor profile will be different, but still quite good.
Makes about 20 pieces
- 2 cups powdered milk (about 237 ml)
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk (about 414 ml)
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
- 2 teaspoons cardamom or cinnamon
- 20 pistachios, shelled (other nuts also work)
In a medium saucepan (off-heat), combine the powdered milk and sweetened condensed milk. Stir with a wooden spoon. The mixture will be very thick. Stir until combined, and no dry traces of powder remain.
Transfer the pan to your stovetop. Heat on low, and add the butter. Stir frequently to prevent scorching (this milky mixture can scorch even at fairly low heat).
Continue stirring frequently until the butter is completely melted and incorporated (no swirls, such as above, remain when you stir it), and mixture becomes bubbly and thick. It will start pulling away from the sides of the pan. This can take up to 10 minutes.
Allow this mixture to cool for about 10 minutes, or until it is still warm but you feel comfortable handling it.
Using buttered hands, knead the mixture to form a soft dough. Try to knead out any remaining bumps or lumps.
Pinch off a piece of dough, and roll it between your hands, trying to form a soft ball. If it seems cracked, continue kneading until you can form it into a ball without cracks.
Press an indent in the center of the top, as you would to create a thumbprint cookie.
Place the indented round on your prepared sheet. Repeat these steps with the remaining dough until you’ve used it all.
Sprinkle the tops with a touch of cardamom or cinnamon. Place a pistachio in the center of each round.
Let set for at least an hour, or until room temperature and firm to the touch.
To store, place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. It’s important that it be airtight, as these confections can tend to dry out. These will keep for up to a week.