“What is the matter with you?” asked my husband, as I handed him a Martha Stewart recipe for penuche (brown sugar fudge), trying to entice him to whip me up a batch in his spare time. Good tasting, rich and creamy penuche is impossible to find outside New England. It was a childhood favorite of mine. In a stroke of genius brought on by an intense craving for something sweet, I googled it and lo and behold, Martha had one that read as perfect.
When my kids were little, my husband would make them a delectable batch of chocolate fudge for Valentine’s Day. True, it wasn’t Valentine’s Day, nor was it for my children, but given his fudge – making history and my yearning, it didn’t seem like a totally unreasonable request.
Suddenly, my craving made sense. In classic Overeater’s Anonymous fashion, I was attempting to fill a now-vacant spot in my daily life. It was the sweet spot in my afternoon that was provided each time I dropped by the Lobero Theatre to watch Doug Elkins rehearse Mo(or)town Redux during his DANCEworks residency. No matter how intensely the dancers and the choreographer were working, they would easily joke and laugh with each other between takes. Regardless of pressing issues in the outside world, the interior space of the theatre and of our minds and bodies were charged with positive energy, love of work, love of process, and the excitement of discovery. The sweetness and lightness of this creative process were contagious and we each were touched by it. Filled by it, as well.
Well, I guess we all know that finding a reason for a craving might be helpful, but won’t necessarily eliminate it.
Not yet able to dismiss my penuche fixation, but knowing it was in my best interests to do so, I distracted myself by wondering if there can be a recipe for creativity? Saying recipe in the same line as creativity is an obvious oxymoron. But could I isolate some essential ingredients? In no particular order of importance, here are a few qualities I’d observed in the theatre during Doug Elkins’ wonderful residency.
Talent, inspiration, dedication, technical prowess, vulnerability, receptivity, willingness to fail, respect, craftsmanship, resiliency, support, focus, and collaboration. Nothing that can be measured, cooked or dispensed or eaten. But , put together it produced an outcome that gave me a satisfaction and high that far outweighed any other I’d experienced.
I left the house for a few hours trying to put all thoughts of penuche and recipes out of my mind. Much to my delight, when I returned, my husband had whipped up a delectable batch of penuche. It was even better than I remembered it from my New England days. We gleefully scraped the mixing bowl together.
Once in a while, you can have your fudge and eat it too. Happy holidays, everyone! Whip it up.
Martha Stewarts’ Penuche Fudge
- Vegetable oil cooking spray
- 1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
- 1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
- 5 ounces (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 ounces toasted walnuts, chopped (1 cup)
Coat a 5-by-10-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line with plastic wrap leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides.
Bring evaporated milk, brown sugar, butter, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 236 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 25 minutes.
Transfer to a mixer bowl, and beat in confectioners’ sugar on low speed. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium, and beat until mixture is thickened and smooth, 2 to 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and add vanilla and walnuts.
Spread mixture in pan, smoothing top. Refrigerate, uncovered, until firm, about 25 minutes. Unmold fudge using plastic overhang, and discard plastic. Cut into 18 pieces.