Let's get all sweet this week with a fudge type of candy that is popular in Mexico (especially central Mexico), with a taste similar to Dulce de Leche. Not to be confused with the coarse brown sugar with the same name, Penuche is a brown sugar fudge candy that is also popular in many parts of the United States, generally a regional favorite in New England and the South, as well as other parts of Latin America. These sweet squares are packed with pecans (or other nutmeats) for a savory crunch.
(There is another name/spelling for this that is derogative slang for a private part of female anatomy, but we won't go there...).
Penuche is classed in the fudge family because it’s prepared in a similar fashion, but it's different from its chocolate and vanilla relatives in that it uses (along with the standard ingredients of milk and butter) brown sugar in addition to white sugar. Penuche therefore typically has a creamy tan color and a caramel flavor.
This is easy to make, a favorite with kids, and it makes about a pound and a half or so of fudge.
PENUCHE: BROWN SUGAR FUDGE
- 2 Cups brown sugar, packed
- 1 Cup granulated sugar
- 1 Cup cream (or milk or half and half)
- 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugars, cream, corn syrup, lemon juice and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once it comes to a boil cook without stirring until it reaches soft-ball stage (238° on a candy thermometer). Keep cooking at soft-ball stage for 5-6 minutes, without stirring. Remove from heat and set pot in a pan with cold water just enough to cover the bottom of the pot about an inch or so.
Add butter but do not stir it in. Cool to 110°. Stir in vanilla and butter (which will be melted by now); beat vigorously by hand until mixture is very thick and slightly lighter in color, about 20 minutes. (A good mixer will make quicker work of this step) Quickly stir in nuts, then pour into a greased 8-in. square pan. Cool completely. Cut into 1-in. squares. (Sometimes my Mom would drop it by spoonfuls onto a waxed-paper lined pan instead of pouring it into a pan.)
A couple of notes: Don't substitute all brown sugar for the mixture of brown and granulated sugar. This would result in too much molasses, which interferes with the sugar slurry reaching its soft ball stage. The result would be runny fudge. And, as with all fudge type candies, this is best made in a dry climate or at least when the humidity is low, it isn't raining, etc. High humidity makes sugar crystals form, so the candy isn't as creamy.
If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish, I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email firstname.lastname@example.org (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)