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[Photograph: Lucy Baker]

I know that making fudge with marshmallow cream is considered "cheating." I'm supposed to use a candy thermometer and hover over the stove for half an hour, waiting for my ingredients to reach the soft ball stage. But who has time for all that, especially during the holidays? Besides, I happen to think that marshmallow cream fudge is pretty darn delicious: thick, velvety, and slightly crumbly, and rich with the flavors of butter and sugar. This version, spiked and spiced for Christmas, is no exception.

There are about a million different ways to make eggnog. Some recipes call for bourbon only. Others use a mixture of bourbon and brandy or Cognac. Still others use dark rum. But all eggnog recipes call for nutmeg, and most also include vanilla.

After consulting several sources, I decided to flavor my fudge with equal parts dark rum and bourbon, plus a teaspoon of vanilla and a 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. (Note: nutmeg is a very assertive spice. I confess, I used the shakeable powdered stuff. If you are a better person than me and are going to grate your own, you may want to use a little less.) I also included a cup of chopped toasted walnuts. Not only do the nuts give the fudge texture and crunch, they call to mind all the toasty, warm, buttery flavors of real eggnog.

The best part of this fudge is that it tastes exactly like eggnog but in a condensed, bite-sized little nugget. If you're like me, and can never finish a whole mug of the thick boozy stuff, it's the perfect alternative.

The recipe comes together in about 15 minutes and the fudge only needs about one hour to set up before it's ready to be cut into squares. One batch yields about 80 one-inch pieces of fudge, which is enough for four or five gifts. It will keep for about to weeks stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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