I consider myself a good cook, but I'm having a problem that I can't solve. I have a fudge recipe, and for the third time in a row the fudge came out grainy. What am I doing wrong?
The fact that you keep making it is a good sign that you are one determined individual.
First, let's start with the recipe. I can only guess that at some point in your lifetime the recipe worked and you came out with great fudge. If that is not the case, I have a fabulous idea: Throw the recipe away. Start a roaring winter fire with it and make a clean start with a brand new recipe.
If you did have great success with this recipe in the past, with endless thank-you notes from fudge lovers for weeks on end, then we do need to get down to the nitty-gritty of your zany grainy fudge. I am assuming that your recipe is for good, old-fashioned fudge, which, by the way, has a lot of physical chemistry involved.
The trick to making "grainless" fudge is to make sure all the sugar has dissolved.
My first suggestion is to get yourself a candy thermometer. Then you will be able to tell when the sugar and milk mixture reaches 234 to 240 degrees -- the point at which the sugar crystals dissolve. Also, when the recipe says (and it should say) to wash the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to push down any sugar residue so it all dissolves, don't fudge on it -- do it! A trick that my pastry chef uses is to add a pinch of cream of tartar, which he says turns the sucrose into glucose. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I believe him.
Finally, make sure you stir like crazy when the mixture cools to lukewarm. This prevents the fudge from forming any large sugar crystals, which can give it that dreaded grainy texture.
Now that you have taken Fudge Making 101, try your recipe again. If it still doesn't work, you can always visit your local candy store, put its fudge on a fancy plate, and tell everyone how hard you worked making it.