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Everything You Wanted to Know About Penuche Fudge: Recipes, Tips, Classifications, Standards, and More
By Renee Shelton

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Penuche Fudge

Penuche, according to Webster's New World College Dictionary, is "a candy resembling fudge, made of brown sugar, milk, butter, and, sometimes, nuts." Penuche is further explained in Guide to Modern Meals as

candy [that] is similar to fudge in texture and softness. However, it does not contain chocolate, and it is made with brown sugar instead of white granulated sugar that is used for fondant, and as a rule, for fudge.

Fudge Classification

Penuche is considered a fudge even though it contains no chocolate which most people associate fudge being - chocolate based. Better Homes and Gardens Candy lists it as one of the three different categories of fudge, "chocolate fudge, [vanilla flavored] white or blond fudge, and penuche or brown sugar [caramel flavored] fudge." Wikipedia states it is classified in the fudge family because of these key reasons:

  1. A fat-sugar solution is heated to the soft ball stage, about 236 °F (113 °C).
  2. The solution is cooled without disturbance to lukewarm, about 110 °F (43 °C).
  3. Flavorings are added and the solution is beaten until thick.
  4. The mixture is poured into a pan, allowed to cool, and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Penuche Standard Texture

All penuche candies should have a smooth texture that isn't grainy. It should have a rich caramel flavor, especially if they are cooked (not the "instant" types of fudge). The texture is changed up when nuts are used. When cutting into the candy, having large pieces of the nuts gives it both a visual and taste enhancement. If the nuts are chopped smaller, they are more incorporated and they give the overall candy uniformity in taste.

What is the standard for penuche candy? According to Guide to Modern Meals, the standard by which all penuche candies can be graded on is this:

A crystalline candy with crystals so fine that texture is creamy; surface somewhat dull; light gray-brown in color; flavor of brown sugar and nuts. The pieces should be evenly cut and uniform in size.

Many Spellings - Same Brown Sugar Flavor

Penuche is found by the following spellings: penuchi, panocha, penocha, penochi, pinuche, and probably many other ways. No matter the spelling, the candy is all the same. It has an old-fashioned quality to it, making it a great addition to the latest candy flavors when making a candy plate selection.

Since this candy doesn't have chocolate in it, those who love rich, butterscotch, caramel, or brown sugar flavored candies, will likely reach for penuche and regard it as an all-time favorite and highly regarded holiday candy treat.

If a recipe calls for nuts it will most likely call for pecans, but walnuts and other nut meats are used. Pecans lend a sweet, full flavor, and walnuts give the candy almost a bittersweet undertone to the candy.

Penuche Recipes

Below are different recipes to try for this brown sugar-flavored candy. Some have nuts and some are smooth and plain. There is even a recipe for an "Easy Penuche Icing," from Craig Claiborne, and a recipe for Penuche Nuts. The sources for each recipe are listed below so that you may read more about this caramel flavored candy with the many spelling variations.

Adapted from "Guide to Modern Meals." A good, standard recipe.

2 cups light brown sugar
2/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts

Prep: Lightly butter a 9x5x3 inch pan.

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, add in sugar and milk. Bring to a boil and stirring constantly bring temperature to a soft-ball stage, 236°F. Remove from heat, add butter but do not stir. Set aside to cool to lukewarm, 110°F. Add in vanilla and beat until the mixture is smooth, thick and creamy. Add in the nuts. Pour into prepared pan and cut into squares when cold.


Wilton No-Beat Penuche
Adapted from "The Complete Wilton Book of Candy." This candy lists confectionery coating as an ingredient. According to this book, using this does two things. The first is that it turns it into a "no-beat" type, giving the fudge a pudding consistency as soon as it is added allowing one to simply turn it into a prepared pan for set-up and cooling. Also, the fats in the coating helps to lubricate the fudge making for easier cutting.

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 cups whipping cream
6 tablespoons butter, cut into thin pats
3 oz. white confectionery coating, chopped
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

Prep: Line a 8"-square pan with foil and lightly butter sides and bottom.

In a large, heavy saucepan, mix sugars, syrup and the cream over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugars are dissolve. Attach candy thermometer and cook, stirring occasionally and washing sides down if needed. When temperature reaches 237°F (114°C), remove from heat. Allow to stand undisturbed for about 10 minutes. While the mixture is standing gently lay the pats of butter on the surface (do not stir in yet). After the 10 minutes, add in the confectionery coating and stir until both the coating and butter is melted and incorporated. Mixture will begin to thicken. Add in the nuts and pour into the prepared pan. Chill until firm, then cut into pieces. Store in refrigerator.


Maple Panocha
The following two recipes are adapted from "The Candy Book: Everything You Need to Know About Making..." This recipe uses maple sugar.

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup maple sugar
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped nuts

Prep: Butter sides and bottom of pan.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together sugars and cream. Then cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 240°F, or a soft ball stage. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add in the butter and nuts. Beat until creamy and pour into prepared pans. Cut into desired shapes when cool.


Coffee Panocha

2 cups light brown sugar
2/3 cup strong coffee infused whole milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prep: Butter sides and bottom of pan.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, place sugar, milk and butter and cook without stirring until temperature reaches 240°F, or a soft ball stage. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let cool to lukewarm (110°F) then beat until thick and creamy. Pour into prepared pans and cut into desired shapes when cool.


Golden Fudge
This and the Penuche Nuts adapted from "Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book."

3 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts

Prep: Butter sides and bottom of 8x8x2" pan.

In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine sugar, syrup, margarine, salt, milk and water and heat to boiling stirring constantly. Cook rapidly, stirring several times, until it reaches the soft ball stage. Remove from heat and add in vanilla; do not stir. Cool to lukewarm and add in the nuts. Beat mixture until thickened and it loses its gloss. Turn into prepared pan and cut into desired shapes when cool.


Penuche Nuts

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups pecans

Combine sugars with the sour cream. Cook over low heat until sugars are dissolved, stirring constantly. Continue cooking over low heat until a little of the mixture dropped into cold water forms a ball a little firmer than a soft ball. Remove from heat, add vanilla and pecans. Stir until a light sugar coating begins to form on pecans. Pour onto waxed paper and separate the sugar-coated pecans.


Easy Penuche Icing
Use to frost cake layers. Adapted from "The New York Times Cook Book, Revised Ed." by Craig Claiborne.

1/4 lb. butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1 3/4 to 2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Melt butter in a saucepan, add the sugar and boil, stirring, over low heat 2 minutes. Add the milk and return to a boil, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Place the pan in a bowl of ice water and stir until the icing is thick enough to spread.


Image Source: Homemade Caramel Fudge, by lili chin via a Flickr and a CC license.

References used:

Berolzheimer, Ruth, Ed. The Candy Book: Everything you need to know about making... New York: Consolidated, 1950.

Claiborne, Craig. The New York Times Cook Book. Revised Ed. New York: Harper, 1990.

Knox, Gerald M., Ed. Better Homes and Gardens Candy. Des Moines: Meridith, 1984.

Neufeldt, Victoria, ed. Webster's New World College Dictionary. Third Edition. New York: Macmillan, 1997.

Shank, Dorothy E., Natalie K. Fitch, and Pauline A. Chapman. Guide to Modern Meals. St. Louis: McGraw, 1964.

Sullivan, Eugene T. and Marilynn C. Sullivan. The Complete Wilton Book of Candy. Woodbridge: Wilton, 1981.

Twelfth Edition Cook Book Committee. Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book. 12th Ed.
     Fredericksburg: Fredercicksburg PTA, 1978.


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