Every year at Christmas time, for some party, function or what-have-you, I am forced to bake. It’s an obligation that is always accompanied by a wince, as baking is my least favorite thing to do in the kitchen.
This, I’ve decided, has a lot to do with the fact that baking inevitably requires you to do complicated things to the pan before you can even start. For example, I hate greasing. And if I have to cut parchment paper out and then grease that and then flour it, I’m already in a bad mood. I want to heat up some oil or melt some butter and get on with it.
I also hate the fact that baking has so much to do with measuring. They don’t tell you that in the cooking shows, but when Ina just scoops up a couple of casual cups of flour and drops them in the mixer, that’s just showbiz, people, that’s not real life. A real cake requires pretty careful adherence to a recipe, at least in my life it does.
Then, by the time you get the goo in the oven (because baking is pretty much all goo until you get some heat on it), you’re left with a whole lot of dirty dishes. We’re talking mixers. We’re talking about food processors. And butter and chocolate, which by the way, are not the easiest things to wash off, especially if crucial time has passed and they’ve hardened.
Still, despite my dislike for baking, I’ve had the tendency in the past to choose complicated recipes. For example, last year at a cookie swap, I decided to bring saffron-pear lollipops. This involved, a), ordering lollipop sticks online and worrying they wouldn’t come in time, b), using a candy thermometer, c), heating sugar to a scary high temperature (so I was pretty sure it was going to either, i), explode and, ii), render me with third-degree facial burns) and d) trying to twirl melted sugar into a lollipop shape despite having no artsy bones in my body.
By the time they were finally finished and after the first batch melted like Salvador Dali’s clocks while standing upright on their sticks, I was a wreak. The sick thing is I don’t even like suckers, just liked the idea of arriving at the party with pretty ‘pops all arranged in a bouquet.
And that, ultimately, is my biggest beef with baking: I’m not that huge on sweets. I mean, if they’re around, I’ll eat them, unfortunately I’m the only one in my family who will eat them, but it’s not something I crave on a regular basis.
But there is one Christmas baking recipe that has the capability of knocking people’s socks off (in an understated, “wow, this is no-nonsense delicious” way), takes 10 minutes, has three ingredients, and dirties only one pot. We’re talking about, drum roll, please, Tara’s Christmas Chocolate Butterscotch Fudge.
Yes, fudge. The treat that always reminds you of camping or vacation towns because those are almost the only places that have fudge counters. And the treat that is so decadent you really can only have a few bites (unlike cookies, which you (read: I) can eat 20 of).
So here we go. Take notes. Or clip this baby out. Because it’s going to make you happy.
- 1 10- or 11-ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or dark chocolate, if you prefer)
- 1 10 or 11-ounce package butterscotch chips
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Set up a double boiler (a makeshift one is fine) and heat the water until it is gently simmering. Add chips and melt. Stir in condensed milk until all ingredients are combined. Grease an 8 x 8-inch pan (sorry, couldn’t avoid greasing altogether). Pour fudge in pan. Chill in fridge. Done. Voilà. Delish.
More than a decade ago, I worked for a food magazine back in Winnipeg and the staff members were asked to submit our favorite recipes for our holiday issue. Of course, I used this one, but thought it was such a no-brainer, I didn’t indicate what size packages or cans to use and no one else caught the misstep.
A few hours after the magazine hit the stands, we were fielding calls about these sizes, indicating to us all just how many readers were making our recipes (which was a thrill).
Anyway, it’s a goodie. You can memorize it easily, the ingredients are easy to find, and it’s cheap. So, reluctant bakers, onward to the kitchen. Go forth and be merry.