Stir sugar and cocoa powder together in large saucepan. Stir in milk. Heat at medium-high heat until boiling, then lower heat and let low boil continue. Stir occasionally. Have ready a greased pie plate or similar dish. Start checking temperature with a candy thermometer when bubbles get small and glossy. (Total cooking time will be 20 minutes or less depending on amount of milk.) Remove from heat when mixture reaches 235 F degrees or “soft ball”ù stage. Set pan in cold water to cool. Add vanilla extract. Let cool slightly and add peanut butter. Remove from cold water and stir quickly to mix in peanut butter. Pour fudge into pie plate. Let cool and cut into pieces.
Directions in Mom’s Own Words
In a large saucepan, put about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of white granulated sugar. Add 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Stir the two together until evenly blended. (Part of the fun is seeing the white sugar turn brown.)
Pour in some milk. There is no measure for this. You want enough that the mixture is “runny”, yet if you put in too much, it will take forever to boil down. I usually judge the amount to be right if, when I drag the spoon across the diameter of the bottom of the pan, the mixture closes in behind it fairly quickly.
Set the pan on medium high heat. If your pan is small, watch to see that it doesn’t boil over. If it threatens to, lift the pan off the heat. Eventually, it will boil down to where this isn’t a problem. It’s much easier to start with a big pan in the beginning. (2 1/2 – 3 quart size) At first when it boils, the bubbles will be light brown and “fluffy”. It’s okay to stir occasionally. While you are waiting, butter a pie plate and put cold water in the sink.
When the bubbles start getting glossy and brown, it’s time to check the temperature.
Before candy thermometers, we used a small glass of cold water to check when the fudge was ready. You wanted a small drip from the spoon to hold together and form a soft ball in the cold water. Not ready and the fudge would never harden. Cooked too long and the fudge would harden like a rock before you were ready for it.
Now, with a candy thermometer, you can get just about perfect fudge most times. Take it off the heat when it is fully and exactly at “soft ball” stage. Set the pan into a sinkful of cold water (about 2 in. deep) to cool.
Add a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract directly into the hot fudge. Let the fudge cool briefly and add a big dollop of creamy peanut butter.
Lift the pan out of the cold water (dry off the bottom by setting it briefly on a dish towel laid on the counter) and stir. Stirring will blend in the peanut butter and cool the fudge. You want to be ready to pour it into a buttered pie plate just as it begins to hold its shape (harden). Perfect is when it hardens just as it spreads out in the plate and holds the decorative swirl you put on top. If you got the temperature right when you took it off the stove, then it will harden in the plate if you pour it in a little early. Early is better than late because otherwise it hardens in the pan, or as you are trying to pour it, and then you don’t get nice pieces. It tastes just as good either way though. If for some reason, it doesn’t harden in the plate, just eat it with a spoon.