If you are unfamiliar with candy making, or just want a refresher course, you might want to read the post on Chocolate Fudge.
3 T butter
3 c sugar
1 1/2 C cream
1/4 c corn syrup
and a dash of salt
2 t vanilla
1. Add everything but the vanilla to a 4 quart heavy bottom pan. Cook while stirring over medium heat until the mix comes to a rolling boil. Place a lid on the pan for about 3 minutes to sweat the sides of the pan.
2. Remove the lid, place a candy thermometer in the pot, and continue to cook until the mix reaches 236 degrees.
3. Carefully pour the syrup out into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Only pour out what comes easily from the pot. Do not scrape out the pot! Let sit until it cools 110 degrees. (warm but not hot to the touch.)
4. Add the vanillla. Whip the fudge with the flat beater until the fudge looses it's gloss. If desired, add 3/4 c chopped nuts. Scrape fudge out into a buttered 8x8 baking dish and let sit until cool.
I adore vanilla fudge. It's been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl, so there's the nostalgia factor. There's also the fact that vanilla fudge is the perfect base for half a dozen different flavors of fudge. Make plain vanilla the first time, but after that have a little fun. Try one of these versions:
maple nut fudge: reduce vanilla to 1tsp. Add 2 tsp maple flavoring (I like Mapline, it's sold next to the vanilla) with the vanilla. Mix in 3/4 cup walnuts.
Opera Fudge: omit nuts. Mix in 1/2 c chopped maraschino cherries instead.
Pumpkin Fudge (yes! Pumpkin!): reduce cream to 1 cup. add 1/2 c pumpkin puree and 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice. Proceed as usual.
Penuche (brown sugar fudge): use brown sugar instead of white sugar in the vanilla fudge recipe.
Peppermint fudge: reduce vanilla to 1 tsp. Add 1/2 tsp mint extract with the vanilla and stir in 1/2 c chopped candy canes. (after chopping the candy canes, place the candy in a sieve and shake to remove candy dust. You just want the larger pieces.) Eat within a couple of days. The candy canes will soften over time.
Experiment. We live in a world with so many wonderful flavors and cooking ingredients, it's almost criminal to not play around with them. My next few fudge flavors take more complex changes to the recipe so I'm still perfecting those. Watch for butterscotch, coconut, and peanut butter in the coming months.