Red, White, and Blue Fudge: A Cautionary Tale

Although the Fourth of July is not my favorite holiday (that honor goes to Halloween), I'm always happy for an excuse to to make themed confections. And after learning that up to 21 percent of Americans have no plans to celebrate the holiday (projection, not fact), I felt like I needed to overcompensate for my fellow citizens' lack of motivation.

So I decided to make fudge.

Not just any old type of fudge, mind you, but red-white-and-blue fudge in a sweet homage to our national colors. I found a seemingly simple recipe online, and skipped off to the grocery store for my wares.

I like to think of myself as a "frugal" chef, but the truth is I sometimes cut corners in terms of preparation and ingredients. Because I bought non-generic-brand frosting and white chocolate chips for the fudge, I opted not to purchase an extra bottle of red food coloring even though I knew that my own supplies were rather old and, from a not-so-distant experience of making "red" velvet cake, and that producing a deep-crimson hue in baked requires a lot of fresh dye.

You can probably guess what happened. Instead of regal red, white, and blue stripes, the fudge was a garish layering of light-pink, white, and robin's egg blue. It looked like I was cooking in honor of some country whose flag is tinted to reflect the fact that all its citizens are toothless babies.

The fudge, btw, was delicious. White chocolate, of course, doesn't produce a real cocoa flavor, but I liked the milder, more vanilla taste of fudge, which also boasted a terrific texture thanks to the creamy (thank you, trans fats!) icing.

Next time I try to be patriotic in the kitchen, I won't skip on the heavy-duty food coloring. Readers, do you have any tricks for producing a deep-red color in sweets? More "natural" suggestions than food coloring would be especially welcome.

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