It’s that time of year when we all see red: Valentine’s Day, the one day of the year formally set aside to celebrate love. I am finally one of the lucky ones, living with Lord D, my loving and devoted husband. Not to take our love for granted, we strive to make every day Valentine’s Day with kind, sweet guestures…often involving food!
It is no wonder that we are both drawn to the love stories in Downton Abbey. At Downton you will find all variations: love is lost, found, taken for granted, and unrequited. It is innocent, calculated, pre-destined, mislaid, loyal, unrepentant. You get your money’s worth on this show!
As a foodie, my thoughts are never far from food, particularly with Valentine’s Day less than a week away. As an amateur chocolatier, ’tis the season to explore all things chocolate. So it is no surprise that I have been thinking about period appropriate sweets which might best reflect our favorite Downton Abbey couples.
The Simple Sweet Innocence of Daisy and William
A touching wedding
The downstairs relationship between William and Daisy was sweet and straight forward. William’s love for Daisy was simple and pure. She did not love him in the same manner, but in the end was compassionate and kind, marrying him to give him peace on his death bed. At the end of Season 2 you will find that she is able to find peace and comfort from an unexpected source.
My specialty is truffles, and I was wondering which combination to use for William and Daisy, but a simple relationship deserves a uncomplicated sweet treat which is a crowd favorite. Simple chocolate, mixed with dutiful condensed milk, and uncomplicated peanut butter, makes a sweet Valentine’s Day treat that everyone will love. I have served up this peanut butter fudge for years, often as a gift to co-workers, and always at family gatherings or I am in big trouble.
History of Condensed Milk
Finding a way to store milk for long periods without refrigeration was the need which condensed milk resolved. Initially produced in France in the 1820s, American Gail Borden more famously took up the challenge in the 1850s. After witnessing several childhood deaths due to improper milk storage on a voyage back from England, he persevered over a number of years to produce a usable milk derivative that was long-lasting and needed no refrigeration. Because of its long shelf life it was highly valued in times of war. WWI housewives were encouraged to buy and send cans of condensed milk to the soldiers at the front.
History of Peanut Butter
We have had peanut paste for centuries, and it was initially brought to market as a nut butter, a health food for the upper classes, with recipes tea sandwiches made with nut butter. Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson obtained a patent for the modern method of processing peanut butter in 1884. In 1895 Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (the creator of Kellogg’s cereal) patented a process for creating peanut butter from raw peanuts. By the end of WWI, the production of peanut butter was in high gear in the US, so it is possible that Mrs. Patmore might have had access to a jar or two. Again, this was a product which had a long shelf life, which did make its way into military ration packs in WWII.
The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
- 1 Double boiler
- 1 9" Square baking dish silicon preferred
- paper truffle cups
- 16 ounces dark chocolate melting wafers* or semi sweet chocolate chips
- 8 ounces condensed milk I use unsweetened
- 16 ounces white chocolate melting wafers* or white chocolate chips
- 1 cup peanut butter smooth or crunchy, depending on your preference
- Prepare a square pan by greasing slightly and lining with wax paper. When fudge has set this makes it easier to remove it from the pan by simply lifting out the wax paper. Alternatively use a silicon square pan.
- Melt together the dark chocolate and condensed milk together. You can microwave but I use the stove. Chocolate burns easily so use a double-boiler, or place a metal bowl on top of a pot of water heating on the stove. Pour into prepared pan and refrigerate until set (an hour or so).
- Melt the white chocolate and peanut butter together on the stove in the same manner as the dark chocolate. Pour on top of the bottom layer.
- Before you let the top layer set, decorate for the occasion. You can melt a little melted red chocolate and drizzle or pipe little hearts if you are a whiz at decoration. You can also use red sprinkles, dragees, jimmies, or tiny little hearts. They will sink in a bit into the surface but will hold on tight when it sets. It will add an additional bit of texture to your treat. Refrigerate until set.
- Carefully remove the fudge from the pan. The fudge is very rich, so cut into 1 inch squares and present in little foil or paper cups used to serve truffles or chocolates. This recipe goes along way and will provide lots of gifts for family and friends.