Chocolate Fudge (with or without nuts)

From: Art of Gluten-Free Baking (http://artofglutenfreebaking.com)

Chocolate Fudge (with or without nuts)
-adapted from recipe by Greg Atkinson

Ingredients
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons mild honey
3/4 (178ml) cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (6oz; 170g) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (chips or finely chopped)
2 tablespoons butter (or neutral-flavored oil like Rice Bran oil), room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup nuts (handful), lightly toasted and chopped (I use pecans), optional

Butter an 8 inch square baking pan.

In a heavy-bottomed 2 or 3 quart saucepan, combine sugar, honey, cream, and salt over medium-high heat.  Stir until the sugar has dissolved and begins to boil.  Bring to soft ball stage (about 235), stirring occasionally.  This should take about 5-10 minutes.

As soon as it hits the softball stage, remove from heat.  Add butter or oil to the top of the mixture but do not stir (stirring it at this stage will crystalize it, creating grainy fudge).  Leave it alone until it reaches about 120 degrees.  You can speed up the process by placing the saucepan into a bowl filled with ice water.  The speeded up cooling process will take about 20 minutes.  When the fudge has cooled to the appropriate temperature, it will feel hot but not burning hot when you press down on the top with your finger.  Hang out near the fudge so you can monitor it.  Don’t let it get below 120 degrees.

When the fudge has cooled to about 120 degrees, add the chocolate chips/pieces and the vanilla.  Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the fudge gets thick and starts to loose its sheen—this will happen at about the same speed as the chocolate melts.  Quickly stir in the nuts (if using).  The fudge is ready to scrape out into the prepared pan when it is no longer pourable but isn’t stiff (this will happen quickly).

Quickly scrape into prepared pan and smooth top.  The top will look glossy and oily.  Leave at room temperature, on the counter, and let cool completely.  When the fudge has set, cut into squares.  Since the fudge is quite rich, I usually cut it into 1 inch by 1 inch squares.  The fudge will keep, wrapped, at room temperature, for about a week.