No, this isn’t a cleaned-up version of what I said when I found out my daughter, Ava, has celiac disease. (Though that’s probably true as well.) This is what she says after I whip up a pan of her favorite sweet treat. And every time I hear her say it—or any other words of praise for some gluten-free goodie I’ve made—it takes away some of the sting of that phone call from Ava’s doctor two-and-a-half years ago.
Fudge has taken the place of the chocolate chip cookie in my household. A few years back, I had a reputation for making some darn good chocolate chip cookies. (Or at least that’s what people told me. It’s hard to accept compliments for following the recipe on the back of the Nestle bag to the letter.) After Ava’s diagnosis, I experimented with GF flours and mixes to mimic the soft, gooey goodness of a gluteny chocolate chip cookie. While some came close in flavor, none compared in texture. And while Ava liked the cookies she sampled, she never ate more than the sample, leaving me with a batch of baked goods I had deemed decent but not worth eating.
I resigned myself to the fact that Ava doesn’t really like cookies. I missed baking, but I was happy that Ava was satisfied to eat candy and ice cream for her sweet fixes. We even discovered that mini ice cream cups make great gluten-free yet mainstream treats to take to school for birthdays.
But the urge to bake nagged every now and then, especially at Christmastime, when I wanted to deliver homemade goodies to the family, friends, and neighbors who once raved over my cookies.
In the fall of 2010, I was editing a slideshow of fudge recipes at work (for bhg.com), and my mouth started watering (a hazard of the job) — especially when I noticed most of the recipes were gluten free. And not the type of gluten free that people graciously try and praise and then silently thank heaven that they can eat gluten. Fudge is what I like to call “accidentally gluten free.” It’s delicious as-is, without substitutes or caveats. I perused the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book and found a recipe titled “Easy Fudge.” Straightforward prep, no candy thermometers. It was a hit. Not only did it make a great gift, but Ava absolutely went crazy for it.
This fall, when I broke out the sugar, evaporated milk, butter, marshmallows, chocolate chips, and vanilla, Ava asked me what I was doing. When I told her I was making fudge, her eyes widened more than I’d ever seen and I think she literally started to drool. She even did a fudge dance around the kitchen and made up a fudge song. My batches turned out even better than last year, and family, friends, and neighbors raved. It turns out it doesn’t matter what I’m making, as long as it makes everyone — especially Ava — happy. And I’m getting better at taking the compliments, even though I follow the simple recipe to the letter.