The very best fudge in the state of Colorado is right in your backyard -- and, more than likely, it was handmade just a few hours before it appears on the shelves -- using real butter, sugar, cream and chocolate, of course. Mark and Lisa Hill, owners of Drost's Chocolates in Eckert, won first place last week in the 2017 Chocolatier Championships at the Colorado Chocolate Festival for their chocolate pecan fudge.
The Hills have owned the gourmet chocolate shop since 2014, and since then they've been so busy handcrafting batches of to-die-for caramels, truffles, brittles, toffees, fudge and other confections in order to keep up with demand that they haven't had time to enter any competitions. But the timing was right for the Chocolatier Championships, which was held Mother's Day weekend in Denver, and they were able to compete.
Lisa said she was very surprised that their fudge won. Typically in these kinds of competitions and tasting events, chocolatiers tend to be showy -- lots of lavishly molded chocolates in every shape imaginable with airbrushed, artistic designs painted onto the chocolate. But that just isn't Drost's style. Mark and Lisa's chocolates are simple, old-fashioned, traditionally made confections. Everything is hand-poured, hand-dipped or hand-cut. There are no molds or airbrush tools in sight. Lisa wanted to showcase the type of everyday, high quality products they sell, not a fancy piece of candy crafted simply to win an award.
Their fudge blows away the competition, however, precisely because it is old-fashioned, hand mixed, and made with real ingredients. Most commercial candy makers use the pan method to craft fudge. The ingredients are mixed, heated, melted and then poured into a pan to cool. Mark and Lisa chose to make their fudge using the much more time-consuming process in the Mackinac Island style. Through this process, the ingredients are melted and then poured onto a cool, marble table. The confection is then hand stirred, or turned, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 1⁄2 hours, depending on the type of fudge. This process allows air into the confection and prevents the sugar from crystallizing. After the fudge cools, it is hand-sliced into bars.
The process is well worth the time it takes to craft (and one batch takes the couple about half a day from start to finish). The aeration results in a creamy, smooth, fluffy fudge, where the chocolate taste is front and center. A lot of fudges tend to be super sweet and slightly gritty -- that's the crystallized sugar. Drost's fudge is completely different. "It's this creamy, dreamy thing," Lisa said. "It's so much better than anything else." In their award-winning chocolate pecan fudge, it is the slightly salty, nutty addition of roasted pecans that really take the flavor from "yum" to "YUM!"
"Nobody does it like we do," Lisa said.
Even if you're a self-proclaimed "not a fudge person," Mark and Lisa invite you to give theirs a try. Because of their method, their fudge isn't as sweet as others, and you can taste the complexity of individual flavors, instead of just tasting sugar.
At any given day on the shelves, you'll find maple nut, chocolate walnut, penuche, peanut butter and sugar free fudge varieties, in addition to their other gourmet handmade candies. Mark and Lisa also craft some special fudge flavors, including a rocky road (using their own homemade marshmallows), vanilla or chocolate cherry.