What the Fudge?!

By Blake Silberberg ‘13
University Communications

Among the multitude of snacks and sweets offered at the Common Market, one of the more popular treats is the homemade fudge. But do you know where the fudge is made, or by whom?

Meet Kiara Medina ‘15 and Jessica Brogdon ‘16, the current University of Rochester Candy Engineers. The Candy Engineer position is passed down from year to year, with only two being active at a time. Medina, a junior business major, was an employee at the Common Market before she expressed interest in taking over the fudge position from a graduating senior. Brogdon, a sophomore epidemiology major, was hired specifically for the position, based on her previous restaurant experience.

As Candy Engineers, Medina and Brogdon are solely responsible for making the homemade fudge sold at the Common Market, a process that usually involves meeting to cook about once a week, although that can change quickly depending on demand for the fudge.  Medina and Brogdon are also in charge of creating the fudge flavors, a process relying on creativity almost as much as their cooking skills. The first part of the fudge making process is where Medina and Brogdon brainstorm the flavors of the week, planning out combinations of different candies, toppings, and sauces. Conceived sometimes in advance, sometimes spontaneously, Medina and Brogdon are masters of flavor combination.

rsz_3fudge1During their tenure as Candy Engineers, Medina and Brogdon consider their most successful flavor to be Cookies and Cream, which combines vanilla fudge, crushed Oreos, and Hershey’s Cookies and Cream candy. Fluffernutter and Rocky Road, however, are not far behind. The least popular flavor? Surprisingly, maple. During my visit to the kitchen, the engineers had decided on three unique flavors using a vanilla base: dark chocolate fudge with Reese’s Cups, raspberry jam with Rolos, and vanilla fudge with Fluff, chocolate covered peanuts, and chocolate chips.

Medina and Brogdon’s lab is a small kitchen across the hall from the Common Market, where their massive fudge making machine, known affectionately as “Bertha”, resides. Medina and Brogdon first choose the “base” of their fudge, either vanilla or chocolate. Then, they use Bertha to slowly mix and melt the base into warm, gooey, molten fudge. While the fudge base is in the machine, Medina and Brogdon lay out their toppings in the fudge pan, reserving some to top the fudge with as well. When the molten fudge mixture is smooth, the engineers pour it over the toppings, mixing with a rubber spatula to combine the ingredients, creating swirls in the fudge as the toppings combine with the base. Medina and Brogdon then arrange the remaining ingredients on top of the fudge, layering the surface with candy or sprinkling crushed candy on top. “We try to focus on both presentation and experimentation,” says Medina.

So next time you stop by the Common Market for a snack, be sure to pick up some in-house, student engineered Fudge!

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From Breadboards to Brooches: Making Jewelry with Amanda Preske

By Joe Bailey
University Communications

When walking by the Common Market, you may have noticed one of the University’s quirky little treasures: jewelry hand-made from old circuit boards. Many have speculated on who creates these works of art. Could it be a computer science student, or perhaps a studio art major? Actually, these little treasures were designed by third-year chemistry doctoral student, Amanda Preske. Preske is a student in the Krauss Lab, and when she’s not in the lab making carbon nanotubes for use in artificial electron transfer chemistry, she’s in her workshop making jewelry. Her creations are on display in the art cart on the first floor of Wilson Commons, next to the Common Market, and made their debut during the holiday shopping fair in December.

Preske got her inspiration to make circuit boards into jewelry at an early age, while watching her brother tear apart an old computer. She saw beauty where others might have just seen silicon and metal. Another important source of materials for her has been the E-cycling program, both at her alma mater, RIT, and here at the U of R. Electronics are recycled and repurposed in this program, and if the circuitry catches her eye, she’ll scoop it up, encase it in epoxy resin, and turn it into an earring or necklace. It is necessary to encase the circuits in epoxy not only to produce the characteristic glossy shine, but also to protect wearers of the jewelry from sharp soldered contacts, or other loose circuit elements.

Wherever someone has an old computer, she’ll be right there waiting to repurpose the breadboard into art. As Preske told this reporter, “why be boring, when you can embrace your quirks?”

Preske’s creative business is made possible by Etsy, which is a specialized website similar to eBay. Etsy allows artisans to sell high-quality hand-crafted pieces on a larger scale than they would be able to otherwise. In fact, the art cart where Preske sells her jewelry on campus is sponsored by Etsy’s Rochester branch. Cash or credit are currently the only accepted forms of payment, however, it is likely that flex will be accepted as a form of payment at promotional events in the future. Preske plans to continue her business in the future, even once she graduates with her doctorate. She has always enjoyed hands-on projects such as this jewelry business.