Some of our best memories are created solely based on the people with whom we share them; while some are rooted in the community in which they take place. In my opinion, the fondest of memories combine the richest of personalities with the most stunning of landscapes. Imagine the dust of fresh snow as you strap on your ski boots, the breeze of tropic air fanning your face as the sun sets over the sand, and for those of us that know it…the unmistakable scent that perfumes the air upon entering Ruttger’s Bake Lake Lodge.
Nearly 120 years ago, Joseph and his wife Josephine began Ruttger’s as a humble destination for the weary and hungry trawler of the northern Minnesota lakes area. However, word quickly spread that this lodging area was not intended to be just a fisherman’s pit-stop, rather it was to become a resort that welcomed guests as friends and bid them farewell as family.
True to form, summer after summer, my family departed Ruttger’s as it would any grand college reunion…hungover, suntanned, smiling and a tad weepy-eyed longing for just one more day on the lake. Our time at Ruttger’s centered around the numerous activities available on-site…endless wagers on the golf course (to lose was to buy a round of drinks!), killer water-ski pulls on the crystal clear water, and shameless trades to score the ultimate bingo card that would ring in the $100+ jackpot.
But, the best scene of the day was presented as a prelude to the feast…a cocktail hour on the grass waterfront, where solo cups were acceptable and collared shirts were optional. Then, with a warm buzz in our bellies, we would all meander to the Lodge’s dining hall and embark upon a meal of crisply-fried walleye pike, wholesome wild rice peppered with local corn and herbs, and to finish…nothing from the menu. Nope, dessert was not presented in script form, rather it was introduced as a vast display of sweetness that ran along the far wall of the dining room.
Tables upon tables were filled with everything from 3-tiered mint parfaits to warmly baked apple pies. And, every once in a while, the pastry chef would surprise our taste buds with something unexpected. This past August, my kids had the pleasure of enjoying this indulgent phenomenon with me. The surprise treat this stay was a highly addictive fudge that had my son and I fighting for more. It is laden in chocolate and decorated with everything from crushed oreos to salty pretzels.
Dubbed Moose Droppings by the pastry chef, this fudge only needed a few adjustments once I scored the recipe from the dear Mary Rutttger. To start, it needed a new name…something that didn’t resemble pellets of poop from a large animal (easy enough…new title: Moose Tracks Fudge). And, upon the request of my kids, it needed milk chocolate in replacement of the bitter, dark it originally listed. To finish, it needed to abandon the crunchy chow mein noodles of the 1980’s (I kid you not!!!) and upgrade to the addition of crushed pecans. The end result is a recipe I will always cherish not only for the taste, but for the memories it brings with every bite.
Xoxo, and thank you Ruttger’s for remaining a resort that I can call home! E.
- Fudge Base
- 1¾ c + 2 T Milk Chocolate Chips
- 1¼ c Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
- ¼ c All-vegetable Shortening (such as Crisco)
- ¾ c Unsalted Butter
- 1½ t Pure Vanilla Extract
- 2¼ c Marshmallows (regular size, e.g. not Jumbo)
- ¼ c + 2 T Sweet Condensed Milk
- Fudge Add-ins
- 1¾ c Roughly Chopped Pretzels
- 1½ c Marshmallows (again not Jumbo)
- 1½ c Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits (like those by Heath)
- 1¼ c Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
- 1 c Pecan Pieces
- ¾ c Well Chopped (or Ground) Oreo Cookies
- ¾ c Roughly Chopped Graham Crackers
- Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, using enough paper to leave a tail at each end for easy removal of fudge for serving.
- To Make the Fudge Base:
- In lieu of having a double broiler, fill a medium-sized saucepan approximately halfway up with water and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Remain on stove-top to melt chocolate as instructed below.
- To melt the chocolate, place ingredients milk chocolate chips through sweet condensed milk (e.g. those listed in the Fudge Base) in a large glass mixing bowl. Place the mixing bowl over the saucepan, and stir with a wooden spoon until melted. Remove from heat and reserve.
- To Finish the Fudge:
- In a large mixing bowl, mix all Fudge Add-ins (e.g. Pretzels through Graham Crackers) together. Fold into the warm Fudge Base and stir until well-combined. Immediately, pour the mixture into the prepared pan and cool in the refrigerator for 1½ hours, or until completely solid.
- To serve, remove fudge from parchment and cut into 1 inch squares; lightly sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy!.