Mary Anne's Christmas Eve Chocolate Fudge

Now that the holidays are here and time is short, here's a chocolate fudge recipe that is super simple and will wow your family and friends! It has a couple of ingredients (cayenne pepper and kosher salt) that might surprise you, but trust me they really add to the flavor. Just be light-handed with both! My family loves to make and eat this during the holidays, but especially on Christmas Eve afternoon.

Butter, for greasing the pan

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 -2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, depending on personal taste

Dash of cayenne pepper, optional

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or Godiva Chocolate liqueur

1/2 teaspoon liquid coffee or espresso

2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)

1 cup chopped toasted pecans, optional

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature

Kosher or flake salt, optional

-Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper, about 14-inches long and 7-inches wide, allowing the excess to overhang the sides. Set aside.

-In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the condensed milk, cinnamon, dash of cayenne pepper and vanilla or chocolate liqueur. Stir in the chocolate chips and butter. If using, fold in the nuts.

-Put the bowl on a saucepan of barely simmering water and mix until the chocolate chips have melted and the mixture is smooth, about 6 to 8 minutes (mixture will be thick). Using a spatula, scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with salt, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until firm.

-If you are having difficulties removing the fudge, run a warm knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the fudge. Remove the fudge to a cutting board. Peel off the parchment paper and cut the fudge into 1-inch pieces. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Note: The fudge can also be made using 1 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) of semisweet chocolate chips. You can also use butterscotch or milk chocolate chips or a combination of any of the chocolates. It's your call.

Note: The dash of cayenne pepper and the coffee/espresso kicks the flavor of the chocolate up a notch or three.

Note: I like to make this in my glass double boiler. It saves me from having to wash another bowl.