Q: How does one make a fudge icing? I am tired of the usual chocolate buttercream.

A: Fudge icing is really fudge caught in the act of crystallizing and then thinned out with a little heavy cream. The advantage of this icing is its smooth, chewy consistency, which buttercream icings lack. The disadvantage is complexity. You literally make fudge in order to make the icing. And, because fudge is tricky, so is this icing recipe. Here is an explanation of the principles involved:

When you make fudge, you boil sugar, milk, cream, cocoa and butter together until the temperature of the syrup reaches 238 degrees. This temperature indicates a certain concentration of sugar -- 80 percent, or 4 parts sugar for every 1 part water. This is the saturation point of sugar in water at that particular temperature -- 238 degrees. When you cool the candy syrup to room temperature, the point at which saturation is 67 percent concentration, 13/80 of the sugar you placed in the pan will crystallize out if you stir it.

Stirring the cooled syrup causes minute crystals to form between the spoon and the side of the pan. Called seed crystals, these start the crystallization reaction. When finished, the result is a 67 percent (saturated at room temperature) syrup with billions of minute sugar crystals suspended in it.

FUDGE ICING

(Makes enough to ice one 9-inch cake)

1 cup milk

1/2 cup whipping cream

2 cups sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup confectioners' sugar

Place milk, half the cream, sugar, cocoa and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally. Continue to heat until the syrup reaches the soft ball stage, or 238 degrees. Do not overcook; if anything, cook the syrup less, to a very soft ball.

Remove saucepan from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm. Stir the now-thick candy syrup, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. When it begins to lose its gloss, a sign that crystallization has started, add the other half of the cream and the vanilla. Stir briefly.

Transfer syrup to an electric mixer bowl and beat in enough confectioners' sugar to make the icing spreadable.

I buy tenderloins whole and have them cut into individual steaks. Sometimes, when enough trimmings are left, I have them ground. I have cooked these trimmings in the past, but they are always a little dry. Would it help to add liquids such as tomato sauce?

Tenderloin is one of the leanest muscles on the steer. Since juiciness after cooking is dependant on fat and water content, adding a water-containing ingredient is not going to make the ground meat any juicier. Instead it adds to drip-loss -- the juices that ooze out as the meat cooks.

To make ground tenderloin juicier, you should add fat. The following recipe is based on a ground veal dish, Veal Cutlets Pojarski, adopted by classical chefs from Russian cuisine.

GROUND STEAK POJARSKI

(4 servings)

1/4 cup minced onion

1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) plus 1 tablespoon soft butter and extra for frying

2 cups stale bread crumbs

2 tablespoons fresh, minced parsley

1 tablespoon fresh, minced marjoram

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

12 ounces ground tenderloin

Flour

Over low heat, saute' onion and mushrooms until soft in 1 tablespoon of butter. Mix in stale bread crumbs. Blend with soft butter, minced herbs, pepper and salt. Mix in ground meat, only until smooth; do not overmix. Form mixture into oval patties and coat each in flour. Fry in a skillet with butter until browned and crisp on both sides.