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1. Line a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter foil; set pan aside.
2. Butter the sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. In saucepan combine sugar, milk, chocolate, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium-low; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, until thermometer registers 234 degrees F, soft-ball stage (20 to 25 minutes).
3. Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter and vanilla, but do not stir. Cool, without stirring, to 110 degrees F (about 55 minutes).
4. Remove thermometer from saucepan. Beat mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until fudge just begins to thicken. If desired, add nuts. Continue beating until the fudge becomes very thick and just starts to lose its gloss (about 10 minutes total).
5. Immediately spread fudge in the prepared pan. Score into squares while warm. When fudge is firm, use foil to lift it out of pan. Cut fudge into squares. Store tightly covered. Makes about 1-1/4 pounds (32 pieces).