Posts Tagged 'Candy Recipes'

Sweet “Potatoes”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!  Is it just me, or does it seem like it’s continuously been St. Patrick’s Day since last Saturday?  I suppose having it fall on a Thursday maximizes the pre-celebration.

I was thumbing through the March 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living the other day when I found this year’s St. Patrick’s Day project: Sweet “Potatoes” (since potatoes are oh so Irish!).  I’ve done Guinness bread and Guinness ice cream, and so many others have done some variation of Guinness cupcakes.  The “potatoes” are balls of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and chopped walnuts rolled in cinnamon to emulate the look of real potatoes.  Fun and unusual, right?

Apparently, the unusual overrides the fun, at least initially.

The “potatoes” were already made when Dr. O came home yesterday evening, so he hadn’t seen what went into them.  I asked him if they looked like potatoes (so desperately wanting him to say “yes!”), and he said they didn’t.  I found out about 20 minutes later that he thought they really were potatoes that didn’t look like the kind of potatoes he was used to seeing.  Consequently, you should have seen his face when I asked him to take a bite.  He took the tiniest nibble off of an edge and wasn’t sure what to think…  Since he thought they really were potatoes in some form, he was expecting a savory bite; he was also completely caught off guard by the white cream cheese and butter interior.  Ha! Once he realized that the “potatoes” were sweet candies, he enjoyed them a heck of a lot more.  Perhaps that’s the lesson here: If you want to confuse/surprise adults or make something that kids will think is cool, this is the project for you.  I don’t see these flying off of a serving tray if people don’t know what they are, though.

For those of you with kids and/or a sense of humor, here’s the recipe:

Sweet “Potatoes”
Makes 40

4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
4 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
2 cups walnuts (toasted, cooled, and finely chopped)
Ground cinnamon

Beat butter and cream cheese with vanilla and salt until pale and fluffy. Mix in sugar and walnuts until smooth. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Roll dough (1 tablespoon each) between your hands. Shape into “potatoes.” Roll in cinnamon; brush off excess with a pastry brush. To create “eyes,” stick in walnut pieces. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Sweet Potatoes

The candies are definitely on the sweet side (to be expected since the bulk of the dough is made of powdered sugar), but the cream cheese and walnuts sure do make them tasty.  I think the cinnamon plays nicely with the walnuts, too.  They won’t knock your socks off, but they’re certainly a fun holiday project.

TIPS:  In order to make the candies look most potato-like, I found that brushing the cinnamon on with a pastry brush worked better than rolling them in the cinnamon. Grocery store potatoes have that uneven layer of soil on them, and rolling the candies coated them a bit too evenly.

Recipe link: Sweet “Potatoes”

Bourbon Balls

Last year, Dr. O’s grandmother gave me a folder full of holiday meal suggestions and recipes from various magazines from the late ’60s and early ’70s.  (How fun, right?)  The folder has a little bit of everything – drinks, appetizers, mains, sides, and desserts (along with some great holiday hairstyle ideas, hehe!) – so I thought I’d see if I could find something to add to my dinner party menu for next weekend.  One dish that really jumped out at me was a 1969 Good Housekeeping recipe for Bourbon Balls…  It was short, sweet, and good for making ahead, so I decided to give it a try.

There are several ingredients that need to be finely chopped, so I used my mini food processor quite a bit.  If you don’t have a food processor or chopper, the recipe is definitely still “doable.”  It just might not be quite as fun or easy.

First, I ground handfuls of vanilla wafers in my food processor to yield 2 1/2 cups of ground wafers.  (The recipe says they should be finely crushed, so banging them in a Ziploc with a rolling pin could be a decent alternative.)  I transferred the ground wafers to a large bowl.  Next, I used the food processor to finely chop 1 cup of walnuts.  I transferred those to the bowl as well.

To the mixture in the bowl, I added 1 cup of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of baking cocoa, 1/3 cup of bourbon, and 3 tablespoons of corn syrup.  I stirred the mixture until everything was well incorporated and then hand-rolled the mixture into 1-inch balls.  (Each ball was about 1 tablespoon of the mixture and the recipe makes about 36.)  To finish them off, I rolled the balls in granulated sugar.

Bourbon Balls

My friend Christopher absolutely loved these, but I have to say…  These Good Housekeeping people must have really loved boozy candy back in 1969.  Holy smokes!  The bourbon flavor is pretty strong, and you get shot-like warmth as they head down the hatch.  (If you’ve already had a fair share of “holiday cheer,” you might not feel it as much, but wow.)

I actually made them again the next day, cut down on the bourbon, and incorporated a bit of coffee and vanilla as “replacement liquid.”  I think my adaptation will be more of a crowd pleaser.  I really love the idea of this recipe, though, and the candies are just so pretty and festive with the sparkly sugar coating.

TIPS:  The first time I made the recipe, my mixture was a bit dry and I had a hard time rolling it into balls.  If this happens, just add more liquid (corn syrup, bourbon, or whatever, really), mix until it’s well incorporated, and try again.

UPDATE (12/10/09):  I’ve been discussing this recipe with a friend lately and I thought it would be good give you my exact recommended breakdown for the liquid.  Instead of 1/3 cup of bourbon, I recommend using 3 tablespoons of bourbon, 2 tablespoons of coffee, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  That way, you’ll still get the bourbon flavor without the burn.  If you still think the flavor is too strong, go with 3 tablespoons of coffee, 2 tablespoons of bourbon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Peppermint Bark

Get ready for more Christmas yummies (already!). Today, I made Peppermint Bark from the December 2005 issue of Everyday Food.

The recipe list is short: 1 pound of chopped white chocolate (NOT chips), 2 cups of Rice Krispies, and 7.5 ounces of peppermints. I started by prepping a baking sheet. I sprayed it with nonstick cooking spray and then lined it with a piece of wax paper. (The cooking spray helps the paper adhere to the pan.) Next, I unwrapped about 45 peppermints, put them in a doubled resealable plastic bag (one inside the other), and pounded the heck out of them. This was the hardest part of the recipe, really. You need a decent amount of force to break those little disks, and there’s really no way around the noise. (My cat was alarmed.) Once they were crushed, I put the pieces in a sieve to remove the fine powder and set them aside.

Next, I put the white chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. (This is my version of a double boiler, which is one item I haven’t added to my collection yet.) I stirred the chocolate occasionally until it was melted, about 5 minutes. I removed it from the heat and stirred in the Rice Krispies.

I transferred the mixture to the lined baking sheet and spread it to the edges with a spatula. I sprinkled the crushed peppermints on top and then gently pressed them into the chocolate with a baking-sheet-sized piece of wax paper. I chilled the bark for 25 minutes in the refrigerator and then broke it into 2-inch pieces. Done!


This peppermint bark is addictive, seriously. The bark itself is softer than I expected, but the peppermints provide a nice crunch. Someone decided to buy out all of the Baker’s white chocolate in the three grocery stores near my home, so I ended up using Ghirardelli baking bars. I’m sure the use of quality chocolate contributed to the “yum” factor.

TIPS: The recipe says to use a rolling pin or a skillet to crush the peppermints. I found that the smooth side of my meat mallet worked best. If you don’t have a sieve, you could use a colander to separate the candy pieces from the powder.

Also, from the sound of the recipe, keeping your cooling time between 20 – 30 minutes is essential. Apparently, the moisture in the refrigerator will ruin the peppermints if the bark is stored there for too long. If you put the bark in an airtight container and keep it at room temperature, you should be able to enjoy it for a week.

Recipe link: Peppermint Bark

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