Thursday, December 22, 2011

Old Fashioned Martha Washington Candy

Another old fashioned heritage confection, Martha Washington Candy is a rich mixture of buttery coconut and condensed milk with pecans, rolled into a tight ball and dipped in chocolate.

Martha Washington Candy

These little scrumptious bite-sized confections have been a beloved Christmas favorite in families for years, often passed down for generations. People remember their mothers making them, and their grandmothers before them. I don't know how they officially got their name, except perhaps for their namesake, who I've read was quite a good cook. Maybe they came from her own recipe collection - that's one cookbook I don't happen to own!

Sometimes just called Martha Washingtons, Martha Washington Balls, or just Coconut Bon Bons, you won't like these if you aren't a fan of coconut, because they are definitely coconut central, but oh my goodness, are they just little bites of heaven if you do.

Though recipes vary wildly on the amounts, many seem to be heavy on powdered sugar, so when I ran across this recipe in my Gooseberry Patch cookbook, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did because it uses significantly less powdered sugar, a little more coconut, and more butter - right up my alley, wouldn't you say? These were much creamier. Nothing could be easier either. It's a simple "batter" made from coconut, powdered sugar, condensed milk, melted butter and pecans. Omit the pecans and add in slivered almonds for an Almond Joy take.

Mix that up and there's your dough. Nothing to it. Because this particular recipe doesn't use nearly as much powdered sugar as many recipes out there, it isn't stiff like others, which is great because they are much creamier inside, and not overly sweet. That also means you will need to give it time in the fridge to firm up. Just prepare the dough the night before you want to make them and put it in the fridge overnight. If you still find your dough isn't stiff enough, all you need to do is add powdered sugar a little at a time until it is the right consistency.

Roll the dough into balls about the size of a large marble and place onto trays lined with parchment paper. These are quite rich though, so you'll want them to be small - one or two bites. A melon ball tool is helpful if you have one. Once you've rolled them, refrigerate again while you melt the chocolate.

Work in batches of about a dozen, so that you can leave the others in the fridge while you dip them into melted chocolate using your favorite method - you can use chocolate chips with food grade paraffin, vegetable shortening, or the good ole standby almond bark that is more popular these days.

Then return the balls to the parchment paper to set.

Because there is less powdered sugar in this recipe these are deliciously creamy inside. Gooey. Filled with coconut and pecans. Covered in chocolate. If you enjoy coconut, you will love these. Yum y'all.

For more of my favorite Christmas candies and other goodies, visit my page on Pinterest y'all!

If you make this or any of my recipes, I'd love to see your results! Just snap a photo and hashtag it #DeepSouthDish on social media or tag me @deepsouthdish on Instagram!


Recipe: Martha Washington Candy

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Inactive time: 12 hours | Yield: About 6/7 dozen

  • 1 (14 ounce) sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 heaping cups of powdered sugar, more if needed
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1-1/2 cups of chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Dipping Chocolate (below)

Combine everything but the dipping chocolate and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Roll into balls about the size of a large marble and place onto parchment or wax paper lined baking sheets. Place into fridge while you melt the chocolate. Working in batches of about a dozen at a time, leave remaining balls in the refrigerator, quickly drop the balls, one at a time, into the melted chocolate and toss with a fork. Lift out, letting excess chocolate drain off, and scraping bottom of fork across bowl rim before transferring back to the wax or parchment paper to set. Makes about 6 to 7 dozen, depending on how large you roll them.

Dipping Chocolate: I prefer using a the double boiler method (or an old crockpot) for melting chocolate for dipping, because it keeps the chocolate more thin and pliable and easier to work with than microwaved chocolate. Use 1 (1 pound 8 ounce) package of chocolate flavored almond bark or 1 (12 ounce) package of semi-sweet chocolate chips plus 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening (like Crisco).

Old School: Combine 2/3 cup of grated cooking paraffin (like Gulf wax) with one (12 ounce) package of semi-sweet chocolate chips, instead of the candy bark. The paraffin gives them the old, classic shine. You can usually find boxes of paraffin near the canning supplies or order it online at Amazon.

Tip: A melon ball tool is helpful for shaping these. Use a plastic fork and break out the two middle tines to dip the balls. Do NOT substitute margarine for the butter. Mixture should be stiff when it is time to roll the balls. If it is too gooey, add additional powdered sugar to the mixture, up to 2 pounds, as needed.

Almond Joy Truffles: Omit chopped pecans/walnuts and add one (8 ounce) package of slivered almonds to the dough. May also use some crushed to garnish the tops.

Variations: Instead of, or in addition to the nuts, try substituting chopped raisins, dates, dried plums or other chopped dried fruit, well drained maraschino cherries or chopped candied cherries. Decorate the tops with a drizzle of melted white chocolate or white almond bark.


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©Deep South Dish
Adapted from Gooseberry Patch Big Book of Home Cooking
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Posted by on December 22, 2011

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  1. I've never heard of these before but I'm looking forward to trying them because I LOVE coconut.

  2. These look really good! Have you ever made the Oreo Balls? Crushed oreos, 1 block cream cheese. Get in there with your hands to mix (the heat from you hands melts the chocolate and makes it pliable) roll into balls cool in freezer 20 mins then dip in melted Almond bark!!!!! YUMMM! always a request at Christmas and goes fast. (Also called Reindeer Balls)

  3. They sound completely delish! Wish I had time to make them before Christmas. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas weekend :)

  4. My mother calls these "dream balls." She has made them as long as I can remember, and my grandmother made them also. Thank you:)

  5. I've never heard of these, but I do plan on trying them. I LOVE coconut and these sure do look good.

    1. Finally a person with a name like mine...pronounced the same way im sure

  6. I'll bet these are delicious! Coconut, chocolate and can't go wrong!

  7. I thought my family was the only one who made these!! My Aunt made these as far back as I can remember; I even made them for my wedding rehearsal. My recipe is slightly different, but I am going to try yours, because I think I would enjoy them being not quite as sweet, and creamier than mine.

  8. Another great variation to this recipe: add 2-3 T. well drained, finely chopped maraschino cherries to about half of your dough. You may need to add a little more powdered sugar for a better rolling consistency. I call these "George Washington Bon-Bons for obvious reasons.

  9. My dad and I used to make these when I was a kid! Our recipe, from the Home Economics Teachers' Cookbook, does not include nuts or coconut (unless maybe in optional or footnotes), but does contain a touch of butter flavoring. The dipping chocolate is parafin and semi-sweet chocolate chips mixed together in a double boiler. It makes them shinier and the chocolate layer very thin. These are my favorite reason to cook during the holidays!!!

    1. You can use pure beeswax instead of the paraffin.

  10. I plan on making this candy!

    Made the Homemade Chicken Stew last week and it was fantastic!!!! It will become a regular around here!

  11. Laura and Teela, hope that you enjoy them!

    I have Rebecca, and they are so good!

    You too Julie!

    Marcia I love that - they are dreamy!!

    They are so good Eva!

    Nebraska Redhead, chattipati and Carol - there are so many versions out there, all good! The one with the maraschino cherries sounds wonderful. Carol paraffin is the best - scares a lot of people for some reason but I love using it. Just didn't have a block when I decided to make these, but I included it in the Cook's Notes of the recipe.

    Lainee, thanks so much for the comment on the stew! Glad that you enjoyed it & hope you give the candy a try too!

  12. I have never had these before but they sound tasty.

  13. I made these, but boy they sure don't look nearly as pretty as yours. I had trouble because my mix wasn't thick enough. I even put the rolled balls in the freezer to try to hold them together so I could dip them. They taste great, but they aren't very attractive.

  14. I wonder why Tracy? It was gooey until I refrigerated it, but then it firmed out very well in the fridge. I left it in overnight and the next morning until I got around to rolling them. Did you make any adjustments or substitutions at all?

  15. We loved making these when I was a girl...and we did it the old school way. YUMMY!

  16. no subs, the only thing I can think of is maybe I didn't heap my 2 cups of powdered sugar enough. I'm not complaining at all, and neither was anyone else that gobbled them up :)

  17. Oh that's good to hear Tracy - thanks for letting me know! Maybe it was the weather/humidity affecting it firming up, but glad everybody enjoyed them! I did use a little mini cookie scoop to scoop them up with and then I rolled them tight. Don't know if that maybe helped to compact them?

  18. I remember making these with my granny they are extremely addicting lol we call them bon bons

  19. Mary, how far in advance can I make these? want to use them for gifts but I work retail so my time is limited, esp close to Christmas

    1. I haven't run these through the freezer test, but here's what I would do. Make up the mix and refrigerate overnight so that it firms up. Lay out a sheet of parchment or wax paper on a tray and roll all the balls. Flash freeze them, then bag until you're ready to dip. They'll probably dip better frozen anyway to be honest, I'm just not sure how well they'd hold up in the freezer once they are dipped, but if you try it let me know!

  20. Mary, the version I make definitely has more powdered sugar in them but they freeze very well. Also, I take about half of my batter and add in most of a 10-ounce jar of well-drained, finely chopped maraschino cherries. You will probably need to add another 1/2 or so of powdered sugar to hold them together. I call these "George Washington Bon Bons" for obvious reasons. LOL I am going to try your version this year!

  21. I know this is an old post, but I just had to tell you how wonderful this recipe is. I've been experimenting with knew Christmas recipes the past week and this one caught my eye. I only made a half batch for testing purposes, but now I'm regretting not making the full amount. I ended up throwing the mixture in the freezer for an hour or so to hurry up the process, and then rolled them in a ball. No extra sugar was was perfect consistency. I used half semi sweet and half milk chocolate with the shortening to dip them in. OMG...I took one bite and swooned. This from someone who is very critical of my own cooking and is NOT a coconut fan. They are FABULOUS. I loved the fact they were so creamy inside. This will definitely be made year round. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for posting this awesome recipe. My hips also thank you. :)

    1. You are so welcome Sam and thank you so much for taking the time to stop back by and let me know you enjoyed them!

  22. I have made Martha Washington candy for over 30 yrs. Every Christmas! A double batch for years now. I use the traditional recipe...2boxes of 10x sugar, 1stick butter, 1can eagle brand milk, 14 oz sweetened coconut, 1to2 cups chopped pecans And 1 large tub of candied cherries chopped up!!!
    The cherries make All the difference!!!
    Everybody loves and expects them;) I think they got the name
    Because Martha had to do something with all those cherries!;)
    Thanks for letting me share.
    Merry Christmas!!

  23. My mom who passed away last year use to make these. How much easier using the almond bark. Like the fact they are not as rick either. About to complete mine, thanks so much!

  24. Just got finished making mine. So loved using the almond bark instead of the paraffin that gave it a waxy taste. Also like they are not as sweet!

  25. My Mom use to make these every Christmas, for the last 12 yrs they have been missing from Christmas. She works at a candy store where they make all there chocolates, and she said the last thing she wants to do is come home and make more candy. I'd ask for her recipe a dozen times and she said it wasn't written down, thankful you shared!! When my brother and I were younger, much younger, we would steal them out of the frig while they were sitting up, before she dipped them. We got in trouble a few times for that, well worth it!! Thanks again for the recipe and bring back some good memories. :) Rhoni T

    1. Wonderful memories Rhoni! I hope you enjoy these and reintroduce them to your own Christmas traditions!!

  26. My mom made Martha Washingtons every Christmas growing up. They are the best!

  27. My mom reduced the paraffin in her original recipe, so they aren't so waxy.

  28. My mother made these every Christmas in the 1960's, from the old original recipe, I'm sure. I have made them many times, but they are labor intensive!! Mother always made some without coconut, as some of the kids (me)didn't like it, but she put in extra pecans! She would also take a little of the mixture before adding any nuts, and set it aside to cool. She would roll up about walnut size, then flatten it out and wrap it around a whole maraschino cherry - I like to use the ones with stems! A really good chocolate covered cherry! Found this scrolling through Pinterest! What a treasure trove that place has become! Thanks.

    1. You're welcome and thanks so much for stopping by to share your memories!!

  29. We have a friend who sends buckeyes at Christmas, which are round and dipped in chocolate, too. What do you think about baking these in a pan and then cutting them into either squares or rectangles before dipping, just to differentiate between the two treats?


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