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.
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!

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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 {affil link}
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