Friday, February 3, 2017

Old-Fashioned Potato Candy

potato candy irish traditional old-fashioned old fashion dessert treat peanut butter pinwheel


I am a huge fan of nostalgic desserts.  Tapioca pudding is my all-time favorite (I nearly cried when Watkins discontinued that particular dessert mix) but I love a lot of old-fashioned desserts.  One of the  strangest old timey treats I have encountered is Potato Candy (also called Irish Potato Candy).  It is exactly what it sounds like: candy made from potatoes.  Weird, yes, but it is an oddly tasty and VERY sweet dessert with a doughy texture.

For the basic version of this candy, you do not need much in the way of ingredients – just powdered sugar and (surprise!) a potato.  You can use leftover mashed potatoes, providing that you only added butter, cream and/or milk to them.  Garlic flavored potatoes would probably be gross but if you like to experiment with your taste buds, feel free (and pretty please let me know how it turned out because I have a morbid curiosity).  Often potato candy is served rolled into spirals with peanut butter, but I prefer just rolling it into a log and cutting pieces off for soft square meltaways.  For the sake of this blog, I made both.

potato candy irish traditional old-fashioned old fashion dessert treat peanut butter pinwheel

Old-Fashioned Potato Candy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup potato, cooked and mashed
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (more may be necessary)
  • 1 cup peanut butter (if desired)

Equipment

  • 1 bowl, large
  • Measuring cups
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife
  • Silicone mat (wax or parchment paper will work as well)

If you are using leftover mashed potatoes, remove them from the fridge and allow them to warm to room temperature.  If using a fresh potato, poke it through with a sharp knife and microwave (most have a setting for baking potatoes).  Cut it into quarters and allow it to cool, then remove skin and mash potato into paste.  It will be dry, but you will see why that is okay in a moment.

potato candy irish traditional old-fashioned old fashion dessert treat peanut butter pinwheel

Once the potatoes are well mashed, add one cup of powdered sugar and combine.  How will they combine with no binder?  Just wait: the potatoes and powdered sugar magically become a liquid similar to applesauce.  I’m not sure if it is the cornstarch drawing out the moisture in the potatoes or the sugar melting in it, but it is very cool to see.

potato candy irish traditional old-fashioned old fashion dessert treat peanut butter pinwheel

Unfortunately, it is also very messy and takes a lot more powdered sugar to turn the mixture back into a solid.  Don’t worry, it will happen but it will take all four cups of sugar and possibly more (depending on the moisture in the mashed potato and even the humidity in your kitchen).  When you have incorporated enough to make a paste, turn the candy out onto the remaining powdered sugar and begin to knead the rest of the sugar in.  The consistency of the candy should be similar to fondant.

potato candy irish traditional old-fashioned old fashion dessert treat peanut butter pinwheel

You do not want to allow this dough to rest too long as it will dry out and crack.  If you only want the plain potato candy, separate a chunk and roll it into a rope approximately one inch in diameter.  Using a sharp knife or pair of scissors, cut every inch to make squarish pieces of candy.

potato candy irish traditional old-fashioned old fashion dessert treat peanut butter pinwheel

If you wish to make the peanut butter pinwheels, roll the dough out in a rectangle of 1/4” thickness on the silicone mat, wax or parchment paper.  Spread the peanut butter (you do not have to use an entire cup, just do it to your own taste) and roll the long side of the dough as you would with sweet rolls or taquitos.  This is why you placed it on the non-stick mat/paper; it helps release the candy and allows you to tighten the roll.  Cut the finished rope into 1/4-1/2” pieces.  Note: it will help to refrigerate the roll for an hour so that it is firmer and easier to cut (be sure to cover it in plastic wrap so it does not dry out).  I did not do this and, as you can see, my pinwheels are squishy.

potato candy irish traditional old-fashioned old fashion dessert treat peanut butter pinwheel

Place the pieces in a sealed container and refrigerate.  They keep for approximately a week and then tend to dry out and become very crumbly.

It goes without saying that this candy is very, very (almost sickening) sweet.    The best way to cut the sweetness is to use cornstarch, arrowroot powder or tapioca starch in place of some of the sugar; I have had the best results using tapioca starch.  Using leftover mashed potatoes can also cut some of the sugary intensity as they also contain butter, milk, cream or, in my case, cream cheese (if you have never tried it, do so immediately – you won’t be sorry).

The peanut butter in the pinwheels also offsets the sweetness of the candy; a tart jam or other unsweetened filling would work just as well.  For the regular potato candy pieces, I have tried it with peppermint or cinnamon oil, both of which are great around the holidays.  Mixing some cocoa into the dough makes something very close to a no-cook fudgy brownie and counteracts the sweetness of all that sugar.

potato candy irish traditional old-fashioned old fashion dessert treat peanut butter pinwheel