Freshly-dug potatoes . . . or are they?
As much as I'd like to think that our Eating Your Words 2010 challenge is the most important event of this month, the honor rightly belongs to that most festive of spring holidays, St. Patrick's Day.
Having been officially recognized on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar for nearly 400 years, the feast day of Ireland's patron saint does have a few years on our humble little contest as well as a slightly larger following. So, in honor of the upcoming celebration on March 17th, I am heading across the Atlantic Ocean to join the merry group of bloggers who will be virtually marching in the Paddy's Day Food Parade, led by none other than the Grand Mistress herself, The Daily Spud.
One of the most unique hallmarks of St. Patrick's Day (aside from the boundless consumption of Guinness, whether it's in a pint glass or a chocolate cupcake) is its ability to transform individuals of different national and cultural backgrounds into one people: the Irishforaday. Once a year, this rather amorphous group gathers to engage in certain accepted rituals, such as wearing of the green, drinking of the Guinness and eating of the corned beef and cabbage. The scholarly and sober might see in these activities an example of Collective Effervescence:
"These rites are highly emotional collective experiences . . . which overcome the divisions among individuals and subgroups. They forge a collective identity that sustains members of society during periods of dispersion into routine (profane) activities."
from Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, WH Swatos (ed.)While the above is referring to Émile Durkheim's theory of religion, I think it has appropriate application to the Irishforaday as 'divisions among individuals' dissipate, if only for 24 hours, to 'forge a collective identity' that transcends the 'dispersion' of people. How else to explain that St. Patrick's Day is celebrated with similar activities in such disparate locales, from Oslo, Norway to Buenos Aires, Argentina to Tokyo, Japan? Perhaps it is because we recognize, on some primal level, that beneath our individual national, cultural or ethnic identities, we all love a rip-roaring good time.
Although there are no widespread festivities on St. Patrick's Day in the Philippines, I have always enjoyed participating in this holiday - so much so that last year, I proclaimed my affinity with the people of Eire and listed the various ways in which our island nations were nearly identical. A huge part of that rapport has been my friendship with Daily Spud.
We started our blogs around the same time and I had just signed up on Foodbuzz when I spotted among the list of new members that singular anthropomorphic tuber that many have come to know and love so well. Though we have yet to meet in person, it's certain that Spud and I would get along as famously face-to-face as we do blog-to-blog. In the aforementioned post from last year, I noted that "the preponderance of potatoes in Ireland is matched only by the copiousness of coconuts in the Philippines", so what better way to celebrate both St. Patrick's Day and a dear friendship than with a little sweet something incorporating both the 'tater and the coconut?
I do believe it was Spud who first sent me a link to Irish Potato Candy, a confection unique to the Philadelphia area and most popular (naturally) during St. Patrick's Day. Shaped to look like miniature tubers, they are made with coconut, confectioner's sugar and milk or cream; alas, there is not a speck of spud in them. To find this magic combination, I had to range a bit further into the New England states, where I came across Rhode Island Potato Coconut Candy and Maine Needhams, two similar sweets that are reminiscent of Hershey's Mounds candy bar. More importantly, their recipes incorporate both potatoes and coconut!
Although there are quite a few recipes for potato-coconut candies, I finally settled on this one from a lovely blog called The Cookie Shop. Except for adding some Merry's Irish Cream liqueur, I followed the recipe closely and instead exercised my imagination with its presentation, borrowing from the whimsical Oh Ryan's Irish Potatoes of Philadelphia to make Coconut Faux-tatoes, as well as the more traditional chocolate-enrobed Coconut-Tater Truffles.
To my friend The Daily Spud: this spud's for you!
Spud-shaped sweet? Priceless.
Click here for the complete recipe at The Cookie Shop!
Making these candies couldn't have been more easy, although it was a little too easy to pinch a piece here and take a taste there - the yield was therefore a wee bit smaller than it might've been. I also wanted to add some zing by splashing the mixture with Irish whiskey, but we were all out (Mr. Noodle has been duly chastised for letting the Jameson's run dry). Thankfully, a bottle of Merry's Irish Cream liqueur chilling in the 'fridge contributed the additional spirit.
Yields 30 pieces (more, if you can keep from nibbling throughout the process)
Cold plain mashed potatoes
Confectioner's (powdered) sugar, divided
2-3 Tablespoons Irish Cream liqueur
To make: Combine mashed potatoes with a 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar and whisk well. As the potato and sugar mix, a very cool thing happens: it liquefies! Add liqueur, mix well, then add remaining sugar 1/2 cup at a time until a soft, dough-like consistency is achieved. Add flaked coconut, half amount at a time, and mix to combine well in the 'dough'.
*Note: The original recipe called for unsweetened coconut and for good reason - this candy is S-W-E-E-T! I only had sweetened flaked coconut but next time, I will definitely go with the recommendation or even use freshly grated coconut.
Spoon cocoa powder (mix with a bit of superfine/caster sugar for a lighter hue) in a small bowl. Pinch a grape-sized piece of candy mixture and roll between your palms, shaping into a potato-esque form. Lightly roll candy in the cocoa powder, brushing off excess. Repeat.
Best served immediately (that's not so hard, is it?) but may be stored in an airtight container.
Potato-coconut candy mix
3.5 oz dark chocolate (I used 72% cacao)
A bi-cultural confection!
Prepare the above candy mixture, roll out small ball-shaped pieces and place on a waxpaper-lined tray or plate. Refrigerate for a few minutes while you temper the chocolate:
2. Microwave for another 20 seconds, then stir chocolate again. Repeat 20-second heating, stirring after each, until only a few solid pieces remain. Remove from the microwave and stir well until the remaining chocolate fully melts.
Remove potato-coconut candies from the refrigerator and one by one, dip into tempered chocolate, working quickly as the chocolate may begin to harden. Place dipped candies back on waxpaper-lined tray and chill until chocolate shell is firm.
Store in an airtight container and keep chilled until ready to serve.
Happy St. Patrick's Day
And please check back for more exciting news about the Eating Your Words 2010 Challenge.
Please join in the fun for a chance to win an Aunt Else's Aebleskiver pan!