Saturday, December 18, 2010

Martha Washingtons

This is one of my favorite Christmas candies, and unlike fudge and divinity, anybody can do it. You don't have to wait 'till it stops raining, and there's no mystic mumbo-jumbo of letting it set up and harden. Basically, it's just a chocolate-covered fondant, but oh, what a fondant it is.

When I was little, I didn't like these very much. They seemed really labor intensive, and the dark chocolate just wasn't my thing. But the other day I decided that nothing would do until I'd made a batch. I forgot that one recipe makes a TON of these babies. I made them twice as big as they're supposed to be and still ended up with over 125. But I turned on some Christmas music, started grooving on down, and had a great time making a mess in the kitchen.

The recipe from which I worked comes from More Saintly Servings from the First United Methodist Church in Canton, Mississippi, where Cha-Cha and Papa Doc were members. It's one of those old recipes from the 1950s with vague descriptions like "1 can Eagle Brand milk," "3 boxes confectioners' sugar," and "1 can coconut." I hate those recipes. Who knows how big cans of coconut were 50 years ago?!? Give me exact measurements, dammit!

So I'll leave it at this: these measurements are give and take, as long as your fondant center is a consistency so you can pick it up and roll it in a ball between your hands and it will hold its shape. Usually I do this with very clean bare hands, but the pregnancy hormones have made me such a hot mama that I had to wear latex gloves so as not to melt the mixture. I love latex gloves in the kitchen; they're just kind of a luxury, so I don't use them often.

2 Tablespoons vanilla
3-4 boxes (pounds) confectioners' sugar, to the correct consistency. I used about 4 pounds just to make the mixture stiff enough to roll.
2 sticks melted butter
1 14 ounce can Eagle brand condensed milk
1 can coconut (I just used about 10 ounces flake from a bag, but you can certainly add more to taste)
2 cups chopped nuts

12-24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, depending on whether or not you want to double-dip
1-2 ounces paraffin wax (you can usually find this in the canning or baking aisle)
Toothpicks. Lots and lots of toothpicks.
  • Mix fondant ingredients well and roll into balls.
  • Place balls on waxed paper and refrigerate as you go. Once you're done with the last tray, the first tray that you put into the fridge should be cold enough to hold their shape during dipping.
  • Using a double-boiler, melt chocolate and paraffin wax, mixing together well.
  • Stick a toothpick into each ball on the tray and use this as a handle to dip the chocolate.
  • Once you're done dipping all of the balls on that tray, remove the toothpicks. You can re-use them if you like - just keep a small glass nearby to catch them.
  • Using a teaspoon, scoop up a little chocolate and use that as a finishing topper to fill the toothpick holes. When I was young, Mom and I used to try to fill them up perfectly so all the balls were neat little spheres. But now that I'm older and more creative, I an reveling in letting the chocolate luxuriously drip down the sides. Then while it's still wet, you can add fun stuff, like nonpareils.
I feel like a Godiva chocolatier. What I wouldn't give for some edible gold leaf right about now.

When you're done, just keep them in the fridge until you're ready to consume. Mmmm. There's something about the crunch of the outer chocolate shell and the soft coconutty goodness inside that tells me Merry Christmas!

Mike asked me why they're called Martha Washingtons, and I had to tell him the same story that my mom told me: I have no idea.



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