When I was little, we had our annual holiday pilgrimage to visit my grandparents. It was part of my Christmas tradition, and I remember running to the back of the garage (which had been converted to a kind of den) to where my grandfather kept the Christmas candy. Without fail, there would be two large tins: one had peanut butter balls and the other had the coconut balls. My brother liked the peanut butter balls, I liked the coconut.

My family has an english toffee recipe we traditionally make during the holidays and, while in law school, I deemed myself of age to start making my own batches and have been making it every year since. However, a few years ago I got a craving for my grandfather’s christmas candy as well. I inquired with the family as to whether we had the recipe and, yes, it turns out we did. And in true “recipe from my grandparent” fashion, it’s completely vague and jumbles together the ingredients for the peanut butter and coconut balls. Well, I’ve had several years now to get the recipe sorted out and I’ve adapted it into my own, which I think Dada would have liked. So each year I put up my Christmas tree after Thanksgiving and commence with the candy making ritual. It’s a rewarding tradition (and makes a great gift). However, while the candy is absolutely delicious, the best part for me is getting to feel a little like I’m with my grandfather for Christmas again.

coconut balls (1 of 10)

Ingredients:

3 14 oz bags of sweetened coconut
1 1/2 lbs powdered sugar
2 cans condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 sticks butter, very soft (2 C)
1/2 tsp salt
1 – 2 C pecans, ground
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 bag bittersweet chocolate chips
1 brick of wax

 

coconut balls (2 of 10)

 

In a very large bowl, mix together the coconut, sugar, condensed milk, vanilla, butter, pecans and salt. Cover the bowl and chill until the mass has firmed up. I mixed it up one evening and then left it in the fridge for about 24 hours.

 

coconut balls (3 of 10)

 

 Once the filling has chilled, start rolling it into balls. Place them on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and move into the freezer. If a cookie sheet won’t fit, try using a plastic cutting board. Also, this recipe makes a whole lot of candy, you can rotate trays from the fridge to the freezer as you dip the candy later on. It is important to have these very cold, because they will be much harder to work with if they warm up.

 

coconut balls (4 of 10)

 

While the balls are chilling again, melt the chocolate and wax in a double boiler. I know, the wax sounds gross, but it’s basically a way of the slacker way of circumventing the need to temper the chocolate. It’s how my grandpa did it and I’m sticking to it.

coconut balls (5 of 10)

 

 

Melt the chocolate and wax, stirring occasionally, until it is completely smooth. At this point you can remove the pot from the stove, if you’d like, but I prefer to work with the pot over low heat to keep the chocolate nice and liquid-ey.

 

coconut balls (7 of 10)

 

 

Now it is time to set up for dipping. Line more cookie sheets, or whatever surface you want to use, with parchment paper. Acquire some tooth picks or bamboo sticks for impaling the filling balls and dunking them in chocolate. Take out the first sheet of filling balls (or take a few balls out at a time) and commence with the impaling and dipping.

 

 

coconut balls (10 of 10)

 

 

quick note – now that the coconut is nice and cold, it makes the candy a lot prettier if you give the ball another roll in your hands to smooth out the surface. In the picture to the left, you can see the difference in texture between balls that have been re-rolled and those that haven’t.

 

coconut balls (9 of 10)

 

 

So anyway, skewer the filling and dip in chocolate. I like to let the excess chocolate drain off of the dipped candy for a moment before transferring each piece to the waiting cookie tray or whatever you chose to use for receiving the candy.

Let the candy cool completely et voila! Delicious Christmas coconut balls, or, as my friend, Liz calls them: confection perfection.

 

 

 

Coconut Balls or, My Grandfather's Christmas Candy, Part I
 
Recipe By:
Ingredients
  • 3 14 oz bags of sweetened coconut
  • 1½ lbs powdered sugar
  • 2 cans condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 sticks butter, softened (2 C)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 - 2 C pecans, ground
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ bag bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 brick of wax
Instructions
  1. In a very large bowl, mix together the coconut, sugar, condensed milk, vanilla, butter and salt.
  2. Cover the bowl and chill until the mass has firmed up. This could be anywhere from 1 - 24 hours.
  3. Once the filling has chilled, start rolling it into balls. Place them on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and move into the freezer. If a cookie sheet won't fit, try using a plastic cutting board. It is important to have these very cold, because they will be much harder to work with if they warm up.
  4. While the balls are chilling again, melt the chocolate and wax in a double boiler. I know, the wax sounds gross, but it's basically a way of the slacker way of circumventing the need to temper the chocolate. It's how my grandpa did it and I'm sticking to it.
  5. Melt the chocolate and wax, stirring occasionally, until it is completely smooth. At this point you can remove the pot from the stove or to work with the pot over low heat to keep the chocolate nice and liquid.
  6. Now it is time to set up for dipping. Line more cookie sheets, or whatever surface you want to use, with parchment paper. Acquire some tooth picks or bamboo skewers. Take out the first sheet of filling balls (or take a few balls out at a time) and give each of them a quick roll to smooth out the surface.
  7. Stab each ball with your toothpick or skewer and dip the candy in the chocolate.
  8. Let the excess chocolate drip off for a moment and then transfer the piece to the waiting cookie tray or whatever you chose to use for receiving the candy. Gently remove the skewer from the candy and then let the candy cool completely.
 

 

One last note – I fell asleep while writing this post. When I woke up and read it over, I found that it contained the following sentence: “If you lose a pic (man down!), beware, candy thieves will come.” I felt that needed to remain part of the post.