sweets for the sweet: grandmother’s potato candy

My grandmother, Alice, moved in with my parents close to two years ago now. She had recently been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and it just made sense for her to move in with family while she underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She had been living alone in a small town nearby, in the same little house she and my grandfather lived in before he died in 2004. She liked her independence – and still does – so moving in with her daughter and son-in-law was a big adjustment for her.

Over the months that passed, the move proved to be a good thing for all three of them. My dad and my grandmother seemed to bond in a way they never had before, actually learning to like – and actually love – each other. My mother adjusted to her mother’s quirks, or at least found ways to cope with them. And my grandmother got used to having her own space within theirs, relying on my parents for many things, but still asserting her independence in her trademark fashion.

Since the end of January, when my father had his first of several health crises, my grandmother’s presence in my parents’ home has become increasingly important to my mother. For a long time, Mom has considered herself my grandmother’s caregiver, and she very much is. But this year, the roles reversed in an unexpected and surprising way. My grandmother has become an emotional caregiver – a steady and reliable friend, a confidant, and often a happy distraction – for my mom. This has been a very hard year for Mom – for all of us, truthfully – but knowing that Grandmother is there for her is more comforting to me than I can put into words.

Over the past few months, my grandmother decided she would be a permanent resident in my mom’s home. Of course, we assumed this, but it needed to be her decision. When my mom and her two sisters and brother cleaned out Grandmother’s little house recently, I inherited a box filled with Grandmother’s old cookbooks and recipe collections.

So, basically, I inherited a box full of treasure.

This recipe for Potato Candy was one of the yellowed scraps of paper I found shoved into a recipe binder in that cardboard box. The recipe was scrawled in blue ink in my grandmother’s slanted cursive, with brown stains at the corners – really, just how you’d want an old family recipe to appear.

I altered the recipe just a tad, decreasing some of the amounts just enough to feel good about the finished product but not so much that it did not feel like the original. The mashed potato in the recipe is really just a binder for the butter and confectioners sugar, so you don’t have to worry about tasting potato in the finished product. With its sweet vanilla-flavored creaminess paired with a swirl of peanut butter in the center, the recipe marries sweet and salty together in an addictive manner.

I  made a batch for Thanksgiving, and I have been a hero in my kids’ eyes ever since.

Maybe just as much of a hero to them as my grandmother is to me, even.

Yield: plenty

Old-Fashioned Potato Candy

This old fashioned candy is incredibly easy to make - and quite addictive. Use leftover mashed potatoes to make your life easier. It's messy, but I recommend mixing the dough with your hands rather than a spoon. It's quicker, easier, and much more fun.

Ingredients:

1 cup mashed potatoes, room temperature or cold
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 pounds confectioners sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, divided

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, stir together mashed potatoes, butter, and vanilla. Add confectioners sugar, one pound at a time, and stir together well. The dough will be very wet, but it will come together into a more firm dough after you incorporate the last pound of confectioners sugar. Once the dough is thoroughly mixed, divide it into two halves.

On a sheet of wax paper, and using your hands, flatten out one of the halves of dough into a rectangle. Cover the dough with a second sheet of wax paper and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is roughly 13-14 inches long and 10 inches wide. Lift the wax paper and dough carefully, place on a baking sheet, and chill for about 5-10 minutes only. Remove from refrigerator and spread 1/4 cup peanut butter evenly onto the dough. From the long side, carefully roll into a log and wrap well in wax paper. Repeat with other half of dough. Chill the logs for at least 2 hours before slicing. Once chilled, slice into 1/2-inch pieces and serve.

Make ahead: Store prepared potato candy, layered between sheets of wax paper, in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.

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5 Responses to “a november state of mind”

  1. Paula — November 10, 2014 @ 8:43 am

    Your pie is beautiful and it’s the first time I’ve seen a recipe for pecan pie that has molasses in it. I’ll have to try this sometime. We haven’t wore sandals or flip flops here for weeks and I’m a little envious that the kids not only have a backyard pool but are still swimming in it at this time of year. I’m sure the birds and the squirrels will return soon, especially that there is plenty of food waiting for them. Perhaps it’s the joyful noise coming from the kids that are keeping them away a little bit longer 🙂

  2. Mallory @forkvsspoon — November 10, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

    A pecan pie without loads of corn syrup…how darn refreshing! Kuddos to Cook’s Country…and bask in the ability to still be wearing flip-flops, however I crave layers and boots and jeans come September. Not sure I would last in a Florida climate. Hoping your birds return soon and those pesky squirrels will return in no time…especially since you filled your bird feeders!

  3. Mimi — November 10, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

    I love the addition of the orange zest. Great recipe and beautiful photo!

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  5. Sonya — December 29, 2015 @ 2:24 pm

    I just made this pie today – I didn’t use the orange zest as I was working from the original Cook’s Country recipe – and I was curious how other’s liked it. I didn’t care much for the molasses – not that it was awful, but I definitely wouldn’t make it again.

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