Needhams are a chocolate potato candy that originated in the state of Maine. Read on below to learn more about this delicious sweet treat!
My favorite recipes here on A Family Feast are the ones that come with a history – and today’s Needhams recipe has a very interesting story behind them!
Needhams are also known as Maine potato candy – a sweet, chocolate-coated confection with a filling made from mashed potatoes, confectioner’s sugar, and shredded coconut.
This candy dates back to approximately 1872 and it was named after George C. Needham, a popular preacher from Maine. But the candy itself was developed by a cook who worked for a candy-maker named Seavy – and he ingeniously came up with the idea of developing a candy using Maine potatoes. (Maine was once the largest harvester of potatoes in the United States.)
More than a century later, Mainers still love their Needhams – and many of them will find some Needhams in their Christmas stocking next week! I think Needhams taste very much like a soft, sort of copycat Mounds candy bar. You’d never guess that there are mashed potatoes in the soft, perfectly-sweet filling.
You really should give this Needhams recipe a try! For even more history about Needhams – Maine’s famous potato candy – be sure to read this article from the New England Historical Society.
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2 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup fresh potato cooked and mashed (I used Russet)
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 8-ounce bars 60% cocoa bitter sweet chocolate
2 8-ounce bars semi-sweet chocolate
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable shortening
In a medium to large bowl, place confectioner’s sugar.
If the mashed potato is not hot, heat it in the microwave in a small bowl and once hot, stir in the butter.
Add the heated potato mixture to the sugar along with vanilla and salt and whisk to combine until creamy with no lumps.
Add coconut and stir to combine.
Spray an 8×8-inch pan with pan spray. Fold a piece of parchment in half the long way and press onto the bottom letting the parchment hang out both sides as handles.
Spread the batter in and smooth the top. Freeze for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, remove with parchment handles to a cutting board and cut 6×6 which will yield 36 pieces.
Place back in the pan and back into the freezer for 30 minutes.
About ten minutes before the mixture in the freezer is ready, place a medium sauce pan filled half way with water on to boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and place a bowl larger than the pan opening over the top and add the chocolate and shortening.
Stir with a spoon or fork until the chocolate has completely melted and smooth. Remove from the pan.
Remove candy from the freezer and layout wax paper or a silicone mat over a sheet tray or cookie sheet.
Use a fork and one at a time, lift a square and dip into the chocolate and cover completely. Let drip and then place on the prepared pan.
Repeat for all 36, reheating chocolate if needed. (*See tip below.)
Let chill for an hour and enjoy. Must be kept refrigerated.
Helpful Tip: As you dip the pieces, you’ll want to try to avoid getting coconut pieces in the chocolate so that the outer shell is smooth as it hardens. If necessary, pass the melted chocolate through a strainer to remove the coconut pieces as you go.
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