On Monday I had the pleasure of being a judge at the 6th annual K&L Gates Cook-Off/ Bake-Off. This was a friendly, in-house cooking competition organized by the Diversity Committee at K&L with four categories for the dishes: appetizers, entrées, desserts, and a kid’s category. There were a lot of friendly rivalries, competition, ribbing, cheers, and applause. They had a witty MC who kept it lively. Prizes were awarded to the top three winners in each category. The Chocolate Coconut Bon Bons made by Margie Dorr, above, won second place in the dessert category.
The Chocolate Coconut Bon Bons were delicious and quite deserving of their award. However, it wasn’t just their flavor and appearance that resonated with me. My middle name is Spangler. My grandfather, along with two of his brothers, founded Spangler Candy Co. The first candy that they produced and sold were chocolate covered, hand-dipped coconut balls called Cocoanut Balls. The name of the candy was derived from the ingredients: cocoa (chocolate) and coconut.
I have never had the opportunity to taste a Spangler Cocoanut Ball. The company was founded in 1906 and had long since stopped producing Cocoanut Balls by the time I came along. So it was with a certain longing and nostalgia that I enjoyed the Chocolate Coconut Bon Bons. I never knew my grandfather. As I tasted Margie’s Bon Bons, I thought of my grandmother, Helen, and wondered how she would have judged their consistency and taste. The family folklore describes how my grandmother would test potential candy recipes for the company on her home stove. I like to think she would say the Bon Bons took her back to the early days when she and my grandfather were young, committed, and excited to found the family business, and that she, too, would rate them winners.
Margie was kind enough to share the recipe for her Chocolate Coconut Bon Bons with me. I haven’t tested it but trust it will work very well. Margie told me that she used to make them when her daughter was young, another family tradition associated with the candies. I hope you take the recipe and make it part of your family’s traditions as well. I think these candies, though good at any time of year, would be a perfect holiday treat.
Margie’s candies have an unusual ingredient: mashed potatoes. The resulting candy is both gluten- and dairy-free.
Margie’s Chocolate Coconut Bon Bons
- 14 ounces flaked, sweetened coconut
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2/3 to 3/4 cup mashed potatoes, best made from fresh potatoes, chilled*
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate for dipping
In a large bowl, combine the coconut, powdered sugar, mashed potatoes, and almond extract. The mixture will immediately become wet and sticky. Place the mixture in the freezer until it is firm enough to handle. When it is well chilled and firm enough to hold a shape, roll the mixture into small balls. Place the balls on a cookie sheet or a couple plates and put them into the refrigerator to chill thoroughly.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Remove the chilled coconut balls from the freezer in small batches so that they don’t get warm and soft. Using two small forks (Margie uses cocktail forks), roll the balls in the chocolate. Take care to cover the coconut balls completely with the chocolate. If there is a spot on the balls that is not covered and, therefore, sealed with the chocolate, the softened center will ooze out of the candy when it arrives at room temperature.
*Margie salts the water when she cooks her potatoes for mashed potatoes. If you do not, I would add a pinch of salt to the coconut filling.