Monday, December 24, 2012

Homemade Needhams: A Maine Christmas Treat

Okay, my lovelies, this is going to be quick because, like many of you, I am rushing this morning to finish a million and one last-minute tasks, but I really, really wanted to get that Needham recipe out to you.

We made a double batch, but I'll give you the single recipe.  Just know that it doubles beautifully, if you want to make loads of them for, say, your New Years party.  Needhams are a Maine tradition at Christmas, and there are lots of recipes for them out there, most of them including paraffin wax to help the chocolate harden and give it a bit of sheen.  I don't like putting wax in chocolate, so my recipe has a bit of shortening instead.  They set beautifully, and I usually store them in the fridge in plastic.  I love them either cold or at room temperature.

You see that little bump on the top of each one?  That's a roasted, salted almond.  Traditional Needhams don't have them, but I love to gild the lily.  If you love Almond Joys, make these, and you will never settle for a store bought one again!

The Maine Magpie's Needhams 
  • 1 1-pound box of confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain smooth mashed potato (I use a russet.  I peel the potato, boil it, then throw it in the food processor and whip it until it's basically a smooth paste.  This is how you'll want it for the recipe.)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 14-ounce bag shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 1- 1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces (I use a little over over a pound.)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • About 30-40 almonds (depending on how big you make your squares)
Pour the confectioner's sugar into a large heatproof bowl.  Make a well in the middle, then add the potato, butter, vanilla, and salt.

Place bowl over a pot of barely simmering water.  Stir from the center of the well, gradually incorporating the sugar.  After a few minutes, you'll end up with a thick, smooth paste.  

Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut.  Taste.  Yum.

At this point some folks spread the mixture on a jellyroll pan and freeze it.  Once chilled for about 20 minutes, they cut it into 1" squares to dip in the chocolate.  Others freeze it right in the bowl and then form each square individually by hand.  The choice is yours.  I molded each one by hand because I wanted them to have a very homemade look.  If you do it this way, it's important to freeze them one more time after shaping them and before dipping them.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.  I do 30-second intervals, stirring between each one.  Be careful not to scorch the precious chocolate!

Once the chocolate is smooth and melty, stir in the shortening.  Be sure to incorporate it completely.

Now you're ready to dip!  I use a fork to dip each square in the chocolate, but first I press a roasted, salted almond into the top of each square.  I can't stress enough how much this extra little touch adds to the Needhams. 

Let the candies cool and harden at room temperature on parchment covered cookie sheets for at least an hour.


I so hope you'll  enjoy these traditional Maine treats, my friends.  Sending you and yours all best wishes for a very Merry Christmas.  May you spend it just the way you wish, and may you discover moments of peace amidst the rush of the season.  

xo Gigi

10 comments:

  1. Have a wonderful Christmas, dearest Gigi! xxoo

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  2. Very interesting. Sounds yummy. Never heard of them. Will have to try sometime. For now, I am cookie and candied out! I don't know if I would have the patience to make one more thing. Then again, I'd surely eat them if someone else made them! ;)

    Happy Holidays

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  4. Mmm, they look good. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas, thank you for all your support this year. Joyeux Noël xo

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  5. Ooooo! They look delicious. My mouth is watering a little. :) Merry Christmas to you, and thank you for posting this recipe!

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  6. I love almond joys! This might be dangerous Gigi but thank you for sharing your special treat. Wishing you a most wonderful holiday and all the very best in 2013. Much love xx

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  7. Thanks for the recipe. I have not heard of these, but certainly sounds yummy! Merry Christmas to you. Have a very special day tomorrow.

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  8. We had something a bit like this in the South that all the aunts made ... had the sugar & potato the same but was patted out flat and spread with peanut butter then rolled and cut in little pin wheels. Does that make sense, does it sound weird? cause it was really good and very sweet.
    I've never seen another recipe that had those same things together! Thanks for sharing yours.

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  9. Yummy! And thank you for sharing the recipe, Gigi! I made some white chocolate truffles for a family party just now--my first big try melting chocolate and fuss with it at correct temperatures. It was OK...LOL! Hope you are having a sweet holiday with family & friends. It's been a LOT of feasting here. After much festivity and making ready, it's relax time now... aaahh... Happy Holly-Days, my friend ((HUGS))

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  10. thanks for share.

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