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)
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.