It is difficult to find written documentation or early cookbooks on the history
of potato candy. Most people that remember this candy as a child recall
the recipe being passed down from Grandparents and Great Grandparents of German
or Irish descent. Many believe the recipe to be introduced by the
Pennsylvania Dutch. A common frugal German practice was to find delicious
food uses for leftover potatoes. Since potatoes were introduced to the new
world from European immigrants coming from the northern regions such as Germany,
France, Ireland, Russia or Scandinavia, it makes sense the potato candy
originated in European countries where potatoes were a popular food staple.
The most popular recipe version is a rolled candy with a sweet filling in the
center where other versions cut the candy into small squares or rolled them into
balls. Different fillings that were used range from chopped nuts, candied
cherries, coconut or chocolate. Sometimes coloring is added to the potato
dough for festive holiday colors.
It was during the depression era in the United States that potato candy grew in
popularity where cooks had to learn to be resourceful with less expensive
ingredients. The addition of peanut butter filling is definitely an
American tradition introduced during this time. “All the ingredients were
easy and cheap to come by even during the dust bowl, which left most other crops
devastated. Peanuts and potatoes tolerate and even replenish harsher
soils' nutrients and powdered sugar is cheaper than pure sugar. it was the ideal
sweet for a bitter set of years.”
Source: Reader comment added to page of Ethnic Scrapbooking - What's the Potato
Candy's Ethnic Origin.
The Candy Cook Book, by Alice Bradley, Little, Brown, and Company: Boston,
1929 (p. 29-30):
Potato Cocoanut Candy.
1 medium sized potato
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 cups shredded cocanut
1 teaspoon vanilla
Boil or bake potato until well done, and force through a coarse
sieve or a potato ricer. There should be half a cup of
potato. To this add sugar, cocoanut, and vanilla, working
together until well mixed. Press one inch thick into small
bread pan, and spread top with a thin layer of melted bitter
chocolate or sweet chocolate. When chocolate is firm, cut
in small squares. This can be varied by using nuts or
fruits instead of cocoanut."
1958 - The New Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Book,
by Ruth Hutchison, recipe contributed by Mrs. Elwood Shaub, 1958
1 baked potato Confectioners' sugar Vanilla
Melted chocolate. As soon as the potato is baked, warm a
mixing bowl and scoop the potato from its skin. Mash and
add confectioners' sugar, stirring and adding until mixture can
be kneaded with the hands. Knead well, keeping warm, add vanilla
and form into small balls. Dip quickly into melted
chocolate kept warm over hot water and drop on waxed paper.
Or shape like Easter eggs and dip. Potato balls can be
flattened and topped with English walnut halves, the mixture can
be used to stuff dates, which are then rolled in sugar, or it
can be rolled out like dough, spread with peanut butter, rolled
up and sliced, then dipped in coconut.
Mashed Potato Candy Recipe:
Yields: serves many
Prep time: 20 min
1 medium baking
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, maple flavoring, or almond extract
2 pounds powdered (confectioners)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
* Learn how to make
Perfect Mashed Potatoes. You can also use instant mashed potatoes to make this candy.
** Potatoes are different sizes. If you end
up with more potato, you will need more confectioner's sugar.
Bake or microwave the potato until a fork pierces it easily.
While the potato is still warm, scoop out the contents of the potato and mash well.
Mix in vanilla extract, maple flavoring, or almond extract, and powdered sugar into the mashed potato mixture until
you have a stiff, workable dough. As the remaining sugar is added, the mixture will become very stiff and difficult to