Potato Candy Puts A Sweet Spin On Leftover Mashed Potatoes

Candy is probably the last thing you think of when you need to use up leftover mashed potatoes. The idea may seem more plausible with mashed sweet potatoes, but a regular mash is meant to be savory, isn't it? Potato candy says "no way." While it's not as popular today, those familiar with this old-fashioned sweet have fond memories of it, and can tell you it's a worthy use of those leftover spuds. 

Potato candy uses a "dough" of mashed potatoes, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract, spread with peanut butter and then rolled up and sliced into pinwheels. The texture is often compared to fudge. The candy's simplicity and affordability made it popular in the southern U.S. during the Great Depression. With potato candy, struggling American folks could still enjoy a sweet treat, even with limited resources. However, the candy actually got its start in Germany, and subsequently spread to other European countries like Russia and Scotland. 

While potato candy eventually spread Ireland, it's different from a fudge-like confection called Irish potato candy. Thoee sweets look somewhat like small potatoes, but don't include the tubers in the ingredients (nor do they hail from Ireland). Both candies, though, are easy to make, and the German potato candy that captured hearts around the world is a snap to try at home.

Tips to keep in mind for making potato candy

The step-by-step process of making potato candy is exceedingly simple, and results in a generous batch of humble, charming peanut butter-forward treats. There's no need to use a candy thermometer or start up the stove. Still, there are a couple factors to keep in mind for success, the most important being the mashed potatoes you use.

Firstly, use firm mashed potatoes for these candies. A thick and creamy mash works better than one that's more like a potato puree. Watery taters — especially the instant kind — won't form a workable dough. Secondly, avoid leftovers that have been seasoned with herbs, garlic, sour cream, or anything else that will clash with the sugar and peanut butter. There are lots of delicious and savory additions that can change up your mashed potatoes, but potato candy isn't the time and place for them. If your mash has bacon bits or cheese in it, you're out of luck.

Whether you're using leftovers or making a fresh mash, the potatoes need to be at room temperature before you make the candy, as this will allow the spids to absorb the powdered sugar properly. After forming the dough, refrigerate it to make it easier to roll out and help it keep its shape. Once the candy is made, store it in the fridge or freezer to prevent it from drying out and getting hard.

Ideas for customizing and enjoying potato candy

Not a fan of peanut butter? That's an easy fix — the "dough" part of potato candy is so simple that it can pair well with countless fillings. Anything sweet and spreadable will work. Chocolate, coconut, and peppermint flavorings were added to the candy in its heyday of the 1930s. Jam, Nutella, flavored cream cheese, and frosting are all great ideas, and pinch of cinnamon in the filling (or a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top) would also be delicious.

To get even more creative, dip the classic pinwheels in tempered chocolate for a peanut butter cup-inspired delicacy. You can even mix food coloring into the mashed potato dough for a little festive cheer, as these treats were traditionally served during the holiday season. To this day, potato candy is still an easy, cheap pick-me-up when you want a homemade sugary snack without the fuss. It's more filling and contains more nutrients than run-off-the-mill confections, to boot. And with its historical significance, making a batch with kids can be a fun history lesson about the Depression era. 

Of course, just having some basic mashed potatoes left over is reason enough to give potato candy a try. Unlike eating the mash plain for the third day in the row, these candies are unlikely bore you. And who knows — they might become a new favorite.

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