Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Striving for Imperfection- Mom's Potato Candy

In writing and cooking we have, at some point, learned that it's okay to fail. No one likes the word failure but it's an important one, because you cannot have success where there wasn't first failure.  Letting go of the fear of failure I think is one of those rare gifts we have as writers and cooks.  We are willing to go out there on a limb, try something new (or we'd all be reading See Jane Run, and eating Ramen noodle), and create.  

We have to let go of that fear or we create nothing. We have to be willing to create something less than perfect simply for the skills we'll acquire during the process.

This is where my mom's potato candy recipe comes in.

My mom makes this candy with potato, powdered sugar and peanut butter that is so simple and so good that I simply force myself to make it even though I KNOW I'm going to fail miserably.  I mean making this stuff takes a finesse that I have yet to find.  My mom however, can make this stuff in her sleep.   

Perfection can come with practice. Lots of it.

And so I give you my mother's potato candy recipe.  You'll probably fail at making a brilliant jelly-roll and the dough may be dry and crumble on you.  But I guarantee that even in its failure you'll nibble on this and find success.

1 1lb. box confectioner's sugar (you're going to need the entire box... *giggle* it's candy after all)

A 1-2 Tablespoon cube of boiled potato, skinned (when making mashed, I spare one or 2 cubes prior to mashing just for this!)

2-4 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter, I use Jiff, my mom swears by natural peanut butter that tends to be drier and has more peanut flavor, it's your call

In a large bowl take a small cube of  potato and mash it with a fork. Add 1/4 cup of powdered sugar.  A  very cool chemical reaction will happen where the sugar breaks up the starch in the potato, liquefying it.  This never ceases to amaze me.  And now you'll need more powdered sugar.  The goal is to create a soft dough.  Don't add the other potato cube unless the first was so dry or small that the magic didn't happen with the sugar.  

Continue to add sugar until a soft dough forms.  I've learned to leave it a bit sticky because when you roll it out, you'll be adding additional sugar to keep it from sticking to the board.
When you think you've got a nice dough (feel free to taste test it) roll it out on a well powdered board, as if you were making a pie crust.  Be liberal with the sugar (use it like flour) and use a spatula to keep the bottom from sticking.

Next spread the peanut butter.  A nice thin layer here is good.  Too much and your layers will slide around when you roll it.  But really do as you's going to taste good regardless.
Now using the spatula to bring up the end, roll the candy like a jelly roll. This is where you really learn if the dough was too dry... if it breaks just make one layer on top of the next.   If you're lucky and it's rolling, keep going.  Roll to the end.  

Cut the roll into 1/4" pieces.  And lay out on wax paper and place in a sealed container (if you don't eat it all in one sitting, that is). 

Enjoy.  Even if this project fails, it will still leave a sweet taste in your mouth!


  1. I have never seen a recipe like this! Looking forward to trying it...and the chemical reaction. :)

  2. I have always been a sucker for powdered sugar and peanut butter, so this is my go-to sweet treat that's not chocolate. :) Hillary, let me know if you try it out!

  3. Confectioner's sugar and potatoes...really? I'm gonna have to check this out.

    Loved what you said about getting past the fear of failure!

  4. You know...*think think* ... I bet you could *add* chocolate. Or maybe use Nutella instead of peanut butter.

    Cool recipe. I shall try it the right way, first.

    (I am a writer. I also make my own pie crusts. My fear of failure was squashed years ago.)