Sunday, March 16, 2014

Vegan Irish Potatoes

Ever since developing an allergy to milkfat, I've tried to make Irish Potatoes around St. Patty's Day and failed several times. You see, they're pretty much solid butter. And they're delicious.

In case you have no idea what an Irish Potato is, it's a cinnamon-coconut St. Patrick's Day treat that looks like a potato but doesn't contain any. Though they didn't originate in Ireland, they are Irish in the Irish-American sense. In highly Irish neighborhoods in the greater Philadelphia area, every bakery and candy shop carries their own version leading up to March 17th - the grocery store even carries them. The boardwalks of the Jersey Shore carry them all summer because it's always St. Patty's Day down the shore!

I first learned to make Irish Potatoes in 2nd grade. We had a substitute teacher, and we made Irish Potatoes and a green goo science experiment with corn starch and water (I think it has a name - it's both a solid and a liquid at the same time). That teacher later landed a permanent position, but she's always been the Irish Potato lady to me. My grandmother also made them when we were younger, and I picked up the tradition during college.

In the past several years, I've tried using margarine and a mixture of margarine and fat-free cream cheese, but they always ended up too soft and didn't taste exactly right. To compensate for the texture, I would add additional sugar, and then they'd be sickeningly sweet. Enter coconut oil. I LOVE coconut oil, both in the kitchen and out. I can be a little picky about using coconut oil because I don't like the subtle coconut flavor in all combinations, but for something which a strong coconut flavor it's perfect. 

This year, my grandmother actually had two boxes sent to me. I commented that I wouldn't be able to eat them because I'm allergic to milkfat, and she replied that they didn't have any, only sugar, coconut, butter.... Ummmmmm, yeah. What's butter? I was actually glad that when they arrived they were just the grocery store kind and not some fancy variety from a candy shop in the city!
Grocery store-brand Irish Potatoes my grandmother had sent. I'm allergic to them (butter), but it's no big loss, this brand doesn't really compare to the fancy candy shop varieties.
So without further ado, I hope you enjoy my milkless (and therefore vegan) Irish Potatoes!

Recipe (makes 25-30):
1/3 c. Coconut flakes
1/3 c. Confectioner's sugar
1/3 c. Coconut oil (warmed up until it's just about liquid but not quite)
~1/3 tsp. vanilla extract (a little under 1/2 tsp.)
~2 tbsp cinnamon 

Mix the vanilla into the coconut oil directly. Mix the sugar and coconut. Stir together with a spoon, and then put your hands in the bowl and knead it like a bread dough. It should come together easily but also flake easily. If it's too difficult to ball up, stick the entire bowl in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to soften the coconut oil a bit more. If it's too soft, place the bowl in the fridge for a few minutes.
Consistency of the Irish Potato "dough"
Next, roll the mixture into little balls. If you've seen irish Potatoes before, then you'll know the size. If not, my best description of the size is slightly smaller than a ping pong ball.

Irish Potato balls rolled out
Finally, roll the balls in cinnamon. I like to roll them all, then roll them one more time to use up the extra cinnamon/ensure they're well covered.

Ball --> Cinnamon -->Bowl
Enjoy, and don't forget to share with your friends! The coconut oil probably makes them healthier than the traditional variety, but they're still basically balls of sugar and fat. If you eat them all at once, you might never want them again. 

It might help to set aside a few on a plate so you're not tempted to eat them all at once!
If you really love them, pull out the recipe again for Easter, except dip the balls in melted chocolate instead of dusting with cinnamon.

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