Saunders, Real Estate, Hamptons

Story - Food

Oct 25, 2019 1:56 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

The Joy of Almond Joy Bites

Almond Joy Bites
Oct 26, 2019 3:32 PM

Twenty-three years ago, a photo of my older daughter, then 18 months old and dressed as a turtle, appeared in the Sag Harbor Express. This is my first Halloween in Cutchogue, after twenty-three years of celebrating in Sag Harbor, and I’m getting nostalgic. I miss the elementary school Halloween parade, the Whaling Museum haunted house, the Garden Center pumpkins. But most of all, I miss the candy. My house was on Burke Street, right off the Pumpkin Trail. Every year I’d pick up a couple of bags of miniature candy bars at the Variety Store, on the off chance that some trick-or-treaters would ring my doorbell. They rarely did. Then I’d spend the next few nights binging on Milky Ways and Snickers.

Now I live on Oregon Road in Cutchogue, where the lonely farmhouses are too scary and far from each other to appeal to kids in costumes. Since it would be embarrassing to explain to my husband that I was really buying those bags of candy for myself for all of those years, I’m satisfying my seasonal craving by making my own candy bars, and telling him that I’m doing so for a story I’m writing for the paper.

I’m not a novice when it comes to re-creating Halloween favorites in my kitchen. I’ve made peanut butter cups and peppermint patties, both for the purposes of “work.” My feeling, and this goes for bread, pizza, nachos, cookies, and pretzels as well as candy, is that if you make it yourself it will be more wholesome than anything you could buy, and you will be more likely to savor it slowly rather than vacuum it up mindlessly, than you would if you got it from Rite-Aid, Domino’s, or a Taco Bell drive-through.

This time around, I had my heart set on making mini Almond Joy-like candies. Almond Joy and Mounds bars, originally made by the Peter Paul Company in Connecticut (Hershey’s now owns the brand), came to prominence with a maddeningly catchy jingle. If you are a child of the ’70s and spent any time at all in front of a tv, you are no doubt hearing it now in your head. When I was a kid, I didn’t appreciate the texture and flavor of coconut. But I grew to love these candies after I had children of my own and they offered me their Halloween rejects. Almond Joy and Mounds bars do seem to appeal to mature and sophisticated palates.

With organic shredded coconut, organic sweetened condensed milk, and milk chocolate chips from Guittard (Ghirardelli also makes very good milk chocolate chips), I was pretty sure I could make a version that I would enjoy without too much guilt. It’s not health food, but homemade candy is my Halloween chicken soup for the soul. A few tips for success: Make sure to freeze the un-coated coconut balls before covering them with chocolate. Unfrozen, they can fall apart on contact with the warm chocolate. Use a fork to place them in the bowl of chocolate and turn them over to coat them. The excess chocolate will drip back into the bowl as the candy is lifted upward. And scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula periodically to return it to the bottom of the bowl. If the chocolate begins to harden, place it on top of the pot of simmering water for a few moments and stir to loosen it up.

Coconut and Almond Bites

Makes about 24 candies

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

3 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Pinch salt

About 24 whole almonds

8 ounces milk chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, shredded coconut, vanilla, and salt. The mixture should be sticky, but will hold together when you squeeze it in your hand.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. With a small ice cream scoop, scoop up balls of the coconut mixture and place on the baking sheet. Gently press an almond into the top of each ball. Place the baking sheet in the freezer and chill the coconut balls for 30 minutes.

3. Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring 2 inches of water to simmer in a medium pot. Place the bowl on top of the pot and stir the chocolate occasionally, until it is just melted.

4. Quickly coat each ball with chocolate, using a fork to turn the balls and remove them from the bowl. Place the coated balls back on the parchment-lined baking sheet and let stand until the chocolate is set. This will only take a few minutes if the balls are well chilled. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container, between layers of parchment, for up to 1 week.

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