Many of us are accustomed to seeing this rolled candy around Christmas, but if you’re not, we get that it might seem a little odd. Potatoes? In candy? We know. But we promise it works.
The potato acts as a binder in the dough and the end result tastes nothing at all like potatoes. It’s just a soft, sweet (like, really sweet), no-bake candy that’s genius in its resourcefulness.
Some say the recipe was brought to the United States from Germany, where it was a common frugal practice to come up with clever uses for leftover mashed potatoes. Others say it’s an Irish recipe. Some say Pennsylvania Dutch. Some say Russian… You get the point.
What is clear is that it became popular in America during the Great Depression. In a time of great scarcity, potatoes and peanuts were easy and cheap to come by, and even powdered sugar was cheaper than regular granulated sugar. When there was little to be had, this candy ensured that people could still have a tasty treat.
The recipe has endured through years when people only had a little, but also through years when people had a lot, because the candy is nearly impossible to resist. It’s tender and a little chewy, sweet as can be, nostalgic, and incredibly easy to make. You don’t need to be a candy maker for this.
You start by adding some mashed potatoes to a bowl and combining them with a little vanilla and milk. (Though when there wasn’t a lot to go around, the milk and vanilla weren’t included. So you could even leave those out.)
6 cups powdered sugar, plus more if needed
1/2 cup russet potato, mashed and cooled (about 1 large potato)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
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In a large bowl, beat mashed potato, milk, vanilla, and salt with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Mix in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until a dough has formed. Once you’ve added in 6 cups, if you need more, add in 1 tablespoon increments. Dough should be thick, slightly thicker than cookie dough.
Form dough into a ball and dust with powdered sugar. On a sheet of wax or parchment paper, roll dough into 1/8-inch thick rectangle. Trim to 10×12-inches.
Generously sprinkle powdered sugar over top of dough and place another piece of parchment paper over it. Invert the rectangle of dough and discard the paper that is now on top (the one you used to roll out the dough).
Spread peanut butter evenly over dough. Roll dough tightly long-side to long-side using parchment paper to guide it, jelly-roll style. Wrap in parchment and freeze for 1 hour. Cut into 1/4-inch thick slices and serve. Enjoy! Leftover candy should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.