Retro Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Balls

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Did you have sweet potato balls in your Thanksgiving traditions past?  Not the most flattering name, mind you, but these were at my grandmother's house every Thanksgiving as far back as I can remember.  At some point my aunt started making sweet potato casserole, and the sweet potato balls faded into obscurity.  

As a kid, I didn't entirely love sweet potato, and I absolutely hated coconut, but somehow this dish was something I looked forward to every year.  If I'm really honest, I think it was the marshmallow inside.  Yes, I said a marshmallow.

I'm guessing that me making and posting this dish is pretty much fate, because I hadn't eaten or thought about sweet potato balls for years, and then for some reason last week I did think about them, and then I saw a recipe from David Leite for something similar, but deep fried.  No, thanks.  I then Googled it and found today's recipe from Paula Deen.  It's the same beloved idea, but a bit updated with a flavorful orange twist. 

These are really tasty, easy, and they waddle down that fine line between side dish and dessert.  Oh, and the coconut mixed with cinnamon and sugar?  What falls off during baking becomes this coconutty soft candy.  Enough said.

from Paula Deen

serves 6-8

4 large sweet potatoes
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
2 cups shredded coconut, sweetened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Large marshmallows, 1 large per sweet potato ball (about 8 total)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Bake the potatoes until tender, then peel and mash them. Stir in the brown sugar, orange juice, zest and nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, toss the coconut with the sugar and cinnamon. Press mashed potatoes around each marshmallow, creating a 2 to 3-inch diameter ball. Roll the balls in the coconut mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Watch carefully for the last few minutes of cooking; the expanding marshmallows can cause the potato balls to burst open.

  • I had 3 large sweet potatoes and still got about half a dozen balls out of it.  
  • Next time I will cut back a bit on the sugar, and even just a bit on the orange juice.  It was very good, but cutting back on the two will make it a little more savory.  

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