Somehow over this past week, the dull light and persisting rain in Paris has had me thinking warm thoughts around teatime: snowballs, my Scottish Granny and her splattered Black Book of favourite recipes. With a school Christmas fête approaching fast, I thought I’d make these Chocolate Coconut Snowballs as they’re quick, easy to make and deliciously festive. Just as well, as mad woman here suggested 300.
The snowball recipe was in The Black Book. It contained not just recipes dictated from Granny and scribbled down by my aunts and Mum, but also frayed newspaper cuttings and hurried notes taken as dictation, listening to Jimmy Young’s radio show (no wonder my Mum ended up being the Edinburgh Queen of shorthand for journalists!). But with the last few months of house renovations, I can’t find it. You see, I put that Black Book somewhere safe.
So safe, I can’t remember for the life of me where I would have put it. Does that ever happen to you? I used to frown at Mum, when presents were discovered a couple of months after the event. How could she have forgotten where she put things? Now, doing the same myself, I can’t help rolling the eyes and shrugging the shoulders like the French.
Rolling little chocolate balls in shredded coconut, however, provokes the most warming memories I have of childhood Christmases in the 70s at Granny’s.
Christmas snowballs meant getting away with gooey, chocolatey, messy fingers. Auntie Shirley (remember the artist behind these knitted cakes?) brought out the ingredients (I remember raisins, rolled oats, cocoa powder and tons of coconut) as Granny was in charge of total quality control: as my younger brother and I rolled them in the palms of our hands, Alan would often bash them on the table and completely flatten them. Och, Alan, how could they taste the same?
They were so easy to make, no-bake, quick and delicious. In no time, we’d fight for the best position on the poofie, which was in the middle of Granny and Grandpa’s facing armchairs, and nibble at them served with satsuma oranges in front of the crackling fire.
We’d just stare into the hypnotic flames, imagining all sorts of characters dancing around in front of us as we threw the peelings in, fascinated by their singing and hissing, whilst smouldering and creating the most cosy aromas. The whole lot scoffed and stories exchanged, we’d reluctantly get up and laugh at our fire-tartaned faces.
Meanwhile as the fête is nearer and I wanted to test some recipes, I came across this one for chocolate coconut rollovers – rolling them instead in coconut, to create the snowball effect. These snowballs are entirely gluten-free; but I still need to find that book. In the meantime, they’re still delicious and modernised a bit with less sugar and more on the chocolate.
Chocolate Coconut Snowballs (Gluten Free Recipe)
Recipe adapted from the 12 October issue of the You Magazine, thanks to Mum and Dad for leaving some British newspapers from their last visit! The recipe specifies rolling in cocoa, chocolate vermicelli or other sprinkles of your choice. Here I’ve opted for a mixture of toasted and plain desiccated/shredded coconut.
Makes about 20
100g (3 1/2 oz) dark chocolate, about 70% cocoa
100g (3 1/2 oz) desiccated coconut
50g (2oz) coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50g (2oz) desiccated coconut
1. Break up and gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water. Allow the melted chocolate to cool to room temperature.
2. Mix together the coconut, coconut oil and maple syrup and blend until smooth, then add the cooled melted chocolate and vanilla and blend again. Pour this into a medium-size bowl, cover and chill for about 1 hour or until the mixture firms to the consistency of chilled butter.
3. Taking a heaped teaspoon of the mixture at a time, roll it into a ball the size of a cherry between your palms and set aside on a plate. Roll the chocolates in coconut (or in cocoa or chocolate vermicelli if you prefer). I spread half of the coconut on a baking tray and placed under a grill for a couple of minutes to toast it, then mixed it in with plain finely grated/shredded desiccated coconut.
Arrange the chocolate coconut snowballs in a pretty dish or box, loosely cover and chill for a couple of hours. They should keep well for several days in the fridge, it says. We found they tasted so much better when left at room temperature for half an hour to enjoy them at their best.