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Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs

You read me correctly. I normally talk about French macarons, or the difference between Macarons and Macaroons – but this time I’m rolling my sleeves up by converting traditional Scottish Macaroon Bars into these Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs!

Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs

The advent calendar is up, filled with riddles and surprises; I didn’t think that Lucie would still want it this year but I suppose at 12, the bags are expected to be more thought-provoking or just filled with chocolate.

She’s already worried about the 4th, as that bag looks empty but hopefully, she’ll remember that day well, as there’s a wee note inside for something a bit bigger that didn’t make it into the bag.  I get as much fun out of it as she does – but that’s what it’s all about, see? Oh, hokey cokey cokey …

advent calendar bags for macarons

What could be in the bags, do you think? Er, macarons?

The Scottish Macaroon Bar

Times like this evoke childhood memories, don’t they? Take teatime: do you have an afternoon treat that rekindles a warm, sweet blast from the past?

As a Scottish lass, there are a couple of sweet treats that can still instantly conjure up an instant glow: Tunnock’s teacakes and a Lee’s macaroon bar. I say the macaroon bar in the singular, since it’s so densely sweet that one rectangular bar is more than enough!

Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs

It isn’t  a macaroon as such – you know, the sticky baked coconut confection using egg whites, sugar and coconut – and it’s far removed from (read nothing like!) a Parisian macaron, made with ground almonds (almond flour), sugar and egg whites, that’s in my book.  No, a Macaroon Bar is made with a hard fondant centre of mainly icing (powdered) sugar and mashed potato (yes, you heard me right), which is coated in chocolate and toasted coconut.

Lee's orginal macaroon bar

The Macaroon Bar in Scotland was originally manufactured in Glasgow by Lee’s in 1931 and they still make them today. It’s a classic.  I even see they’re sold on Amazon.co.uk for homesick Scots!  And the song that accompanied it was pretty catchy…

The other day I wanted to prepare some British treats for the Lycée International’s school Christmas Fête, west of Paris. Why didn’t I just make shortbread?  Since I was already on a roll with chocolate-coconut snowballs, I wanted to give these a go and besides, they look pretty Christmassy, don’t they?

To be honest, I couldn’t eat a whole bar these days, as it really is FAR too sweet but the sensation of the fondant centre and the memory makes this smaller snowball size just perfect! I discovered a fellow Scot’s blog at TinnedTomatoes.com, where Jacqueline posts delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes. She had also produced smaller macaroon bars but in the smaller guise as snowballs. Parfait! So time to get rolling…

Scottish macaroon bar homemade snowballs, just like Lee's classic

Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs Recipe

Inspired by Jacqueline’s blog at TinnedTomatoes.com.  I’ve found that the amount of sugar will vary, depending on how dry your potato is.  You may need more or less but the fondant should be thick and quite difficult to stir at the end, when it’s just right and ready to roll. They may be packed with sugar but they’re gluten free!
Update December 2017: My friend, Christina Conte also has a recipe for Macaroon Bars – but at the time of writing I hadn’t discovered her yet!

Makes approx. 36 balls

Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Chilling Time: Approx. an hour total

1 potato (about 120g)
460g icing (powdered) sugar (more or less)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla powder)
200g dark chocolate (64% cocoa solids – I used Nestlé’s Corsé brand)
200g finely shredded coconut

1.  Peel the potato and cut it into quarters, then boil until soft.  Rinse off the extra starch in cold water.  Mash until smooth in a large mixing bowl and leave to cool completely.

mashing potato to make sweet macaroon bar treats

Mashing potato for sweet treats?

2. Using a wooden spoon, add the vanilla extract (or powder) then a few spoonfuls of icing sugar at a time, stirring well to mix.  Don’t worry: the mix will be runny and rather unappetising at first but eventually, as you add more and more icing sugar, it will thicken.

mixing mashed potato with icing-powdered sugar

3. The sugar-potato fondant will be ready as soon as it’s difficult to worth with: it will be stiff and difficult to stir.  At that point, cover it in cling-film or plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

How to make Scottish macaroon bar lees snowballs

4. Cover two baking trays with baking parchment/greaseproof paper or a Silpat mat.  Tear small balls of the macaroon fondant and roll into smooth balls the size of a one pound coin (I find it easier washing hands every 10 balls, as it can get rather sticky!)  Once all the balls are prepared, chill them directly on the trays in the fridge (update: I made mine in the winter when my kitchen was cool – you may need to put yours in the freezer).

5. Pour half of the desiccated/shredded coconut onto a non-stick baking tray and toast under a hot grill for a couple of minutes.  Keep your eye on it, as it burns far too easily!  Mix the plain coconut with the toasted batch.

toasted and plain shredded coconut

6. Break the chocolate into bits and melt over a pan of simmering water (bain-marie).  Leave to cool slightly for about 5 minutes.

7. This is when fun and messy fingers take over the kitchen: dip each macaroon fondant into the melted chocolate (I started using a cocktail stick then gave up – too long!), then immediately roll each in the coconut then place back on the baking tray.  Ideally use separate hands for each.

8. Place the baking trays with the coated macaroon snowballs in the fridge to set.

The macaroon bar snowballs can keep in a tin or airtight container in a cool, dry place for 7-10 days.  There’s no need to keep them chilled in the fridge.

homemade Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs packaging

Here are some I made earlier, all packaged up and ready to party at the Christmas Fête… Wish I’d manage to see the expressions at the potato ingredient!

Scottish macaroon bar snowballs

Scottish Macaroon Bar snowballs

And I forgot to mention: like macarons, they’re gluten-free!

 

Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs

Chocolate Coconut Snowballs (gluten-free)

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.

chocolate coconut snowballs (gluten free) no bake treats

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.

chocolate coconut snowballs gluten free treats

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.

chocolate coconut snowballs (gluten free)

Keep us several days in a tin in the fridge

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

Take a wee bite!

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

For rolling:

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.

 Stay tuned – I’m on a snowball roll!