Martha Washington candies take their name from a candy company that made them in stores across the U.S. during the 1920s. When the Depression hit the country, most of those stores closed, disappearing eventually by the 1940s. But this beloved confection recipe survived and has been passed on from one generation to the next.
Easy to make, they consist of a creamy coconut pecan filling made out of sweetened condensed milk, coconut, pecans, and powdered sugar that's coated in sweet chocolate. This recipe makes 72 small candies that you can wrap for gifts or keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
For the Filling:
2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups flaked coconut
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, or margarine, melted
3 cups pecans, chopped
For the Dipping Chocolate:
1 ounce food-grade paraffin wax, 1/4 of a bar
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Gather the ingredients.
Line a baking pan or tray with wax paper or parchment paper.
Sift the confectioners' sugar into a large bowl and add the sweetened condensed milk, coconut, melted butter, and pecans. Mix well with the help of a wooden spoon. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, covered.
With your hands, shape the mixture into balls and place them on the pan or tray. Refrigerate the balls until the balls are very firm, or about 1 hour.
Once the candy is hard, melt the wax and milk chocolate chips together in a double boiler. Make sure the water at the bottom is simmering and not boiling.
Dip the chilled balls in the melted chocolate and let cool on top of wax paper.
Decoration for Your Candies
Use one or more of the following suggestions to decorate your Martha Washington candies right after they have been dipped so the topping sticks to the outer layer:
- Use a pinch of coconut flakes on top of each candy.
- Use a dash of Himalayan salt on top of each candy.
- Make a drizzling sauce, melting 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips with a teaspoon of shortening. Make swirls, dots, or any pattern you'd like on top of each candy. Color the white chocolate with food coloring to make Christmas, Easter, or Hanukkah treats.
- Place a whole almond on top of each candy (use any whole nut of your liking).
- Add regular or black sesame seeds on top of each candy.
- Add colorful sprinkles to make these candies the stars of a kids' party treat table, or use just pink, blue, or yellow for a baby shower.
- Use mini pretzel twists to decorate each candy. Yogurt covered mini white pretzels make a nice addition as well.
- Replace the wax and chocolate chip mixture with 1 pound of almond bark or candy melts for the chocolate coating. Melt as directed in the recipe and dip the candy to coat thoroughly.