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Visions of sugarplums: two coconut Christmas candies

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Coconut and the Christmas holidays are a natural combination, because the pure white of flaked coconut so closely resembles snow. Coconut is also a fairly plastic ingredient that provides its unique flavor and texture to foods in which it is incorporated. Coconut can be tinted with paste or liquid food coloring, making it an ideal ingredient for decorating cakes, cookies and candies.

The following two candy recipes feature coconut as the main ingredient. Neither recipe requires cooking other than to melt chocolate, so the work can be done by the kids, who will probably eat more of the ingredients than they will produce finished products. No matter - it's one less thing for a harried adult to prepare and it's better than having bored kids sitting in front of the television.

Coconut Christmas Trees
3 cups flaked coconut
2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 c. softened butter or margarine
1/4 c. evaporated milk
1 tsp. almond extract
2 to 4 ounces dark chocolate candy melts or semisweet chocolate chips
Green sanding sugar and red-hot candies

Combine the first five ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Drop by tablespoonsful onto a waxed paper lined baking sheet; chill in refrigerator for an hour. When set, shape into trees using either a small cookie cutter or just sculpt by hand.

Place chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl and melt by heating on high power in 45 second intervals, stirring between each interval. Dip the tree "trunks" into the chocolate and return to waxed paper.

Sprinkle sanding sugar over the body of the trees and then decorate with red-hots. Store completed trees in refrigerator. Makes approximately 2 dozen.

Coconut Snowballs
4 oz. cream cheese
2 c. sifted confectioners sugar
2/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips, melted
2 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. miniature marshmallows
1/2 c. flaked coconut, chopped finely

In a mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese and confectioners sugar. Beat in melted chocolate, milk and vanilla until well blended. Fold in marshmallows. Cover bowl with cling-wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or until mixture reaches the consistency of Play-Doh.

Using an ice-cream scoop, scoop out mixture and roll each into 1 1/2" balls (spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray to keep the mixture from sticking to your fingers). Roll in coconut.

Store finished candies in and airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 3 1/2 dozen.

Sunday: Faux fondant

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