At Bridge Street Chocolates in Phoenixville, a leprechaun and a shamrock garland decorate the store, tempting candy lovers to indulge in a sweet St. Patrick’s Day treat: the Irish potato.
“Not really good for us, is it?” owner and chocolatier Gail Warner said with a laugh. “It’s butter. It is cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and shredded coconut. And then you typically roll them in cinnamon.”
For a twist, she also rolls some in “one of the darkest cocoa powders you can use.”
“We should probably call it our ‘extra-dirty potato,’” Warner joked. “It gives you that cocoa flavor, and it cuts the sweetness a bit because it’s a super-sweet confection.”
How about a chocolate-covered version? Christopher Chocolates in Newtown Square offers Oh Ryan’s Irish Potatoes dipped in dark chocolate.
“Let me tell you, there’s nothing better,” raved Dave Lamparelli, who founded both companies, naming them after his sons, Christopher and Ryan.
At the Oh Ryan’s factory in Linwood, production starts in January.
“We’ve tapped out over 90,000 pounds so far this year,” he said. “Pure sugar – nothing healthy about it, which is why it sells really well.”
And that’s no blarney!“Just like the Mummers and scrapple, it is a Philadelphia candy,” Lamparelli explained. “They’ve been around Philadelphia for 150 years.”
But the exact origin remains the stuff of legend.
“You get that lull between Valentine’s Day and Easter,” he said. “And I bet a crazy candymaker was making coconut cream Easter eggs and accidentally dropped some coconut cream in cinnamon. It looked like a potato, and he thought, ‘I can sell this.’”
Irish potatoes once cost a penny each, and sometimes candymakers tucked a penny inside as a surprise.
“Get your penny back and you were lucky,” Lamparelli described. “It gave you the luck of the Irish.”
Irish PotatoesIngredients¼ cup butter
8 ounces cream cheese1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups confectioners’ sugar2½ cups shredded coconut
Cinnamon (for rolling)Brute cocoa powder (optional)
InstructionsBlend butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Add in confectioners’ sugar and shredded coconut. Chill. Scoop and roll into individual balls. Roll in cinnamon for a traditional Irish potato. For a darker look, roll in cinnamon twice. Keep refrigerated. Take the chill off the potatoes for serving to enjoy a tender creamy potato.
For extra cinnamon flavor, sprinkle cinnamon in the mixture before rolling. Since we love chocolate, we roll some of our potatoes in a dark brute cocoa powder for “extra-dirty potatoes.”
RECIPE COURTESY OF BRIDGE STREET CHOCOLATES