"Reclaiming Homemade in a Small Space"

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Candy Take One: Orange Balls

I remember where I was when I first tasted this Christmas confection.  I was standing in our kitchen in Plano, TX sometime back in the early 80's.  My parents were having a little get together with some folks at church.  It was probably the kind of party where friends brought their favorite Christmastime foods to share with everyone. I took one bite of these coconut covered orange balls and instantly fell in love.  In my post on cranberry orange bread, I said that quick bread was my favorite treat.  Nope, I was mistaken, these are my favorite.  (You know that will change when I make my truffles....right?)  The next few years, I would find them at the church Christmas party and be so excited they were there. We moved to Arkansas in the fall of 1984 and the orange balls recipe stayed with whoever brought them.  It was nearly 20 years before I would taste them again. 

I would actually think about those little candies nearly every Christmas, growing up.  After I was married, I was perusing an older cookbook given to me as a gift in the early 2000s and lo and behold! I saw a recipe for orange balls...I instantly got excited...was this the recipe????  And did it really call for Nilla Wafers as the main ingredient???   I figured it wouldn't hurt to try....I made them and took a bite.  Do you remember the scene in Ratatouille when Anton Ego eats the stew that Remy makes for him?  He is instantly transported back to a pleasant childhood memory.  It was just like that.  I was standing in the kitchen in Texas tasting Christmastime in one bite. This was IT!

I was thrilled that I found it.  I realized if Matt was going to eat these, I had to find a substitute for the coconut since he hates it.  Toasted pecans were a logical choice, so I roll the balls in both!

Christmas Orange Balls:
Printable Version
6 oz. vanilla wafers, crushed
2 c. confectioners sugar
1 1/2 t. orange zest
1/4 c. butter, melted
3 oz. orange juice concentrate
1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1/2 c. finely chopped pecans, toasted

First, I crushed the Nilla Wafers.  Normally in The Teeny Kitchen That Could I would tell you to get a gallon size zip top bag, load it up with the wafers and roll them with a rolling pin.  I don't have room on my counter for a food processor, but since it is Christmas, I am using my food processor a lot so it is worth the sacrifice of counter space.
Now, I also don't normally have orange juice concentrate on hand.  So I just reduced a cup of fresh orange juice down to this:
This is 3 oz. of reduced orange juice and it is about the consistency of orange juice concentrate.  I mixed the crushed wafers and sugar together.
Now, this morning, I was peeling an huge orange thinking what a waste it was to toss that beautiful peel in the disposer.  It dawned on me that the zest was JUST what these orange balls needed.  Zest wasn't in the original recipe...it would send them over the top!
 Next, add the butter and orange juice.
 Mix well.  Now, the candy may seem a little wet.  Let it rest for a few minutes.  The juice will soak into the cookie crumbs and firm up a bit.
 Take a #60 scoop and make 1 inch balls.  Then, roll them in the toasted coconut, toasted pecans or even some colored sugar. 

I find the heat from my hands makes the outside of the balls more receptive to the coconut or pecans.  Today, my hands were cold and the coatings weren't sticking to the candy.  So I got my hands slightly wet in between rolling each ball.  The coating worked really well then.
You can't beat how festive these balls look and (bonus!) they are DELICIOUS!


  1. Oh--I'm going to try these. I love orange! I also like how you reduced that orange juice in lieu of the concentrate--great tip. Now, there's something new to add to my ever growing list of things to do. :)

  2. These do sound wonderful and the perfect flavors for Christmas! I loved the story and memories that these hold for you. Glad you found them!

  3. Cathy...ain't it the truth? My Christmas list of things to do gets larger and larger every year.

    DD, thanks for the input and for stopping by to take a look!