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Pumpkin-Coconut Balls (Beijinho de Abóbora com Coco)

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I love to live in the US, but I especially love to be here at this time of year! It’s so wonderful to experience the preparations for Thanksgiving, to watch the beautiful change of fall colors, and to eat all sorts of pumpkin recipes!!

Pumpkin is an ingredient that I really enjoy, and it is so great to be able to share some new uses of it based on my Brazilian cooking background.

Pumpkin and coconut is a very popular (and super delicious!) combination of ingredients in Brazilian cuisine. We make cakes, pies, ice cream, compotes and so on using this mixture.

So my Pumpkin-Coconut Balls are inspired in another Brazilian dessert: the “Beijinho” (translates to “Little Kisses”) which is a Coconut Ball. These kinds of sweets - rolled small balls - are commonly served at birthday parties in Brazil and everyone loves them! I think that the greatest advantage of serving these for large groups is the clean-up: no plates, serving utensils, forks or spoons are necessary – and that makes it a very practical idea for Thanksgiving. I think that the traditional pies have to be at the Thanksgiving table, but these could be a fun add-on to the dessert table. I guarantee it will be a hit!

Makes about 30 to 35 units

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 can (16 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (preferably fresh)
  • ¾ cup pumpkin purée (from a can or from a previously baked pumpkin – see Cook’s Note)
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups sweetened coconut flakes, for rolling

Directions:

In a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, combine butter, sweetened condensed milk, unsweetened coconut flakes, and pumpkin purée. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, approximately 15 minutes (when large air bubbles form in the mixture, and the bottom of the pan can be seen, it’s probably time to remove the pan from the heat).  Transfer to a plate and allow coming to room temperature. Place mixture in the refrigerator and let it cool for at least 4 hours. Transfer to the freezer for 20 minutes before rolling.

Spread sweetened coconut flakes on a medium bowl. Remove mixture from freezer (it should not be frozen, just hard enought to facilitate the process). Grease hands with butter or cooking spray. Take small amounts of mixture (1 to 1 ½ teaspoon) and roll into a ball. Roll the ball over coconut flakes and place into a small candy cup (optional). Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until serving.

Cook’s Notes:

1) Here is how to make fresh pumpkin purée-

Start with a small-medium sugar pumpkin, cut out the stem and scrape out the insides, discard. Cut the pumpkin in half and lay cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminium foil. Bake at 350°F until fork tender, about an hour to an hour and a half. Remove from oven, let cool, scoop out the pulp and smash it with a fork or in a food processor.

2) If you love the idea of pumpkin and coconut, but you want to keep your Thanksgiving table somewhat traditional check out my Pumpkin-Coconut Pie recipe.

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