Hedgehog balls (aka healthy sweets, honest)

I’ve just realised two things – Christmas is quite close, and that it’s not quite as close as I thought it was. Somehow I managed to mentally – not physically, I’ve not been whisked away in Stewie’s time machine – lose a week. I’m putting it down to working like a maniac, but have happily got an almost clear run now (owing to thinking Christmas is closer than it actually is and packing everything in). So I’m having fun. I’m going to see The Hobbit this afternoon – a round trip of over 100km; it better be good – and I’ve been making my favourite sweets: Hedgehog Balls.

hedgehog ballI’ve been making these, on and off, for years and years and I honestly can’t remember where the original recipe came from, but it’s so adaptable that the version I make now probably bears no resemblance to it. The giving of the name, however, I can remember. They were named by a friend of mine who was, I think, about 6 at the time. All the adults fell about, and they’ve been known as Hedgehog Balls for the last five years or so.

These little darlings are perfect to make with children though be warned – the mess is phenomenal. Sorry, that should be PHENOMENAL, and that’s even when I make them without the aid and assistance of people under 10. Save cleaning the house (should you do such a reckless thing) for afterwards. But do make them, because they are worth it.

Oh, you’ll need a food processor; I hate to think what it would be like without – and a stick blender doesn’t cut it. Believe me, I know. And about 50 small sweet cases, the cuter the better. Plus, as you can tell from all the alternatives in the recipe, it’s very adaptable.

Hedgehog Balls
makes about 50.

50g pumpkin seeds
50g sunflower seeds
10g (2 level tsp) sesame seeds
400g dried fruit: I used 200g sultanas and 100g each of apricots and cranberries
50g almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
25g dessicated coconut
a little nutmeg
1/2 – 1 tsp ground cinnamon
juice of 1 orange
additional ground nuts and coconut, to coat.

First, grind the seeds roughly – pulse only – and decant them into a large mixing bowl. Then add the dried fruit, halving anything big like the apricots and breaking up any gatherings of truculent sultanas. Grind the almonds quite smoothly and add them to the bowl. Decant the lot – carefully, ahem – into the bowl of the food processor. Set the empty bowl to one side.

HBs in prepAdd the coconut and spices to the mixture, then add some of the orange juice and process the mix – it should be thick and not sloppy, so be careful about adding more (you can always drink the rest, perhaps with Campari, just saying). Ideally, you want the mixture to have the texture of good – chunky, but not too chunky – mincemeat. If it is a bit too chunky, it won’t hold together when you start to form the balls, but it can always be returned to the processor for a final whizz.

Now the really messy bit begins.

Empty the dried fruit mixture back into the bowl. Grind some more nuts and put them in a smaller bowl, and put some dessicated coconut in another. Put out the sweet cases on a couple of baking trays and remove all animals, relatives, men who are hanging about trying to help themselves, toddlers, etc, from the kitchen. Older children are fine – in fact, they love this. Keep a damp rag handy, though.

Carefully form the mixture into small balls, just the right size to fit gently into the cases. Sometimes you will be able to roll them gently between the palms of your hands; sometimes they will need to be shaped with your fingers (and they should never, ever be thrown at your sibling or at the cat). Then dip each one, alternately, in the ground nuts or the coconut, making sure they are covered all over. Put them carefully in the sweet cases, and then put the trays in the fridge for at least an hour. They will keep for about a week, but they generally only last a day or so.

Now clean the entire house.

a clutch of hedgehog balls

Afterthought, before going so far as do do any actual housework: you could try substituting some Cointreau for the orange juice – I don’t, because of children. But you could. Hm, wonder how that would taste? Might as well add to the mess before I clear up…

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