This Old-Fashioned Chopped Mystery Box Ingredient Baffled Fans

It's hard to say which is more entertaining when watching Food Network's "Chopped" – the reveal of the mystery ingredients in the creaking wicker baskets or finding out what the competing chefs turn them into. We're inclined to say it's the uncovering of the mystery ingredients, and especially watching the reactions of the chefs when they see what they have to work with. There could be ingredients that are completely new to the chefs (and to viewers) from food cultures they've never worked with before, like durian fruit or goat brains. Some ingredients are just off-the-shelf products they would never dream of using in a composed, chef-level creation, like a whole chicken preserved in a can or gummy eggs (via The Recipe). One mystery basket ingredient that really puzzled chefs and "Chopped" fans alike was seen in the dessert round in Season 16, Episode 2. 

According to Fandom, the finalists, Owen Clark and Nicola Mummolo, opened their baskets to find rose water, almond butter, and rambutans, a round, hairy fruit from Malaysia. The ingredient that really caught them by surprise, though, was the mashed potato candy. Clark looked at it with utter confusion and Mummolo's jaw just dropped.

So what exactly is mashed potato candy?

In a "Chopped" compilation video on Food Network's YouTube channel, when chef contestant Nicole Mummolo tastes the Mashed Potato Candy she says, "all I can taste is sweet." And she's not wrong! And if you're wondering whether this candy is really made with mashed potatoes, it is. The Recipe shares that this candy is created by blending mashed potatoes with powdered sugar, transforming the spuds into a dough. The chilled dough is rolled flat, spread with peanut butter, and then rolled up like a Swiss roll before being sliced into pieces. According to What's Cooking America, the origins of this unusual American candy are a little murky. It's likely that it was introduced by German and Irish immigrants to the U.S., and versions of the recipe can be found in old Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks. The candy saw a surge in popularity during the Depression era, because the ingredients were cheap and plentiful.

So what did the "Chopped" chefs do with this starchy treat? According to Fandom, Owen Clark turned his mashed potato candy into a caramel sauce to accompany an almond cake with whipped ricotta. Unfortunately, he didn't plate the caramel, so the judges never got to try it. Mummolo made a milk chocolate cream sauce with the potato candy to go with her almond cookies. In the video, judge Elizabeth Karmel called the sauce "absolutely delicious," and it helped Mummolo become the Chopped Champion.