Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Buckeyes

Candy shaped like a tree nut. Buckeyes
also share a name with a famed college football team.

If you're from Ohio when you hear the term Buckeye you will likely think football, trees, or chocolate covered peanut butter balls. If you are not from Ohio you will think football, or did you say f*ckeye? The Buckeye is the official state tree of Ohio. The nut of the buckeye is a large brown ovalish-sphere with a tan center called a buckeye. Maybe it looks like an eyeball. Some historical nut with a sweet tooth did create a Reese's-peanut-butter-cup-like treat out of the buckeye's unique shape.

Buckeyes are a standard at any Ohio bake sale, or holiday event with a cookie platter. Ironically I learned my buckeye technique from my Aunt in Maryland. Buckeyes were necessary at Christmas. Once the buckeyes were ready it was only a matter of days/hours before the candy might be swallowed whole by her sons, or lurking cousins, being my brother and I. Story has it that my oldest cousin horded a dozen or so in a frozen coffee can labeled "fishing worms" to keep buckeye thieves away. Buckeyes are worth protect, and maddeningly addicting. They are also idea frozen making them better for sharing in person then for mailing.

I have always wanted sort of "change up" this recipe to make it stand out from the ubiquitous buckeye recipe. You can add more or less sugar and butter, making the peanut butter part sweeter or drier. You can't really add flavors (coffee, cayenne, cinnamon, bourbon, maple) to the mixture without disturbing the balance that is chocolate and peanut butter. What I did find was that adding salt made the sweetness a little more exciting. Browning the melted butter also contributes a small measure of nuttiness of the candy. Mixing in a 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate to the chips to really play with contrasts. Some people melt paraffin, or food grade wax with the chocolate. That makes the candy a little more durable in warm areas, less melty. It also replaces some of the richness of the chocolate with empty wax flavor. Use your own judgement. I make buckeyes once a year I want them to be as decadent as possible.

Buckeyes

2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (do not use all natural, chunky or smooth skippy or jiff are great)
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt, more for sprinkling
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups chopped chocolate (I use high quality semi-sweet chocolate)

Melt butter over medium heat in a pan. Allow to simmer until butter becomes a light brown color. Remove from stove and pour into a large mixing bowl with peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whip with a mixer until a smooth dough forms. Form into 1/2 - 3/4 inch balls. Try to be uniform for a prettier batch. Place peanut balls in rows on a rimmed baking sheet. You should make 5-6 dozen balls. Sprinkle with sea salt. Freeze for 2-3 hours until firm. The balls can be kept frozen for up to a week covered or in a ziplock bag.

I hastily shaped and dipped my buckeyes. Not uniform or pretty.
People will taste them before they even notice.

The next step is to dip the balls into melted chocolate. Its key to be fast and efficient with your chocolate dipping. As the frozen peanut balls thaw they become easier to drop in the chocolate, creating a black buckeye bomb. Not a bad thing, but more like a truffle then a buckeye. At the same time your chocolate will be cooling, making it goopy. Cooled chocolate is more likely to suck in your thawing peanut butter balls. Here is what you do. Find a tall ceramic mug. Use a coffee mug, or a tempered glass measuring cup. A tall melting shape make better use of vertical space.

Use a microwave to melt half of the chocolate in the mug, stirring to make sure its smooth. Bring half of the frozen peanut butter balls out of the freezer. Jab a single ball with a long pointy kitchen tool (I use a fondue fork, but kabob skewers, tooth picks work too) and dip more than half way into the chocolate. You are aiming to leave the top part of the peanut ball uncovered. There are two models for this. One, as you dip move the ball side to side. This creates an oval "eye-like" shape. The other is to dip straight down and up, creating a round shape. You will want to twirl the buckeye as you take it out of the chocolate to remove excess chocolate. Move back to cookie sheet, and continue. Act quickly to fill up your sheet. Melt more chocolate, and dip the rest of the frozen balls as needed. If you want to make A+ buckeyes carefully smudge the fork holes until they close up.

a buckeye with an oval center from side to side dipping and
a buckeye dipped straight down for a circle shape.


When you have finished dipping all of the buckeyes put the trays in the freezer and allow to firm up about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Bump them off the trays and serve. People from Ohio will thank you for buckeyes, everyone else will call them "those awesome peanut butter chocolate ball things."

3 comments:

  1. Mmm, love buckeyes. We add some wheat germ to the peanut butter mix to give it a thicker, "heartier" consistency. Peanut butter and chocolate really are a magical combination!

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  2. I'm in the process of making your Piparkakut adapted by yesterday's NY Times. I forgot to get the molasses so I'm using honey and brown sugar. It's all about the cardamom and the orange peel for me! I'm sure they'll come out fine even with the change. How do you pronounce Piparkakut???

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  3. From my Finnish friend Ava who taught me about the cookies: Pee-Pah-Rah Kaah-Koo (and you say it as fast as you can)

    Happy baking! I traded corn syrup from the original recipe for molasses. I'm sure you will do fine with honey.

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