Monday, January 10, 2011

Peanut Butter Buckeyes

I think if I had to pick a favorite candy, it would be a no-brainer for me. I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups more than just about anything in the world (the food world, that is). So the peanut butter/chocolate combination is pretty much about as good as it gets, in my humble opinion.

So when I found this recipe in my Baked Explorations cookbook for Peanut Butter Buckeyes, I knew it was going to be on my Christmas goodies tray this year. It's a ball of peanut butter, mixed with cream cheese, crushed graham crackers, confectioners' sugar, and butter, that is dipped into dark chocolate. You leave just the very tops of the balls open, with no chocolate coating, which makes it look like the nut of a buckeye tree.

My candies turned out looking way less perfect than the ones depicted in the cookbook, but at least they look homemade, right? I admit, I tried a different method for dipping my peanut butter balls than the one listed in the directions below. It just seems like I always have a heckuva time dipping things in chocolate, and I get myself all frustrated. So this time, I experimented with a new way. I put on some latex gloves, then dipped each ball into the chocolate with one gloved hand. With the other gloved hand, I would drop the dipped ball onto the waiting parchment-lined baking sheet. This was way messy, but for some reason it was a lot less infuriating than dipping each ball with a fork or a toothpick. When I do it that way, I always seem to lose balls in the melted chocolate; they fall right off the fork. This way, I just used my covered fingers to fish each ball out. I don't know; it worked for me!

These buckeyes are absolutely perfect for a peanut butter craving, or a chocolate craving, or a "both" craving! They are delicious right out of the fridge, but they're fantastic at room temperature too. They do taste exactly like a Reese's, which was what I was hoping for. I'd be curious to see what would happen if I used chunky peanut butter next time, so I'm sure I'll be trying them that way, too. I don't think you could really go wrong there. I will say this, though: the book warns against using the natural-style peanut butter, I think because of the separation issue. So just beware if you decide to make these.

from Baked Explorations
makes 36 to 42 Buckeyes

1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 14 individual crackers, not whole sheets)
3 cups confectioners' sugar
10 Tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
12 oz. good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped

1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter until combined. Add the graham cracker crumbs and beat on medium speed for 10 seconds. Add the confectioners' sugar and butter. Beat at low speed for 20 seconds to prevent the sugar from spilling over, then gradually increase the speed until the mixture is completely combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again. The mixture will feel slightly dry. Set the peanut butter filling aside while you melt the chocolate.

2. In the top of a double boiler set over hot water, melt the chocolate, stirring frequently until it is completely smooth. Pour the chocolate into a small, deep bowl. Let it cool to tepid (about 100 degrees F, body temperature) while you shape the peanut butter centers.

3. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Scoop out slightly more than 1 Tbsp. worth of filling and use your hands to form it into a ball. (For uniform balls, use a medium-size melon baller or a very small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism.) Place the ball on the prepared sheet pan and repeat the process until all the filling has been shaped. The balls can sit fairly close to each other on the sheet; just make sure they are not touching.

4. One by one, using a fork or large skewer, dip each ball into the chocolate. Roll the ball around from side to side to cover almost the entire peanut butter center, leaving a small part uncovered. Manipulate the buckeye so that the dripping chocolate covers the holes made by the fork. Let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl and return each chocolate-covered buckeye to the pan. Refrigerate the entire sheet pan for about 30 minutes to set the chocolate before serving. Buckeyes will keep for up to 3 days, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

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