I can’t remember whether I ever heard of buckeyes before I came to Ohio, either the candy or the tree. Spend any time here and you’re bound to come across both meanings. I’m going to bet, though, that more Ohioans have seen these than the real thing.
They’re basically like a peanut-butter cup, but because you pick the ingredients you can get much better quality. The Krema peanut butter I use has one ingredient: peanuts. Look at the label on the stuff in your cupboard, you might be shocked. Combine that with some good Ghirardelli chocolate (dark and semi-sweet) and you’ve got something you won’t find in the impulse buy rack at the cash register.
So, about that peanut butter …
If you read the ingredients on yours for the first time and wondered, “WTF is all that stuff?!” I’ll tell you: sweeteners and emulsifiers. The best-selling peanut butters all have either sugar or high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient, and they mostly use hydrogenated vegetable oils to keep the oil from separating. Oh, and lots of them take out the peanut oil and replace it with a cheaper oil. (And don’t get me started on “natural” vs. “real” peanut butter.)
When you get the kind made with just peanuts, the oil separates and you have to mix it in when you open the jar. Pro tip: when you buy it at the store and it’s all separated, put it upside-down in the cupboard. When you open it a few days later the oil will have mostly migrated to the bottom, making it easier to mix when you open it.
So now that you’ve got your good quality peanut butter, and you’ve mixed it (sorry, it’s going to take a while and you’ll have a sore wrist) pour it all into a mixing bowl.
Add the sugar and stir by hand until the sugar is mostly absorbed.
If you start with the mixer right away you’re going to have an explosion of powdered sugar. Even after you’ve got it pretty well mixed you’ll want to drape a clean dish towel over the mixer while you blend it a bit more.
Add the butter – softened, but not melted – and blend until smooth. (Use the dish towel again. Trust me.)
Using a small cookie scoop, make small balls of the peanut butter mix and roll them between your hands until round. (This is the step you let your daughters and their friends do.)
Put the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or wax paper and put it in the freezer while you melt the chocolate.
It’s better if you overdo the freezing. Too soft, and they’ll keep falling off into the chocolate on the next step.
Melt your chocolate in a double boiler.
If you don’t have a double boiler, put a large metal bowl over a pot with about an inch of water in the bottom. You don’t want the water touching the bottom of the bowl.
When the chocolate is melted, tip the pot up so you have a deep end to work with. One at a time, pick up the peanut butter balls with a toothpick and dip them in most of the way. Immediately pull them back out and return to the parchment.
Put the finished tray back in the freezer – or on the back porch, if you’re doing this in January in Ohio – until the chocolate is set. Store in the fridge until ready to eat.
And that’s it.
Oh, and if you have some chocolate left at the end, see what else you have lying around that you can dip. Like dates. Yumm.