This time, let’s just skip the whole I’m-sorry-I-haven’t-posted-in-so-long bit, and cut right to the chase – because these are delicious and you really shouldn’t waste any time waiting to make them.
But first, a story (hey! I thought she was cutting right to the chase!). Two years ago, Smitten Kitchen published a recipe for Buckeyes. Although I grew up not too far from Ohio, and though I have grown up to realize that many of the traditions, products, etc. that I grew up with are more firmly rooted in Michigan or Ohio than in the rest of Canada, I had never heard of any dessert buckeye. They had peanut butter, they had chocolate, I made them almost right away. Now, don’t get me wrong – they were terribly delicious and I don’t remember having a single complaint about the taste of those delectable treats. BUT I did find them to be a pain in the ass to make. I suspect this is mostly because I do not own a KitchenAid mixer, so instead was using my regular electric beaters to make them. Let me tell you – that made one hell of a mess. Peanut butter and icing sugar all over my kitchen walls, no word of a lie. And the whole dipping-them-in-chocolate thing, trying to cover *almost* all of the peanut butter balls, using some kind of long skewer and trying to angle it into the hot chocolate….well, I remember being frustrated.
When Paul requested these for his birthday dessert this year, I was excited to eat them but less excited to make them, until I realized something about myself: I am a perfectionist in the kitchen. That’s not a new realization, though. The new realization is this: if something is supposed to look a certain way – a certain polished way – I am going to get frustrated trying to achieve that perfect, polished look. But if I don’t have an image in my head of what the food is supposed to look like, if I decide that it’s going to be rustic – things go really smoothly, and actually usually end up looking pretty beautiful. So when you go forth and make these, don’t fret – they will be delicious and beautiful no matter how you go about it.
Birthday Buckeyes or Paul’s Birthday Balls (snicker)
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: about 55, but this would vary depending on the size of your balls (haha, again!)
I made several changes from the original recipe, both in terms of ingredients and in terms of process. Firstly, I used natural smooth peanut butter. Because of this I added a bit of maple syrup to the peanut butter, but as it turned out I still used far less sugar than the original recipe called for. While I started out using my electric beater again (beating the peanut butter and cream cheese together, and the graham crumbs for a few seconds) I ultimately abandoned it for a wooden spoon, and then, my hands. The more I cook and bake, the more I realize that I prefer using my hands for so many tasks. Lastly, I used far less chocolate, mostly because Paul had requested them to have less chocolate – since I wasn’t trying to cover the whole thing with chocolate, I used a different method for coating them. In the end, these came together so quickly and painlessly – and this can only mean that it will be far less than two years until I make them again.
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups natural (unsweetened) smooth peanut butter
a very generous glug of maple syrup, probably 1/4 cup worth
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 to 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
5 ounces/1 1/4 sticks/10 tablespoons/a bit more than a half cup of salted butter, melted and cooled
5-6 squares of semisweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped (I actually melted 10 squares, but have an insane amount of melted chocolate left and no purpose for it – you may want more chocolate if you want to try coating them more completely)
1. Beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese, and maple syrup. Add the graham cracker crumbs and beat for a few seconds. NOW GET RID OF THOSE BEATERS before you just make a bigger mess than you already have. If you do have a proper standing mixer, than by all means use it for this.
2) Add the icing sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon or your hands, until you find the mixture to be sweet enough and the right consistency to be able to squeeze and roll into balls. I used barely more than one cup.
3) Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. Break off tablespoon-ish size pieces of dough, squeeze together so that it doesn’t crumble, and then roll it into a ball with your hands. You can certainly change the size of the balls depending on your preference. Place peanut butter balls on the parchment lined baking sheets – they can be quite close together but you don’t want them to be touching.
4) Melt your chocolate in a double boiler until it is smooth. Turn off heat. Let cool for a bit (you can finish rolling out remaining peanut butter balls during this time, if you want). Using your fingers, take each peanut butter ball and dip it about halfway into the chocolate, being careful not to burn your fingers. If you are nimble enough, you can do your best to place them back on your parchment with the CHOCOLATE SIDE FACING UP – this way they won’t stick to your parchment, and the chocolate won’t pool or make a flat bottom. Continue dipping – you will need to rinse off your chocolatey hands every row or so – until all your peanut butter balls are coated. Place your baking sheets in the freezer for a half hour or so, until the chocolate is set. Put into an airtight container in the fridge and enjoy!
I think mine look kind of like little acorns – they don’t look like “buckeyes”, but guess what? I don’t even care. And there you have it! And so, I leave you with this little ditty, stuck in my head for the entire time I made these today (and if you’re anything like me, it was likely stuck in your head while you read this post).