Chef’s hats off to the summer festival fudgemakers who toil over hot kettles in sweltering temperatures.
The plus-side of candymaking in cooler weather is that you don’t have to worry as much about a meltdown.
But when you’re working on deadline for a warm-weather wedding cookie table, there’s no waiting.
Until this past summer, I had never made buckeye candy in hot weather, and their softening tendencies required some extra attention.
Older recipes seem to call for adding paraffin, a saturated hydrocarbon also known as wax, to the melted chocolate. On the internet, Guy Lucas credits his mother, Gail Tabor, for inventing the “Buckeye Ball” candy popularized by the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, and she used paraffin.
Times have changed, however, and the alternative is to solidify the chocolate by refrigeration or freezing. So cool I did, but it was still a hot time in the old kitchen.
To enrobe the peanut butter ball in chocolate, the directions said to stab it with a toothpick and dip. Working alongside the chocolate on a heated cooktop to achieve the smoothest consistency chocolate as possible on a hot afternoon seemed to result in a bigger hole, unfortunately, in the peanut butter part.
Although buckeye recipes say to smooth over the hole, I found that to be somewhat tedious. I didn’t want to jostle the peanut butter balls before the chocolate had a chance to set. And because they were headed to the freezer, they didn’t lend themselves to smoothing or molding once they were icy cold.
A solution might be to reserve a generous spoonful of peanut butter mixture and apply it in small drips or drops as a patch.
I had peanut butter morsels on hand, so I inserted them, tip down, into the holes created by the toothpick’s indentation. If there were such a thing as a peanut butter mini-morsel, that would have worked perfectly. I suppose I could have melted the peanut butter morsels and dripped just a tad into the void. My neighbor suggested dipping the buckeye completely in chocolate because local people will know what they are even without the circle of tan showing through. Beware, those who have peanut allergies, but for anyone trying to avoid nuts, a cookie table would be a minefield anyway. Another friend, via Facebook, showed a crop of buckeyes each with its own toothpick ready for dipping, which would certainly make the dipping process go faster.
In case you’d like to take a stab at making buckeye candy in cooler temperatures, here’s a recipe from the people at Jif brand Peanut Butter:
Peanut Butter Buckeyes
Makes 5 dozen
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
Line two trays with parchment or wax paper.
Beat powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in large bowl with mixer on medium speed until blended. Shape into one-inch balls. Chill until firm.
Microwave chocolate chips and shortening in medium microwave-safe bowl on high power for 45 seconds. Stir until smooth. If necessary, microwave in additional 15-second intervals until completely melted and smooth when stirred.
Insert a toothpick into top center of peanut butter ball. Dip 3/4 of ball into melted chocolate, leaving top of candy uncovered. Allow excess chocolate to drip back into bowl. Place buckeye on prepared tray. Remove toothpick. Smooth over hole. Repeat to make remaining buckeyes. If chocolate thickens, microwave in 10-second intervals until desired consistency when stirred. Chill buckeyes until firm.
Another way the saltiness of peanut butter seems to blend nicely with the sweetness of chocolate is evident in a myriad of cookie recipes, including one also perfected in an Ohio kitchen.
Here’s one that finished second in the 1957 Pillsbury Bake Off. The late Freda Smith of Gibsonsburg, Ohio, in Sandusky County, should perhaps have won first place, because her cookies have certainly withstood the test of time. (No offense to Gerda Roderer of Berkeley, Calif., who took Pillsbury’s grand prize that year with “Accordion Treats,” narrow cookies baked in aluminum foil folded into accordion pleats).
Makes 48 cookies
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Additional sugar for dredging
48 Hershey Kisses brand milk chocolates, unwrapped
Heat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. In large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, shortening, peanut butter, milk, vanilla and egg; mix with electric mixer on low speed until stiff dough forms.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately top each cookie with one chocolate candy, pressing firmly so cookie cracks around edge; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 1 hour, or until chocolate is set.
For those who prefer to buy local, Sarris Candies has a recipe on its website from Candace’s Corner for Sarris Peanut Butter Drops, a recipe that it adapted from The New York Times.
The Canonsburg chocolatier specifies a 4-ounce stick of butter, at room temperature, as the shortening, and just a tablespoon of milk instead of two. And it calls for “5 dozen Sarris chocolate domes, foiled balls or favorite Sarris foiled item” as the topper.
“Any type of solid chocolate, that’s fine,” said owner Bill Sarris.
The Sarris recipe also contains a tip to ensure the proper yield: “For a precise number of cookies, divide the dough into five pieces and shape each piece into 12 balls.”
Here’s yet another take on a similar cookie. Beware: Observer-Reporter Executive Editor Liz Rogers says the dough is very stiff.
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Makes 3 dozen cookies
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups Bisquick Original baking mix
1 teaspoon vanilla
About 36 Hershey Kisses, unwrapped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix milk and peanut butter in large bowl until smooth. Stir in baking mix and vanilla.
Roll dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until bottoms of cookies begin to brown. Remove from oven and immediately press Kiss onto cookie.