We were asked to make these as wedding favors for a friend, and we kind of rolled our eyes. Buckeyes? Really? But they're so ... boring. Peanut butter filling, rolled into balls and dipped in chocolate to resemble horse chestnuts. Sure, they're a favorite of Ohio natives, where the buckeye is the official state tree; and sure, they're easy enough to make. But where's the challenge? The excitement? Didn't they want something fancier for a wedding?
Yeah, right. Peanut butter and chocolate is a classic combination for a reason, and this recipe gets it all right: rich, peanutty, and smooth, with a little texture from the nut flour, and the richness cut by the bitterness of the dark chocolate. The container of extra buckeyes in the fridge lasted maybe a day. We're not even gonna tell you how many were in there to start with. You wouldn't believe it.
For the centers:
For dipping and garnish:
1. Make the centers: Combine all the ingredients in the mixer bowl and beat on medium-high speed until completely incorporated and creamy-looking. Cover and refrigerate the peanut butter mixture until it has firmed up a little (it should be pliable but hold its shape), about 30 minutes.
2. Scoop up a tablespoon of the mixture, roll it into a ball with your hands, and place it on one of the prepared baking sheets; repeat with the remaining mixture. Once all the mixture has been formed, place the balls in the refrigerator until firm, about 30 minutes. (Any leftover peanut butter mixture can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for up to a week.)
3. Prepare the dipping chocolate: Temper the 4 cups dark chocolate or melt it. Place the coating of your choice in a large bowl.
4. Dip the buckeyes: Stick a toothpick into a peanut butter ball and dip it in the chocolate, but don't submerge it—leave the top quarter undipped. This spot is what makes a buckeye a Buckeye! Transfer the buckeye to the second prepared baking sheet. Pull out the toothpick, twisting it gently, and either use your thumb to carefully smooth out the hole left behind or cover it with a few grains of coarse sea salt. Repeat with the remaining buckeyes.
5. Allow the buckeyes to set up until the chocolate is firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Store the buckeyes, layered with wax paper, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
Note: Nut flours are sold at specialty and health food stores. Bob's Red Mill is a widely available brand; they have a great almond flour that works very well in this recipe, adding a delicate nutty flavor and hearty texture that we love. Peanut flour, which you can find online at Amazon, adds an extra-special peanutty kick that you should definitely try at least once.
Liz says: When we say "commercial" peanut butter, we mean the emulsified, no-oil-on-the-top kind. In the kitchen, we use Peanut Butter & Co's Smooth Operator; it's not quite as industrially shelf-stable as Jif or Skippy (don't hoard it for the zombie apocalypse), but any minor separation that might occur can be ameliorated by placing the peanut butter in a microwave-safe dish and heating it gently in a microwave on High for 5- to 10-second bursts, stirring well between bursts. It should come back together.
Richard Wrangham, a professor at Harvard University and author of Catching Fire, studies the role of cooking in human evolution. "Once you start thinking about the importance of cooking -- its supply of energy, its strange distribution compared to natural foods -- it's bound to have affected our evolution hugely, our behavior, our society, our cognition, all sorts of features about us," he says.