Thursday, December 23, 2010


Many, many moons ago, I was first introduced to this candy by my friend Jackie. I remember standing in her kitchen as her mom handed me my first one, always a part of her Christmas baking repertoire. I was probably 11 or 12, but a peanut butter chocoholic knows when her life has changed.

So tell me, if it's so memorable, why have I never made them?

I was recently inspired to finally try my hand at making them because of this beautiful post over at SK, but the thought of cream cheese diluting them made me sad inside (and to be perfectly honest, I could not handle yet another grocery store trip). So off to the Internet I went! While most buckeyes have gobs of powdered sugar involved, this recipe seemed to have a more reasonable amount; I just tweaked it to bittersweet chocolate and also tempered it per SK's instructions to have the perfect shiny result.

I won't lie—I had a bear of a time dipping them. The peanut butter "eye" was never perfectly round (more like a pentagon) and I could never properly cover the toothpick hole, and I may have even had a temper tantrum* when they wouldn't turn out perfectly and after finding my candy thermometer shattered in the drawer (and running to BB&B at 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve Eve only to find thermometers that started at 100 degrees when I needed 80s for tempering), but I promise you, this will soon be a favorite recipe. Next time, I'll freeze the peanut butter balls rather than refrigerate and I will also dip them in smaller batches, keeping enough in the fridge/freezer so they don't warm up too much before their chocolate bath.

makes 2–3 dozen, depending on size
1/2 stick (4 T.) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2.5 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. smooth peanut butter
1/2 t. salt
1 c. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

In a mixing bowl, combine the softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, peanut butter, and salt.

Mix on medium speed for 1–2 minutes, until very smooth and well combined.

Using a teaspoon, form mixture into balls the size of a quarter. Place balls on cookie sheet covered with foil or parchment and chill in refrigerator (or perhaps I'll try the freezer next time) for 30 minutes.

While balls are chilling, melt the chocolate. Temper the chocolate if you desire. (The link above at Smitten Kitchen has perfect instructions.)

Once balls are firm, they can be dipped. Using a toothpick, skewer a ball and dip it halfway into the melted chocolate. You want to leave at least a dime-sized circle of undipped candy on top of the ball. *Or, you know, get so upset at your imperfect buckeyes that you angrily poke a hole in one. And then, shucks, I'll have to eat that deformity.

Don't do this.

Drag it along the lip of the bowl to remove excess chocolate, and place it back on the cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining peanut butter balls. Work in shifts so that not too many peanut butter balls are out of the fridge/freezer at once. They warm very quickly, which poses huge problems when dipping.

Return balls to fridge to set the chocolate. Serve once candies are firm. Or give as gifts—your friends and family will love you for it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies

If I had to rank my favorite chocolate combinations, first would be peanut butter & chocolate, then perhaps coconut & chocolate, then mint & chocolate. (Nuts and caramel are on that list too, but they're sort of an obvious choice. Fruit & chocolate will never be on my favorites list. What a waste of good chocolate!)

Anyway, the hubby would definitely rank mint & chocolate first, whether Thin Mints, Trader Joe's UFOs, or mint chocolate chip ice cream. I saw this recipe referenced on a blog I read (much better pics of the cookies there, BTW) and immediately knew I had to make them! They're nice and chewy with a hard minty top. I particularly enjoy mint at Christmas, so thought I'd wait to share them until now.

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies
makes 3–4 dozen
3/4 c. butter
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 T. water
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 (4.5 ounce) packages chocolate covered thin mints (such as Andes)

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter, brown sugar, and water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove from heat, stir in the chocolate chips until melted, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl, and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, and stir into the chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets (or use a Silpat). Roll cookie dough into walnut-sized balls and place 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, being careful not to overbake. While cookies are baking, remove wrappers from mints. When cookies come out of the oven, immediately press one mint wafer into the top of each cookie and let sit for 1 minute.

When the mint is softened, swirl with the back of a spoon or toothpick to make a pattern with the green filling of the mint wafer. Remove cookies from sheet and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ginger Spice Cookies

December 13 is an important holiday for Swedes. St. Lucia Day goes hand in hand with Christmas, symbolizing light over darkness (Lucia/Lucy = light) in a country that can be very dark and very cold in winter. You may have seen an image of a girl in a white robe with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head before... that's Lucia!

The oldest daughter traditionally serves her parents saffron buns and black coffee (St. Lucia brought food during famine), and the traditional sweet is pepparkakor, or gingerbread cookies. The smell of these baking will warm you up this holiday season!

In full disclosure, the recipe is actually called "Chewy Ginger Spice Cookies" but they were only chewy when fresh out of the oven. They quickly became ginger snaps instead, which is ok by me, but it's worth mentioning—perhaps I made mine too thin.

Ginger Spice Cookies
Makes about 38 cookies, from RealSimple
2 c. all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 t. ground ginger
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/8 t. ground cloves
3/4 c. vegetable shortening
2/3 c. packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c. molasses
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. granulated sugar, plus more for dusting

Heat oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves.

Using an electric mixer, beat the shortening and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and beat in the egg, molasses, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined (do not overmix).

Place the granulated sugar on a plate. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls; roll in the sugar to coat. Place on parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Using a glass in a twisting motion (so they won't stick), press the balls to a ⅜-inch thickness (or thinner for crisp gingersnaps) and sprinkle with more granulated sugar.

Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the edges are firm, 9 to 11 minutes. Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
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