Candy Buckeyes: An Ohio Tradition

candy buckeyes

If you’re not from Ohio, you might be wondering what a buckeye is. Seriously. Two of my coworkers asked me what a buckeye is today. Silly Nebraskans.

This is a buckeye tree. It is, in fact, the state tree of Ohio, my home state.

buckeye tree

 

Buckeye trees drop buckeyes (a kind of nut. They’re actually poisonous, so don’t try to eat them). They start out protected by a spiky shell, which eventually cracks open and the buckeye falls out. There was a buckeye tree down the street from my grandparents’s house. I remember when we were younger we would walk down the street and collect the buckeyes. There’s something weirdly pretty in an organic sort of way about the smoothness of the shell and the light-colored center.

buckeye

 

But what does all this have to do with candy?

Somewhere along the way, some genius Ohioan decided to make an edible, candy version of the buckeye. Whoever they were, I love them. Anyone who’s lived in Ohio has experienced these. They’re a very popular dessert during football season – thank you, Ohio State Buckeyes football team! During the holidays you’ll see them pop up a lot in gift baskets and such, too.

The traditional recipe that I grew up making uses a mass amount of powdered sugar, butter, and peanut butter for the filling. It’s fantastic, but super sweet and a total dentist’s nightmare.

I decided that I needed to make candy buckeyes this week for the OSU vs. Nebraska game. I love an excuse for themed desserts! While I was googling, I came across a slightly modified version of candy buckeyes that I decided to try. Less powdered sugar, but with the inclusion of graham cracker crumbs and cream cheese to hold the filling together. I decided to give it a shot. The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, a really fantastic blog. I’ve actually been perusing a lot of recipes on there lately. I modified the instructions a bit for you guys.

Candy Buckeyes

1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (smooth, but you can use chunky if you are looking for more texture)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 14 graham crackers)
Dash of salt
3 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks or 5 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
12 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped

ingredients

Make the filling: Beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together until combined. Add the graham cracker crumbs and beat. Add the powdered sugar gradually, and butter, and mix on the lowest speed until you’re no longer in danger of that awkward explosion of powder sugar. Increase speed to combine. Scrape down the whole bowl well, then mix again.

I chilled my batter for maybe 20 minutes and then shaped into balls. How big you make them depends on what sort of peanut butter to chocolate ratio you’re going for. I made mine maybe tablespoon sized?

Place the peanut butter balls on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Stick a toothpick in the top of each (this will help with the dipping later). Stick in the freeze for half an hour. Do some laundry…maybe watch an episode of Parks & Rec. Whatever.

Make the coating: Melt the chocolate either over a double boiler (or a fake double boiler: glass dish partially submerged in warm (but not boiling!) water in a larger pot), stirring until it is completely smooth or in a microwave in 30 then 10 second increments, stirring before you start it again until it is completely smooth. Let it cool a bit before dipping. You don’t want to melt your peanut butter balls!

Holding up by the toothpick, dip each ball into the chocolate and roll it about so that almost the entire candy is coated, leaving a small circle uncoated – the center of the buckeye!

Place on the wax paper. When I did these, the chocolate warmed the peanut butter enough that I could just slip the toothpick out and then smooth over the hole, leaving no evidence of the toothpick! Tricky.

Chill the buckeyes until they are set, about 30 minutes.

I prefer to eat them at room temperature. If you’re going to keep them for a few days (how they would last that long, I don’t know!), stick them in the fridge.

Makes somewhere between 36 and 60(!!) depending on how big you make them.

Oh candy buckeyes…how I love thee.

I will say however, I didn’t love the texture that the graham cracker crumbs added. My memories of candy buckeyes feature silky smooth peanut butter centers, these had a texture that probably wouldn’t matter to a first time buckeye-eater, but I knew it wasn’t right/true…

Still, they were pretty dang delicious anyway.

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