Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeyes

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My apologies to every sports fan who stumbles upon this blog, only to find that there is absolutely no information about (any) college sports team. The Buckeyes I refer to in the title are not the Ohio State Buckeyes, but the tiny chocolate-covered peanut butter balls that were inspired by Ohio’s state tree. Alex and I were visiting Ohio (his first time to Ohio!) this Memorial Day weekend to celebrate the wedding of our lovely friends, Michael and Deborah, in Cleveland Heights. The ceremony was beautiful and rather dramatic because of a sudden thunderstorm. Plus, it was a Jewish ceremony, which meant Alex and I had to learn a Jewish wedding song and see some new (to us) traditions. On top of that, the bride is originally from Brazil, so there was also samba music and lots of dancing. We couldn’t have had more fun, or celebrated a better couple.

I grew up just across the border from Ohio, in Indiana, but I had seen very little of the state before. As we always try to do, we turned this short trip into a slightly longer road trip. After leaving Cleveland early on Monday, we drove down to Columbus, only briefly stopping to get coffee and to walk around the Short North and German Village neighborhoods. It was really the only urban area that we visited. Most of our road trip was spent driving by rolling fields and through one-stoplight towns, smelling Memorial Day barbecues. Today, we will leave my mom’s house in search of antique stores to buy knicknacks we don’t need.

In honor of our trip, I thought I would make a very traditional Ohio treat (and by traditional, I mean a mid-century invention of Midwest housewives). I’m using my mom’s ancient recipe for peanut butter balls. When mom made them, they were called peanut butter balls, and they were completely covered in chocolate. The only difference is that when you make buckeyes, you leave a tiny cap of peanut butter showing. Ohioans call them buckeyes, because they resemble the nut of Ohio’s state tree, the buckeye. My mom would usually make the treat for family get-togethers. In Ohio, they are often also served during Ohio State games.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeyes
Makes about 30, 1-inch Buckeyes.

Ingredients:
1 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chocolate bar, chopped)

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, powdered sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla extract with a hand mixture. The mixture will look thick, almost like a cookie batter. Cover with a dish towel and allow to chill in the refrigerator for about half an hour.

Cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a small spoon (the large scoop on my melon baller worked well), scoop portions of the peanut butter mixture, roll into a ball and set on parchment paper. Continue until all of the peanut butter mixture has been used. Refrigerate for another half an hour.

Fill a small saucepan with about an inch of water and bring to just a boil. Make a double-boiler by filling a small bowl with the chocolate and setting this on the saucepan, above the water. Be sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water in the saucepan.

Stirring the chocolate often, allow the chocolate to melt above the heat. Once the chocolate has just melted, remove from heat and stir until the mixture is smooth.

Using a toothpick, skewer the refrigerated peanut butter ball and dip into the chocolate mixture. Keeping the toothpick in the top of the ball, slowly rotate the ball in the chocolate until all is covered, except for a small portion at the top. Return to parchment paper and remove the toothpick. If you like, you can lightly pat the the spot where the toothpick was to get rid of the hole.

Continue until you have coated all of the peanut butter balls with chocolate. Allow to refrigerate for at least another half hour before serving.

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Bear in mind, these little candies are very rich. Delicious, but rich. Even as a child, while other family members were gobbling them up a few at a time, I could only eat about half. The recipe above is a slight adaptation to my mom’s original, using slightly less sugar. I first tried to use much less, but didn’t have much success keeping the peanut butter in ball-form for dipping. So they’re still rich, but a little more balanced. They remind me a lot of the Reese’s holiday versions of peanut butter cups. You know the ones: egg-shaped for Easter, hearts for Valentine’s Day, always with a shockingly large ratio of peanut butter to chocolate, just the way I like it. My next plan is to make a batch, freeze them, take them to our next summer barbecue, and win the hearts of everyone.

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Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie for Derby Day

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This is not a Cinco de Mayo recipe. I hope anyone reading can make it through this post since I know you all just want margs and tacos. Trust me, I get it. Especially the taco part. And I will be celebrating, but for a different reason. It’s actually a fairly special day for my fella and I. Back when we met in college, I suggested that my Biology project group (Alex included) go out for Cinco de Mayo. I had just recently turned 21 and was very interested in purchasing my first margarita (dumb college student stuff). However, the rest of group was not yet 21 (Alex included) and so they all declined. I guess the idea of quietly watching me drink a margarita as big as my head was not appealing to them. But later, I got a call from Alex asking if I still wanted to go out. I wasn’t sure where to go, so Alex picked a tiny place that he liked–that definitely did not have margaritas and only had a few taco choices, all served only with onion, cilantro, and a little slice of lime. It was the first time, outside of Biology class, that we had talked alone. And we had a great time! He told me about what it was like to grow up in Chicago. I told him about what it was like to grow up in what seemed to be the smallest town on the planet. And we became real friends. Not just Biology group friends. I also learned to love the simple deliciousness of tacos, served only with onion, cilantro, and a little slice of lime (and there you go, there’s my taco recipe). I forget until Cinco de Mayo rolls around every year and then I remember and my heart grows three sizes.

So there will be no fancy Cinco de Mayo recipes from me today. Instead, we’re cruising straight into the weekend, with a recipe for a celebration of a different kind: The Kentucky Derby. I present to you you the only dessert you should be eating tomorrow: Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie.

At first I wasn’t sure if I should post this recipe, which counts as my second chocolate pie post in a month. The first was Chocolate Perfection Pie for Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday. But then I thought, people really like chocolate and pie, so it’s probably fine.

It’s common practice for this pie to be served to mark the running of the Derby.  It’s also apparently common practice to prepare food a day before the race, so that you’re not cooking on Derby Day. Makes sense. I imagine forming pie crust edges is slightly more difficult with a few mint juleps under your belt. Those Kentuckians are just planning ahead.

Have you heard of this pie? Luckily, I didn’t make the mistake of calling it Derby Pie. And, technically, it’s not. The pie officially known as “Derby Pie” is made with walnuts, and the name is trademarked by the Kern family in Kentucky. It’s a somewhat fascinating story of how one family claims to be salvaging its own history by trademarking the name, while others claim that Derby Pie is a generic name for a chocolate-nut pie that has been around for years and does not belong to one particular recipe. That has not stopped the Kern family from suing websites and bakers who sell or provide recipes for “Derby Pie.” It has been called the “most litigious confection in America.” If you want to read more about the pie’s legal troubles, NPR did a story here.

Anyway, this is not Derby Pie, but it is full of semi-sweet chocolate, pecans, and just a little bourbon, for good measure. Alex described it at “Cookie Dough Pie.” That’s not far off, but that doesn’t begin to do it justice. After baking, the pecans become toasty, the chocolate chips melt to form a rich base, and the egg and cornstarch mixture develop a cookie crust on top.

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Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie for Derby Day
Makes one 9-inch pie.

Ingredients:

For pie crust:
I used my favorite pie shell recipe, which can be found here.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 stick, plus 1 tbsp (9 tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed and very cold
3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup ice water

For pie filling:
I used Alice Colombo’s recipe, found in Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie.

2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp bourbon
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

For topping, optional:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp bourbon
1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

For crust: In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse for about 5 seconds to mix.

Add the cold butter cubes to the food processor and process for about 5 more seconds. You should still be able to see large pieces of butter.

Add the vinegar and 1/4 cup of cold water, then pulse for 5 more seconds. If the mixture is still quite dry, add 1 tbsp of cold water at a time, quickly pulsing between each addition. Don’t add more than a total of 1/2 cup of cold water.

Pour the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface, gather the mixture together into a ball, form into a disc, and wrap in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for at least an hour.

For the pie: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the dough is ready, roll it out to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Trim edges, fold under and form a decorative edge with your fingers or a fork.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs until they’re light and frothy. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the cornstarch sugar mixture to the egg mixture in three batches, mixing thoroughly in between each addition.

Add the bourbon and melted butter to the mixture and whisk to combine thoroughly.

Add in the chopped pecans and chocolate chips. Stir to combine.

Pour the entire mixture into the prepared pie shell.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, turning the pie 180 degrees in the oven halfway through baking.

Remove pie and allow to cool for an hour before serving.

In a small bowl, using a hand mixer, beat together the heavy cream, bourbon, and vanilla until peaks form. Top the pie pieces, as desired.

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This recipe was created by a former Assistant Food Editor for the Louisville Courier, named Alice Colombo. After some light snooping, I found that Ms. Colombo also wrote her own cookbook a few years ago, which includes recipes from her time at the Courier. If you like this recipe, it might be worth checking out others.

Now grab your big hat and make some pie!

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