Photo: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro, Laura Zapalowski

Creamy peanut butter and rich melted chocolate--it doesn't get much better or easier . . . Or does it? If you've ever ended up with crumby dough, toothpick holes, or a melted chocolate mess, here's what you're doing wrong.

December 16, 2016

Buckeye Balls, Peanut Butter Balls, or Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bites. . . Whatever you call them, it's obvious they're delicious. And with their short ingredient and instruction list--simply mix together peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar and coat in melted chocolate morsels--you'd think they'd be easy as pie. If you've ever screwed up this seemingly-simple treat, you're in good company. Around my house we call them peanut butter balls, and my mom and I make them together during the holidays every year--a tradition we copied from our dear friends who used to give them out as Christmas gifts. (I wrote a whole post about our tradition awhile back, and you can read about it here.) 

I'll never forget the first time we tried to make them. Both experienced home bakers, we didn't think twice about an 'easy' dessert recipe that calls for only a handful of ingredients. Needless to say, two hours later the whole kitchen was covered in powdered sugar and splattered with chocolate, and my mom and I were left with crumby 'balls' of peanut butter dunked in the ugliest, lumpiest chocolate coating you've ever seen. Needless to say, we were both pretty embarrassed, and we debated quitting our newly-established tradition that very year to avoid the shame of screwing up such a simple recipe again.

Thankfully, we decided to give it the 'ol college try the following year, and I'm so glad we did. I stand here today a proud conquistador of homemade peanut butter balls--and, it turns out, they are pretty simple as long as you know what you're doing. Here are a few of the best tips I've learned over the years: 
 

 Photo: Katie Hanley

 

1. To avoid a dry, crumby dough . . .

  • Mix together the peanut butter and butter first, and then stir in the powdered sugar one cup at a time, until you reach the right consistency. Usually about 3 cups of powdered sugar will do for approximately 1 1/2-2 cups of peanut butter.
  • Towards the end of this process, use your hands to mix everything together for a creamy, smooth filling.

2. To avoid a sticky peanut butter mixture that never firms up . . .

  • Cut down on your butter. 1/4-1/2 cup of butter will do for approximately 1 1/2-2 cups of peanut butter.

3. To avoid chocolate that hardens too quickly . . .

  • Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Once the chocolate is melted, keep the burner on low heat so the chocolate stays soft inside the bowl while you dip each bite individually.

4. To avoid toothpick slippage . . . 

  • Once you've rolled all your balls, stick a toothpick in the center of each one before you put the baking sheet of peanut butter balls in the freezer to harden. Allow them to firm up in the freezer for 15 minutes, or up to 45.
  • The toothpicks will stay firmly inside the bites as you dunk each individually in the melted chocolate. Immediately afterward dipping in chocolate, remove the toothpick.

5. To avoid toothpick holes.

  • As soon as you finish dunking each ball into the melted chocolate, dampen your fingertip ever-so-slightly with water and rub it over the toothpick hole. It should disappear almost immediately.

Bonus: Once you're beautiful Buckeye Balls arecomplete, don't forget to store them in the refrigerator or freezer. We like to 'wrap' them in Mason jars and tie them with a bow and give them as gifts to friends and neighbors during the holiday season. They will keep for approximately two weeks (as long as they're stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator), but trust me, they'll disappear before then.

 

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