Many things surprised me when I moved to Minnesota over a decade ago. One was that people used checks to pay for everything. Another was how many former Ohio-ans I met. What it is about Minnesota that attracts Ohio ex-pats like me? I have some theories, but detailing them might offend my Ohio friends and relatives (hi, Mom and Dad!). Instead, I’ll talk about what we can all agree on—the deliciousness of a traditional Ohio holiday treat, the buckeye.
Real buckeyes grow on the state tree of Ohio, and are related to the horse chestnut. The inedible nuts are fairly useless, except as missiles to hurl at your siblings. Holiday buckeyes are bite-sized balls of peanut butter dipped in chocolate with a little circle of the peanut butter showing. Guess which version I’ve shared with my own children, 7 and 10? That’s right, the one that doesn’t break lamps and leave telltale welts.
Holiday buckeyes make good gifts for neighbors and teachers, plus they’re great bite-sized finger food at parties. They are easy to make with kids because no baking is involved, though the dipping process can be messy—a week later and I’m still finding drips of chocolate scattered around the kitchen.
The buckeye recipe my mom used called for melted paraffin in the dipping chocolate and three pounds of confectioners sugar. When I went to make them with my kids, I decided not to use the FLAMMABLE WAX, and cut way back on the sugar. Guess what? They still tasted great! Last year and this year we made buckeyes using the recipe from Baked: Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, which gussies up the recipe by adding ground graham crackers and cream cheese to the peanut butter dough, and dipping them in dark chocolate. The kids didn’t love the less-sweet dark chocolate, though my husband didn’t see the problem—more for him! This year we used semi-sweet chocolate and they’re back to being an all-ages treat.
I’ll include links to three recipes. The one at Smitten Kitchen is adapted from the one in Baked: Explorations and is the most decadent. The one at Epicurious is simple and traditional. I’ve also included one from Cooking Light with less sugar and fat. Whichever recipe you use, I recommend melting chocolate bars, not chocolate chips, since those often contain a stabilizer less conducive to dipping, which I find tricky in the best of circumstances. Due to dipping difficulties, our buckeyes were not picture perfect. I could blame this on my 7-year-old helper but that would be unkind. And untrue. But even though we made a tray of homely looking buckeyes, guess what? They still tasted great.