Buckeyes and I go wayyyy back. Ok, not that far back, just 2011 back. I had a friend of mine ask me to make a groom’s cake for her now husband who was an Ohio State alum. She told me what she wanted the cake to look like and explained to me the whole “buckeye” thing. If you’re not familiar with this information, let’s have a little lesson: Ohio’s state tree is the buckeye tree, which produces nuts that resemble chestnuts. The nuts are referred to as buckeyes, as are the people of Ohio and Ohio State University (whose mascot is the buckeye). Are you getting the picture? Ohio loves their buckeyes so much, they make this amazing candy that looks like the buckeye nuts made of peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar, that is dipped in chocolate, so naturally, there needed to be buckeyes on this groom’s cake.
My original plan was to make real peanut butter buckeyes, but I decided to make them out of fondant instead. I’m glad that I did, because this wedding was in late August and it was HOT. I was worried enough about the cake itself, let alone melt-in-your-mouth soft peanut butter balls.
The cake was a hit, the groom was so surprised, and ever since then, I made it a mission to visit Ohio State at some point in my life and get an authentic buckeye. I had to know what the hype was about!
Fast forward to January of this year, I was asked by my employer to go to a one day conference/meeting at some point in 2015. When I saw that Ohio State was on the list of places I could go, I said “HECK YES! I NEED SOME BUCKEYES!” and booked a plane ticket and hotel room that very day. I was way more excited about the opportunity to get an authentic buckeye than anything that was going on at this science conference, and believe me, I get really excited about that part, too.
The hotel I was staying at is on Ohio State’s campus, and I fell into conversation with the concierge about where to get the best buckeyes. After handing me a REAL buckeye nut, which now sits proudly on my lab bench at work, she directed me to Schmidt’s Fudge Haus in downtown Columbus, which just so happened to be right next door to Schmidt’s Sausage Haus which was where my friend whose groom’s cake I made suggested I go for dinner. I had amazing Bahama Mama spicy sausage, kraut, and German potato salad for dinner, a huge piece of German chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert (huge splurge), and then walked over to the candy store while I waited for my cab.
Umm, guys, this place… Was incredible. Chocolate everything you could ever imagine, and HUGE pieces of it. Some of the candies were as big as my palm! I found the small display case of buckeyes and bought a box with the intention of taking some into work with me when I got home. My coworkers knew how excited I was to get some buckeyes, and I promised to bring some back.
It took ALL of me not to eat this entire box. I managed to eat ONE in my hotel room and only half of one when I got home to Pennsylvania (my darling husband sacrificed his 12-week challenge to cheat and eat the other half). The rest went to work, and they were GONE almost as fast as they came. Their texture was unbeatable. I was expecting something like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, but the inside was more confectionary and sweeter. I vowed to recreate them in my kitchen, so here we are. The only thing I wanted to change was that I am 95% sure Schmidt’s buckeyes were dipped in milk chocolate, and I much prefer semi-sweet and/or dark.
Friends, these buckeyes could not be easier. The hardest part is the time it takes to roll the dough into balls and all of the waiting for things to chill. The peanut butter dough is uncomplicated, easy, and fairly forgiving. Once it’s all blended together, it gets a short chill in the freezer to firm up the butter, then it gets rolled into balls (don’t worry if they’re not perfectly round).
Each ball gets a toothpick that will be used as the “handle” for dipping it into chocolate. After everyone has a handle, another pop in the freezer for just under an hour turns each peanut butter ball into the perfect medium for a coating of chocolate.
Each ball gets a generous dunk, almost the whole way in, leaving a small circle of peanut butter exposed on the top.
Once all of the balls are happy in their chocolate jackets, they must chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours. I found my buckeyes to be the best after staying put in the fridge overnight. They were still a bit soft after only a few hours, albeit just as delicious, but I recommend closer to 12 hours.
When all of the buckeyes are set, remove the toothpick, and if you would like, smudge the hole with the toothpick or your (clean) finger. As you can see in the photo above, the authentic ones leave the hole, so if you’d like to stick to that, be my guest!
These buckeyes are oh, so peanut buttery, with just a touch of saltiness to complement the smooth, creamy chocolate shell that encases them. The perfect bite-size snack for dessert, a cookie tray, or any chocolate peanut butter lover (like, everyone in the world, right?). You might consider coating your buckeyes in milk or white chocolate for an extra fancy treat, but that’s totally your preference.
Easy, straight-forward, and dangerously delicious. Don’t tell any of my Penn State friends (which is just about all of them), but GO BUCKS! 😉
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 2 and ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped*
- Line a large baking sheet with foil, parchment, or wax paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir together with a wooden spoon or sturdy plastic spatula until butter is completely blended. You may want to put your bowl in the microwave for 5-10 seconds if you find your butter is not blending well.
- Add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, stirring after each addition. If mixture becomes too thick to stir, blend together with your hands. When you have added all of the powdered sugar, chill peanut butter mixture in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up the butter.
- Remove from refrigerator and roll peanut butter mixture into balls about 1" in diameter (I weighed mine and found that 0.6oz was the perfect size). Work quickly so the heat of your hand doesn't melt the peanut butter too much, and don't worry if they're not perfectly round. When all of the peanut butter mixture is rolled into balls, insert a toothpick into the top of each ball, pushing the toothpick the whole way through to the baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the freezer and allow peanut butter balls to harden for 45 minutes.
- When there are a few minutes left for the peanut butter balls, prepare the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl. Heat in microwave for 20 seconds on HIGH, stir, and heat again as necessary in 20-second increments until completely melted. Set aside.
- Remove peanut butter balls from freezer. Pour some of the melted chocolate into a small prep bowl (or a mug) so there is some depth for dipping the peanut butter balls. Working with one peanut butter ball at a time and using the toothpick as a "handle," dip each peanut butter ball into the melted chocolate, allowing a small circle to remain exposed at the top of each ball. Place back on baking sheet. When all of the peanut butter balls are dipped, place baking sheet in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. I had the best results after 12 hours.
- Once the buckeyes are completely set, remove the toothpicks. If desired, use your finger to smudge the peanut butter together on the top of the buckeye to cover the hole made by the toothpick. Store buckeyes in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between layers in the refrigerator up to 1 month. They may be kept at room temperature up to 1 week, but know they fare better in the fridge. At room temperature, the peanut butter starts to separate from the chocolate after a few hours. Un-dipped peanut butter balls freeze well, up to 2 months.
Can’t get enough of peanut butter and chocolate? Try these recipes next!
Or even better… Chocolate IN peanut butter with Homemade White Chocolate Peanut Butter!
Feeling pumpkin-y? Pumpkin Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites know no season to me.