Will the real buckeye please stand up? Because I wouldn't want to accidentally bite into the kind of buckeye that grows on a tree in Ohio. What I would want to bite into is the kind of buckeye that's peanut butter filled, dipped in chocolate, and plopped into chocolate chip cookie dough that's been baking in a cupcake pan.
I knew it was inevitable that I'd eventually make buckeye candies the moment that Charlie, my older son, divulged his final college choice late last April. He was fortunate in having a few great options, and as the decision deadline approached, my husband and I were on pins and needles awaiting the verdict. We were both happy and relieved that the winning choice was Ohio State, land of anything and everything buckeye, and less than a four hour drive from our house. So last Sunday, after months of anticipation and weeks of preparation, we drove Charlie down to Columbus, moved him in, met his roommates, then said our hug-laden goodbyes.
We'd successfully deposited our first child into the waiting arms of academia and, well, there wasn't much left to do but grab a hamburger and hit the road back to Michigan. Joy? Pride? Amazement? Apprehension? I feel them all. And I keep having non-stop mom-thoughts: Did he remember to bring an umbrella? He didn't pack that scary-looking hunting knife he owns, did he? Why didn't he bring that cute collapsible under-bed storage thingie I got him? Hmmm . . .
Now, our home is perhaps 25 percent quieter, there are fewer dirty towels to wash, and I don't have to wonder what time he'll turn into the driveway late on a weekend night. It's sort of as if he's away at a really big camp where they don't make s'mores or play taps at bedtime. But the kid's a force of nature, and I must say I miss him and the way he would always swoop in the backdoor after school or work, say hi to me, grab a snack, race to change his clothes, and swoop out the door again after giving me a peck on the cheek. That's my Charlie--a whirling bundle of barely-contained, teenage-boy energy.
I hope they like energy at Ohio State.
Thus, the Buckeye cookie cups . . .
Buckeye candies are a close cousin to the peanut butter cup. They're easy to make at home and so darn good. My idea to put them into this particular recipe came to me as I was browsing through my recently (and gleefully) received review copy of A Baker's Field Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies, by Dede Wilson.
The Harvard Common Press of Boston was kind enough to offer me two sets of these wonderful books; one review set for me to keep (yay!) and one set to give away to one of you (double yay!). Thank you so very much, HCP!
Do you want these books, too?
Rhetorical question. I know you do. To throw your hat into the mixing bowl, so to speak, just leave a comment on this post telling me about one of your favorite cookie, candy, or cupcake recipes! That's all there is to it. I'll announce the lucky winner here on Wednesday, Sept. 28th, so be sure check back.
About these recipes . . .
This cookie-cup was adapted from the recipe for "Caramel Surprise Chocolate Chip Cups" in A Baker's Field Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies; that recipe suggests the use of Rolo candies inserted into mini-size cookie cups. But I wanted to do something with all these hefty buckeyes I'd made and, to accommodate their girth (they were about as big as whole walnuts--no kidding), I needed correspondingly roomy cookie cups, so I used regular size cupcake pans. (The basic recipe I adapted for the buckeye candies came from the book, Who Wants Candy?, by Jane Sharrock--another fun book to check out.)
In the large bowl of your mixer, on low speed, blend together the peanut butter and butter. Add in the salt and vanilla extract. Add in the confectioners' sugar gradually. You want the mixture to hold together easily when you roll a little glob of it between your palms into a ball, but you don't want it to be too soft. It should also not be crumbly. Keep adding sugar, and adjust the consistency as needed with more peanut butter.
Form into balls no more than 1" in diameter (that's how big mine were and they were pretty hefty; I think smaller might be better!), placing them on a parchment sheet placed over a rimmed baking sheet. Put the balls into the freezer while you melt the chocolate.
Break up the chocolate into a small bowl and slowly melt it in the microwave, using extreme care to avoid overheating the chocolate, and stirring gently every now and then when you check it. Be careful as well, to avoid getting any water at all into the chocolate; even one drop of water can cause it to seize, which will completely ruin it.
Another option is to slowly melt the chocolate in a metal bowl placed atop a pan of gently simmering water (making sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the pan). Depending on what kind of chocolate you use, and whether or not it's specifically for coating or not, you may find you need to thin the mixture slightly after it's melted; you can do this by adding vegetable oil a couple of drops at a time and gently stirring it in. (If you are familiar with the process of tempering, and you want to use couverture chocolate for your buckeyes instead of the lesser coating chocolates available, go for it. If you have no experience with tempering chocolate at all, though, now may not be the best time to give it a try.) The consistency of the dipping chocolate you use, whatever it is, should be fairly thin when melted. You may need to make adjustments as you see fit.
When your peanut butter balls are cold and firm, use a toothpick to spear each one, and quickly dip it into the melted chocolate, leaving an uncoated circular area on the top, and swiping the bottom gently against the edge of the bowl to scrape off the excess chocolate. Set each coated ball on the parchment covered tray. You may end up with a little hole from the toothpick. Once the chocolate has firmed up, you can safely try to smooth the hole closed with your fingertip. If you have a special candy-dipping fork, you may be able to avoid the problem of the little hole by using that instead of a toothpick. Experiment to see what works best for you.
It will take several minutes for the dipped chocolate to firm up completely. Store the finished buckeyes in a dry and cool location until you're ready to use them in the cookie cups, or eat them as they are! (I layered mine with parchment paper in a small cardboard cake box.)
To make the chocolate-chip cookie cups:
(Yield: At least 24 large-size cookie cups, with a little cookie batter leftover)
Grease 24 regular-size cupcake cups and then spray liberally with vegetable spray, or use paper cupcake liners in the pan(s).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached.)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt (I used kosher salt.)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs, large
2 cups mini-size semisweet chocolate chips
In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In the large bowl of your mixer, beat the butter until creamy on medium-high speed. Gradually add in the two sugars and beat until fluffy, about three minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl periodically. Blend in the vanilla, then add the eggs in one at a time, beating each until well combined. Add one third of the flour mixture on low speed, mixing just until combined; add in the rest of the flour gradually. Don't over-mix. On the lowest speed, pour in the mini chocolate chips, beating only until evenly incorporated.
Evenly portion the cookie batter into the cupcake pans (I used a no. 24 portion scoop; it holds 3 Tbsp. by volume).
Bake for about 10 minutes, until the cups have begun to turn golden. Remove them from the oven quickly and plop a buckeye into the middle of each one, gently pressing it down into the cup.
Put the pans right back into the oven and continue baking for about 6 more minutes or so. When they're quite golden, remove the trays and set them to cool on racks. Run a thin knife or metal spatula around the edges of the cups to loosen them before attempting to remove the cookie cups.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
If you'd like to know a bit about me please click here, or look for the tiny photo of a pink cupcake topped by a strawberry, further down, in the "About me"section. You can also reach me by email at email@example.com . . .
Saveur featured Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal . . .
. . . in their Daily Fare section. We're honored to be on their "Best of the Web" list!
Visit the PBS site to reminisce about 2013's best food trends. They've assembled an entertaining look at what we foodies focused on--what we ate, cooked, read, watched, and blogged about--throughout the year. Click here!
Interesting article in the Los Angeles Timeson the resurgence in demand for the skills of professional pastry chefs. (It seems we still need them after all . . .but you and I have always known that, haven't we?)
The IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) announced winners of its 2013 IACP Food Writing Awards. Have a look at the list. (No surprise that the gorgeous Bouchon Bakery cookbook won for photography and styling; took about a dream of a book! It's gorgeous.)
Food journalist and cookbook reviewer T. Susan Chang, writing for Publisher's Weekly, shared her thoughts in the article "10 Things Every Cookbook Publisher Should Know." Chang clarifies, in a nutshell, what differentiates a great cookbook from an awful dud. I found myself nodding in agreement with every point she made.
An interesting variation on cherries jubilee . . .
. . . made with Grand Marnier, sweet black cherries, pomegranate juice, and homemade vanilla ice cream.
Dutch apple cake . . .
. . . it's divine!
What We Talk About . . .
. . . When We Talk About Banana Cake!
JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
Copyright 2009-2014, on original content and photos, Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for permission if you'd like to reuse any of my photos or my content. Please consider informing me if you link to my blog--I'd love to know. --Thanks for visiting!