Bringing Buckeye Candy to Experts

by D. Prinz on July 20, 2015

IMG_1523I only know about Buckeyes because I have family in Ohio. I love peanut butter and chocolate together so I decided to make them for the first time for a 4th of July party for local friends and family in Cincinnati, mixing in small amounts of presumption, appreciation and exploration. Some might say stupidity. After all these folks are Buckeye experts.

Buckeye trees abound in Ohio. The Buckeye Ball resembles the nut of the tree. Some say that the association of buckeyes with the state of Ohio stems to General William Henry Harrison in 1840 when he referred to the “Buckeye State” in his election campaign. Or, native Americans saw Colonial Ebenezer Sproat process with a sword extended to open the first court in the Northwest Territory in 1788  in Marietta, Ohio, and they nicknamed him after “the eye of the buck.” In 1952 the Ohio General Assembly declared the buckeye the official state tree.

If there were an official state candy it would probably be the Buckeye, the chocolate enrobed peanut butter ball that resembles the nut of the buckeye tree. Columbus company Anthony Thomas produces 100,000 pounds of buckeyes each year. Coco Beans Candy boasts the world’s largest Buckeye, weighing 271 pounds in Fremont, Ohio.

Gail Tabor claims to have created the first Buckeye Balls according to an article she wrote for the Arizona Republic in 1983. Years prior to the article, during Christmas season, she was trying out a candy recipe. Thinking it did not look right, she showed it to her husband and then realized “Hey, it looks like a Buckeye.”

Tabor concocted lots of them for friends and family and they were wildly popular. People repeatedly asked for the recipe. She resisted. Every year for 17 years she made the Buckeye Balls  for the Ohio State-Michigan game. Finally Tabor gave in and gave the recipe to a woman who was moving to Oklahoma, figuring it would stay secret. Only later did Tabor find out later that she had been betrayed when the recipe was published in the Ohio State Alumni Magazine as having been created by that “friend.”

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The recipe that Tabor tried to protect all those years contained 4 pounds of powdered sugar to 6 or more tablespoons of smooth peanut butter. The chocolate was mixed with a block of canning wax. I selected the Smitten Kitchen (Deb Perelman) recipe with its decreased sugar, plus add-ins of cream cheese and graham crackers. This foodified things for the sophisticated palates of my Buckeye experts. I in turn adjusted Perelman’s version, using a crunchy wholesome peanut butter and a bit of oil (people recommend rapeseed) in the chocolate to make it shinier and harder.

My gracious Cincinnati friends kindly said they liked them. I would even share the recipe if they asked.

Buckeyes from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 36 to 42 tablespoon-sized candies; I made 64 with a #70 (1/2-ounce) scoop and got 64

1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups peanut butter (smooth, but you can use chunky if you are looking for more texture)

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 14 graham crackers)

Salt (optional)

3 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks or 5 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

12 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped

Make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter together until combined. Add the graham cracker crumbs and beat for 10 seconds. Add the sugar and butter, and mix on the lowest speed until it stops floating off everywhere, then increase the speed until the ingredients are combined. Scrape down the whole bowl well, then mix again. The mixture will be quite sturdy and a little dry — perfect for shaping. Set it aside while you prepare the coating.
Make the coating: Melt the chocolate either over a double boiler, stirring until it is completely smooth or in a microwave in 30 then 10 second increments, stirring before you start it again until it is completely smooth. Let it cool to tepid (about 100 degrees, though I’d go a little cooler next time for a thicker coating; I had a few ounces of chocolate leftover) while you shape the peanut butter centers. {DRP: I added a small amount of vegetable oil to the chocolate. People recommend rapeseed oil for this}
Assemble the candies: Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Scoop out slightly more than one tablespoon’s worth of filling (their suggestion; I used a scoop that made them a little smaller) and use your hands to form it into a ball. Place the ball on the prepared sheet and repeat the process until all of the candies have been shaped. They can sit close to each other but make sure they are not touching.
Using a fork or large skewer, dip each ball into the chocolate and roll it about so that almost the entire candy is coating, leaving a small circle uncoated. Play around with a few practice pieces; I found it easiest to stick the skewer in the side, angle the bowl I was using towards it and make sure it became submerged as I rolled the candy around. But don’t fuss too much; even the “ugly” ones won’t go to waste.
Chill the Buckeyes until they are set, about 30 minutes.

 

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Fathering Chocolate

by D. Prinz on June 11, 2015

cistercian_monks making chocolate-300x200Fathers, Dominicans that is, helped bridge the New World’s chocolate to the Old World. In 1544 Padres tantalized the Spanish court with chocolate prepared and presented by a Kekchi Maya delegation of New World natives. Fatherly faith indeed aided in spreading chocolate to new regions of the world, to new religious contexts, and to new appreciation.
As Europeans slowly acquired a taste for it, celebratory chocolate enhanced many Christian settings. Church leaders depended on chocolate for physical, economic, and spiritual sustenance. Eventually the chocolate appetites of sixteenth-and seventeenth-century Christian religious enrobed many members of the Church in the Old World. For them, chocolate became an instrument of adulation, an offering for the greater glory of God. In Spain, monks made chocolate, drank it in secret, and hoarded their supplies and recipes. The Cistercians at the monastery at Poblet in Spain designated a special room for chocolate drinking. Early chocolate adopter Alphonse de Richelieu (b. 1585), cardinal of Paris, first tasted chocolate, when his protégé Cardinal Mazarin brought a personal chocolate maker with him from Italy. In 1634 Mexican Jesuits were shipping chocolate to their brothers in Rome by way of Seville. For his submission to a poetry contest honoring the seventh birthday of King Charles II, a Carmelite friar referred to chocolate as “that inspirational Ambrosia.” Jesuit Father Roberti treated himself to a drink of what he called the “Mexican nectar” at his morning meal. He also sought inspiration from a bowl of chocolate when writing.
Back in the New World chocolate provided good road food as the church extended its mission to California along the El Camino Real of twenty-one missions. When Franciscan Father Junípero Serra left Spain for his duties in the New World, he nestled chocolate in his personal belongings. Storms required his ship to make port at Puerto Rico and a local mission there provided sustenance in the form of chocolate. Serra reported: “For eighteen days we ate better than in any convent, all drinking chocolate every day.”
We honor these fathers, actually all fathers, whether religious or not, with chocolate.

This has been cross posted from the Huffington Post.

Quatre Mendiants au Chocolat
Recipe for Mendiants:


Many fine chocolatiers today make delicacies called mendiants. These immortalize the mendicant (beggar) orders–Augustinians, Carmelites, Dominicans, and Franciscans–those that serve the poor and rely only on donations for support. Each nut and dried fruit in the mendiant symbolizes the color of the respective monastic robes: raisins for Dominicans, hazelnuts for Augustinians, dried figs for Franciscans, and almonds for Carmelites.
Ingredients:
•    4 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
•    1⁄4 cup cocoa nibs, almonds, or hazelnuts
•    1⁄4 cup candied ginger
•    1⁄4 cup dried blueberries or raisins
•    1⁄4 cup candied orange peel
Instructions:
1.    Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
2.    In a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stir the chocolate until melted.
3.    Remove the chocolate from the heat.
4.    Drop tablespoonfuls of chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet, using the back of the spoon to flatten into disks.
5.    Place one of each of the four toppings onto each circle.
6.    Work a few medallions at a time; they will harden as they cool.
7.    Cool on the baking sheet until hardened.
8.    Store in a cool place in a covered container.
Quantity:
About 20

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