Buckeyes

We all love peanut butter in my house, especially Reece’s peanut butter cups.  Not overly keen on the chocolate though, sorry!  These are very similar to a peanut butter cup, but homemade and – well, nicer chocolate too!

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I’ve seen buckeyes around on the internet for a few years now and they are traditional in Ohio as they resemble the buckeye tree nut – basically just like a conker.  They are traditionally served around Christmas time, so I thought I would have a go and bring buckeyes to the UK.

They are really easy to make and take no time at all to make a batch.  I have a double recipe here, which makes practically a whole tree full, but you can halve the recipe, or halve the dough, freeze it and make some another time.  They are really rich and indulgent, so you wouldn’t want to eat too many anyway, but great for a crowd.

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I have used a mixture of dark and milk chocolate, but you could go all dark to offset the sugar a little if you wish.

Ingredients:
500g smooth peanut butter – I used Skippy
120g softened butter
pinch of salt
1tsp vanilla extract
450g icing sugar – seived
200g dark 70% chocolate
100g milk chocolate

Method:
Beat the peanut butter, butter, salt and vanilla in bowl until smooth. I use my stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but this is easily done by hand.

On low speed (and with a towel wrapped around the mixer) beat in the sugar until combined. You are looking for a fairly stiff and mouldable mixture that you can easily roll into balls without getting in a mess. If it looks too sticky, add in a little more icing sugar. Similarly, if it is too dry and turns into crumbs, add another spoon of peanut butter. Its a very simple mixture, you can’t really go wrong.

Taking around a tablespoon of mixture for each one, roll into balls and place on a non stick liner, or waxed parchment. Skewer each one with a cocktail stick and chill, or freeze until firm.

Buckeyes

When you are ready to dip, break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in the microwave, stirring the last few lumps in the residual heat to completely melt.

I like to transfer to a smaller bowl at this point as you want to dunk the balls to coat them.

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Dip each ball into the molten chocolate and let the excess run back into the bowl and place back onto the non stick liner. As the peanut butter balls are so cold, the chocolate will set immediately and leave you with a nice, thin, crisp shell.

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Finish coating all of the balls, tipping the bowl as the chocolate runs out and leave to set.

Pull out the cocktail sticks and leave the chocolate to completely set, before smoothing out the hole with a clean finger, or the back of a teaspoon.

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I prefer them kept refrigerated, but you can place them into little paper cases in a festive box and give them as gifts.

Peppermint Patties

These are very delicious and always very popular, but so easy to make. Only 4 ingredients are used in this recipe (minus sprinkles) and I really like them kept in the freezer for an icy cool, peppermint treat!

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I have kept the recipe fairly traditional and used some good dark chocolate to dip the peppermint candies in, but white chocolate works really well too, or you could use a mix of dark and milk if you don’t like bitter chocolate.

Some people like to add a little green food colouring to the peppermint filling, especially when using white chocolate to cover, but I prefer the icy white centre, covered with dark chocolate.

If you are in the mood to decorate, Christmas sprinkles or crushed candy canes are all good here.

For the ones I have made here, I have left some plain, some ruched with a fork and some with sprinkles. I think plain are best, but the children love the sprinkles!

I like to use a non-stick baking liner for my peppermint patties, but parchment will work well too, or oiled foil. Just don’t put them on a baking rack to drain off the excess chocolate, as they will stick to it.

This recipe uses a whole can of condensed milk, so makes a lot, but you can wrap the peppermint filling in cling film and freeze, ready to cut off sections for smaller batches whenever you fancy making some.

Ingredients:
1 x 397g can of sweetened condensed milk
5½ cups icing sugar, sieved (around 680g)
1 tablespoon peppermint extract (add a little more if preferred) – I used Nielsen-Massey
200g dark good quality chocolate – at least 70% cocoa solids
Sprinkles, or crushed candy canes to decorate (optional)

Method:
Place the sieved icing sugar, condensed milk and peppermint extract into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, wrap a tea towel around the bowl and mix on low speed until mixed. Taste to check you have enough peppermint.  Mixing can also be done with a wooden spoon of course.

The filling should be fairly stiff, but quite pliable – like play dough.  If you think the filling is a little wet or overly sticky, add another half a cup of icing sugar in.

Roll small amounts of the mixture into balls and flatten out on the baking liner. Roll any you are not using right now into a log, wrap in cling film and freeze.

Peppermint patties with sprinkles

Leave the candies to air dry for around an hour, before freezing them for at least 30 minutes. This will make dipping much easier!

When you are ready to dip the candies, break the chocolate into small pieces and microwave in short bursts, stopping to stir every 10 seconds. When only a few lumps remain, keep stirring as the residual heat will melt the rest of the chocolate. Leave it to stand for a few minutes to cool a little.

If you are using sprinkles, get them ready as you will need to decorate as you go because the chocolate will solidify as soon as you take the cold candy out.

Drop a candy into the melted chocolate and using a fork, gently lift it out, tapping on the side of the bowl to drain any excess chocolate. Place onto the non-stick liner and either drag the fork across to top, decorate with sprinkles or crushed candy canes, or just leave plain before moving onto the next one.

Peppermint Patties

You can give these as gifts in little clear bags, or a pretty box, but I do think they are best stored in the refrigerator, or even better, in the freezer!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Spiced Maple Frosting

Who doesn’t love a whoopie pie?  These yummy treats are made with pumpkin, spices and sandwiched together with a decadent, spiced, maple cream cheese frosting.  All the flavours of autumn in one small (if indulgent) little cake.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie

I made mine in a couple of Wilton 12 hole, Harvest whoopie pie pans, but they work just as well baked on a baking sheet with a non-stick liner, or parchment paper.  If you do use one pan, just be aware that you will need to keep washing and re-greasing it between baking the batches.  This can be a little time consuming, but if you want the cute shapes, totally worth it of course!

I’ve used a mixture of dark and light brown sugar and lots of spice for a dark and spicy mixture. There is more spice in the frosting too, along with maple extract.  All the flavours work so well together and create a perfect autumnal treat.

This recipe makes around 24 whoopie pies, depending on how big you make them

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Ingredients:
200g dark brown soft sugar
200g light brown soft sugar
200ml vegetable oil
2 extra large eggs
1 can of pure pumpkin puree
380g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
A little extra butter, melted for brushing the whoopie pie pan

Frosting:
280g full fat cream cheese at room temperature
115g butter at room temperature
450g icing sugar
2tsp maple extract/or use 2tbs maple syrup
2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp ground cloves
Pinch of ground allspice

Method:
Prepare the fosting first by seiving together the icing sugar and spices into a bowl.

In another bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and maple extract together until light and fluffy. I do this in my stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, but you could easily do this with a wooden spoon.

Beat in the spiced icing sugar until smooth and fluffy.  I wrap a towel around the mixer at this point to avoid huge clouds of icing sugar coating my entire kitchen!  You don’t get that problem with a wooden spoon!

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When the frosting is prepared, I pile it into a piping bag and chill until I’m ready to sandwich the cakes together.  This helps to firm up the frosting a little and make it easier to handle.  You could just leave it in a covered bowl in the fridge if not using a piping bag.

To make the whoopie pies:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF and brush the baking pan with melted butter or line a baking sheet with a non-stick liner or parchment.

Sieve the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and soda together in a large bowl.

Place the oil, sugars and vanilla in a bowl and whisk together.  I used a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, but this could easily be done with a hand whisk.

Beat in the pumpkin and eggs until smooth, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.

If using a whoopie pie pan, I find it easiest to use a piping bag.  I pipe the mixture around the outside first to ensure the batter gets into all the corners and then work into the centre in a spiral.  You only need to half fill the little holes as the mixture will rise.  Give the pan a tap to help any air escape and settle the mixture.

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If not using a pan, drop heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto the lined baking sheet, leaving room for the cakes to expand a little.

Bake for around 7 – 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them, they are ready when the cakes spring back to the touch and a cocktail stick comes out clean.

Leave them to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack and baking the next batch.  Let cakes cool completely.

When all the cakes are baked and cooled, either pipe or spread a little of the frosting onto one side and sandwich the two cakes together.  You can leave them plain, or add a few sprinkles around the edge.  I’ve used some bronze sprinkles here, which I think work well, but some people have been known to add crispy bacon bits too!

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These are great for a party, an after-school snack, or just with a cup of coffee.