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.

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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.

White Chocolate and Oreo Fudge Filled Easter Eggs

These are perfect desserts for Easter. They are definitely only meant for once a year as they are so rich and indulgent. The chocolate eggs have a white chocolate and Oreo cookie fudge filling and are made using silicone moulds that readily available and not too expensive.

Easter Eggs

Ingredients:
Detail on the egg shells:

100g white chocolate, broken into pieces

Egg shells:
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

Egg bases:
50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
50g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

Filling:
1 397g can of condensed milk
200g white chocolate
1 pack of original Oreo cookies, bashed or chopped up into small pieces

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Method:
Melt the white chocolate in the microwave and using a food safe paint brush, load up the brush with chocolate and carefully fill in the detail on the silicone egg moulds. You will either find this therapeutic or get half way through and wonder why on earth you started doing this! Persevere, as the end result really is worth it. Take care to keep inside the lines.

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Leave to set completely.

Melt the dark and milk chocolate in the microwave, leave to cool slightly. If it is too warm, it might melt the white chocolate and spoil the detail.

Coat the insides of the egg moulds with the chocolate. I did this by pouring chocolate into each one and tilting and turning the mould until the insides had a good coating. Leave to set completely.

While the shells are setting, make the filling.

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Add the condensed milk to a heavy based pan along with the white chocolate and heat until melted, stirring all the time.

When everything is liquid, take off the heat and stir in the cookie rubble. Leave to cool, but not set completely. You need it to be cool enough to not melt the chocolate egg shells.

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When the filling is cool, fill the waiting shells and gently press down with the back of a spoon to flatten the filling before adding the rest of the chocolate.

Melt the remaining chocolate and pour onto the waiting eggs, use an offset spatula or palette knife to scrape off the excess and give you a nice flat finish.

Leave to set completely – at least 2 hours and your eggs will be complete.

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This recipe would work just as well with the smaller silicone egg moulds you can get as they are super rich.

If I made these again, I would work harder at tempering the chocolate to get a good shine on them, but I don’t think my family noticed the lack of shine when tucking in!

Baked Pumpkin French Toast

This is full of warm autumnal spices, brown sugar and pumpkin. The inside is soft, fluffy and smooth – all topped with a crisp, brown sugar and pecan streusel.

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I think this is the perfect weekend breakfast or brunch dish to make you feel warm and cozy on a chilly autumn day with the family.

It’s super easy to prepare and is actually better if it is prepared the night before you want to bake it. Just whisk the custard ingredients together, pour over the bread cubes and refrigerate. The streusel topping should be scattered over the casserole just before baking.

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Ingredients:
Butter for greasing the dish
1 large loaf of brioche or challah, cut into cubes
8 large eggs
1 ½ cup/360ml of whole milk
1 ½ cup/360ml of double/heavy cream
Zest of one orange
1tbs vanilla extract
½ cup brown sugar – lightly packed
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (about half a can)
2tsp pumpkin pie spice
1tsp cinnamon
½ cup raisins
Pinch of salt

Streusel topping:
2/3 cups/80g plain/all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed soft brown sugar
Small handful of pecans, roughly broken into pieces
1tsp cinnamon
113g/4oz/1 stick of cold butter cut into dice

Warm maple syrup for serving

Method:
Butter the casserole dish

Streusel:
Mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment fitted. Add the butter and mix until the topping resembles rough breadcrumbs. Stir in the pecans and set aside. This step can easily be done by hand by rubbing in the butter. Set aside while you make the pumpkin custard.

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Method:
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, pumpkin, vanilla, spices, zest and sugar in a large bowl until fully incorporated and smooth.

Pile the bread cubes into the casserole dish, scattering a few raisins throughout. Pour over the custard, making sure all the cubes are soaked. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight if this going to be baked for breakfast.

When you are ready to bake the casserole, pre-heat the oven to 180°C/360°F and scatter over the streusel. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and then bake for a further 30 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is crunchy, browned and caramelised.

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Serve hot with warmed maple syrup and good hot coffee for a perfect Autumnal weekend or holiday breakfast.