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!

Gin and Tonic Friands

When I purchased the black cherry flavoured icing sugar from The Vanilla Valley recently, I couldn’t resist adding some gin and tonic flavoured icing sugar to my order.  The obvious recipe of choice for me was friands as icing sugar is one of the main ingredients.

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These are alcohol free, so would be good to take to work for a bake sale, but I did try adding real gin to the glaze with great results.

In reality, these friands are lemon friands and would be just as good with ordinary icing sugar. The tart lemon curd in the middle cuts through the sweetness and I couldn’t resist topping with a little candied lemon slice for a bit of kitsch.

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I think it’s important to use a decent quality lemon curd here too, some of the very cheap versions taste like washing up liquid.  I chose Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference which wasn’t the most expensive one, but I did avoid the cheapest.  Of course home made is always best if you can get hold of some.

G&T Friands

Ingredients:
250ml egg whites – I use Two Chicks pasteurised egg whites
250g Sugar and Crumbs Gin and Tonic flavoured icing sugar
130g ground almonds
100g plain/all-purpose flour
Zest of one small lemon
165g butter – melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing the tin
1/2 jar of good quality lemon curd

To decorate:
1 cup of gin and tonic flavoured icing sugar, sieved
Water (or gin!)
Candied lemon slices

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Method:
Pre heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and brush the friand pan with melted butter

Whisk the egg whites until broken down and frothy.

Fold in the almonds, flour and zest until just incorporated and stir in the cooled, melted butter.

Divide the mixture equally between the cups in the tin.

I used a piping bag to squeeze a little lemon curd into each cake, but you could easily do this with two teaspoons.  You only need a small amount – around a teaspoon.

Bake the friands for around 25-30 minutes.  They will rise up a little and become golden. Leave to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes in order to firm up a little, before leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

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To decorate, mix the icing sugar with a small amount of water (or gin if using) to make a fairly thick, but still runny, glaze. Drizzle over the little cakes and stud each one with a candied lemon slice.

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Definitely an unusual alternative to afternoon tea, but a welcome one.

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