Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Better Buckeye

 Some time in the '80s my grandmother clipped a recipe out of magazine or newspaper. That's as good as my cooking heritage gets, despite having a famous baker for a great-grandfather. It was the only year I  can remember her baking cookies. She passed a copy of the recipe to my mother the next year with the title 'that peanut butter candy.'

So we've made it every year since then. It has that perfect blend of sweetness, chewiness, saltiness, protein punch, and a light chocolate crunch on the outside.

When we got the recipe I was horrified to find out it had DATES! in it...ewww..aren't or something?

You'll never taste the dates, or the walnuts, but they add a depth to the flavor and the slightest chew to the bite.

Peanut Butter Date Candy

1c smooth peanut butter
1c powdered sugar
1c dates, chopped fine
1c walnuts, ground
2 bags chocolate chips

1. If necessary, chop/grind walnuts and dates with a knife, food processor, or mortar and pestle. You can buy them prepared but they're more expensive that way.

2. Dump everything in a bowl. Mix until well combined. You can use a utensil but hands actually work better if you don't mind getting dirty (or live with children who don't mind). 

3. At this point you can either chill it for a few minutes to get some of the stickiness out (recommended) or be impatient and start making little balls @ 1/2" around more or less. Place balls on cookie sheet (this batch requires 2 sheets).  See photo above. If you don't chill don't expect the balls to be perfect. You can smooth them right before coating with chocolate. 

4. Freeze or refrigerate overnight, or at least 2 hours.

5. Melt chocolate chips in microwave or double boiler. You will probably not need all of both bags, but if you are new to making a chocolate coating it helps to have extra. Also, don't put it all in at once. It can be difficult to roll the balls in the chocolate. 

6. Put on some good music. This will take a while. Get two spoons. Here is where I differ from the usual buckeye, I drop a few balls into the chocolate (no more then that the longer they sit in hot chocolate the more they fall apart..keep the other tray chilling). Then I use one spoon to roll it in the chocolate. I roll it onto the other spoon. Then I use the first spoon to cull the extra chocolate off by scraping around the edge. If there are any open spots I 'paint' the chocolate over that spot. Once I think I'm set I put it on another cookie sheet with parchment paper to catch the mess. 

7. At this point you can add festive sprinkles if you like, or not. 

8. Chill. Store. 

These are different from traditional buckeyes in that: 
~the dates give it a slight chewiness
~the walnut gives this a protein punch and balances the sweetness
~the chocolate coating is thicker
~there's no spot to make it look like a buckeye nut

Despite these differences, all my Ohio and Pennsylvania friends immediately cry 'buckeyes!!' whenever they see them. 

Addictive. Addictive. Especially when you're hungry (protein punch). I have to hide them in the garage freezer. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Cookies: Review

I have named December 27th Broken Cookie Day. Coffee, board games, and picking through the ravages of the cookie plate.

This year I made: 

mint chip bark
chocolate peanut butter date balls
apple cider caramels
lemon cookies
chocolate-vanilla swirls
sugar cut-outs
chocolate crinkles
pecan fingers
chocolate mint kisses
cardamom shortbread

Biggest hits:

apple cider caramels (when people bothered)
cardamom shortbread (okay, I obsessed)

Then there's the Alton Brown episode on pinwheels I saw after I made mine. 

Krumkake is fun but really more of a fresh treat. And prepare to do a lot of standing around. One minute per side per cookie. Next year I may have Dean look for a second iron, then I'll have a bit more to do. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday Foods: Attempting Lefse

Okay, I got that out of the way. I did marry into a Norwegian/Danish family. Lots of talk about lefse (and ludefisk). Lefse is a potato pancake which is buttered and sprinkled with sugar. Its generally made at the holidays. Since I have time this year I thought I'd make an attempt on their beloved lefse. I used an online recipe and tweaked it for my own. 

10lb of potatoes, peeled and boiled
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl salt
2.5 cups flour

Boil the potatoes. This is a lot like making mashed potatoes until the end. 

Rice. Add butter. Allow it to melt. Mix. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. 

When you get it out add cream, salt, sugar, flour. Mix well. THIS WILL BE WET. The only thing I could do was add more flour until it was manageable. I couldn't get it off my rolling board.  I hear from an actual Norwegian that it should have been rolled out on cloth dusted with flour to make it easier to lift to the grill. 
Next time.

The grill should be very hot. 500 degrees Fahrenheit. I have an electric grill that goes to 450 so I set it as high as it went and let it warm up for a good 10 minutes to insure full heat. 

Much like any flat bread you will see bubbling and the other side will brown. Flip sides. 

You can wrap them in a towel as they come off the grill, or you can butter and sugar them for the hungry hordes. 

Tradition seems to have them folded in fourths while stored and rolled like a straw for eating. 

A (Mostly) Pictoral Essay on Apple Processing

 A tablespoon of bleach.

Everything in its place (left to right): applesauce pot, apples, sliced apple bowl (for drying), cutting board, tea, compost box.

You can use a slicer for applesauce. For drying I just cut slices off the sides. These apples were from an unsprayed tree so they needed checking for worms and stuff. 

Final product. 8 hours in the dryer.

Applesauce. Cooked until soft on the stove then processed.

Easy apple butter.

Its ready when the sauce doesn't leak. It will stay in soft blobs.