Friday, September 23, 2011

Buckeye Chocolate-Chip Cookie Cups and a Giveaway: A Baker's Field Guide, by Dede Wilson (the four volume set!)

Will the real buckeye please stand up? Because I wouldn't want to accidentally bite into the kind of buckeye that grows on a tree in Ohio. What I would want to bite into is the kind of buckeye that's peanut butter filled, dipped in chocolate, and plopped into chocolate chip cookie dough that's been baking in a cupcake pan.

I knew it was inevitable that I'd eventually make buckeye candies the moment that Charlie, my older son, divulged his final college choice late last April. He was fortunate in having a few great options, and as the decision deadline approached, my husband and I were on pins and needles awaiting the verdict. We were both happy and relieved that the winning choice was Ohio State, land of anything and everything buckeye, and less than a four hour drive from our house. So last Sunday, after months of anticipation and weeks of preparation, we drove Charlie down to Columbus, moved him in, met his roommates, then said our hug-laden goodbyes.

We'd successfully deposited our first child into the waiting arms of academia and, well, there wasn't much left to do but grab a hamburger and hit the road back to Michigan. Joy? Pride? Amazement? Apprehension? I feel them all. And I keep having non-stop mom-thoughts: Did he remember to bring an umbrella? He didn't pack that scary-looking hunting knife he owns, did he? Why didn't he bring that cute collapsible under-bed storage thingie I got him? Hmmm . . .

Now, our home is perhaps 25 percent quieter, there are fewer dirty towels to wash, and I don't have to wonder what time he'll turn into the driveway late on a weekend night. It's sort of as if he's away at a really big camp where they don't make s'mores or play taps at bedtime. But the kid's a force of nature, and I must say I miss him and the way he would always swoop in the backdoor after school or work, say hi to me, grab a snack, race to change his clothes, and swoop out the door again after giving me a peck on the cheek. That's my Charlie--a whirling bundle of barely-contained, teenage-boy energy.

I hope they like energy at Ohio State.

Thus, the Buckeye cookie cups . . .
Buckeye candies are a close cousin to the peanut butter cup. They're easy to make at home and so darn good. My idea to put them into this particular recipe came to me as I was browsing through my recently (and gleefully) received review copy of A Baker's Field Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies, by Dede Wilson

That "field guide" above is just one volume in a fabulous four-volume set that also includes A Baker's Field Guide to Christmas Cookies, A Baker's Field Guide to Holiday Candy & Confections, and A Baker's Field Guide to Cupcakes. Holy moly!

The Harvard Common Press of Boston was kind enough to offer me two sets of these wonderful books; one review set for me to keep (yay!) and one set to give away to one of you (double yay!). Thank you so very much, HCP! 

Do you want these books, too? 

Rhetorical question. I know you do. To throw your hat into the mixing bowl, so to speak, just leave a comment on this post telling me about one of your favorite cookie, candy, or cupcake recipes! That's all there is to it. I'll announce the lucky winner here on Wednesday, Sept. 28th, so be sure check back. 

About these recipes . . . 

This cookie-cup was adapted from the recipe for "Caramel Surprise Chocolate Chip Cups" in A Baker's Field Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies; that recipe suggests the use of Rolo candies inserted into mini-size cookie cups. But I wanted to do something with all these hefty buckeyes I'd made and, to accommodate their girth (they were about as big as whole walnuts--no kidding), I needed correspondingly roomy cookie cups, so I used regular size cupcake pans. (The basic recipe I adapted for the buckeye candies came from the book, Who Wants Candy?, by Jane Sharrock--another fun book to check out.)

(For printable versions of these recipes, click here!)

To make the buckeye candies:
(Yield: at least 36 buckeyes)

1 and 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (I used Jiff brand)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 and 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tiny pinch of salt
3 to 3-1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
5 oz. of a dark chocolate candy coating (I used part of a Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Flavored Candy Making & Dipping Bar)
3 oz. baking chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips (I used part of a Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar)

In the large bowl of your mixer, on low speed, blend together the peanut butter and butter. Add in the salt and vanilla extract. Add in the confectioners' sugar gradually. You want the mixture to hold together easily when you roll a little glob of it between your palms into a ball, but you don't want it to be too soft. It should also not be crumbly. Keep adding sugar, and adjust the consistency as needed with more peanut butter.

Form into balls no more than 1" in diameter (that's how big mine were and they were pretty hefty; I think smaller might be better!), placing them on a parchment sheet placed over a rimmed baking sheet. Put the balls into the freezer while you melt the chocolate.

Break up the chocolate into a small bowl and slowly melt it in the microwave, using extreme care to avoid overheating the chocolate, and stirring gently every now and then when you check it. Be careful as well, to avoid getting any water at all into the chocolate; even one drop of water can cause it to seize, which will completely ruin it.

Another option is to slowly melt the chocolate in a metal bowl placed atop a pan of gently simmering water (making sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the pan). Depending on what kind of chocolate you use, and whether or not it's specifically for coating or not, you may find you need to thin the mixture slightly after it's melted; you can do this by adding vegetable oil a couple of drops at a time and gently stirring it in. (If you are familiar with the process of tempering, and you want to use couverture chocolate for your buckeyes instead of the lesser coating chocolates available, go for it. If you have no experience with tempering chocolate at all, though, now may not be the best time to give it a try.) The consistency of the dipping chocolate you use, whatever it is, should be fairly thin when melted. You may need to make adjustments as you see fit.

When your peanut butter balls are cold and firm, use a toothpick to spear each one, and quickly dip it into the melted chocolate, leaving an uncoated circular area on the top, and swiping the bottom gently against the edge of the bowl to scrape off the excess chocolate. Set each coated ball on the parchment covered tray. You may end up with a little hole from the toothpick. Once the chocolate has firmed up, you can safely try to smooth the hole closed with your fingertip. If you have a special candy-dipping fork, you may be able to avoid the problem of the little hole by using that instead of a toothpick. Experiment to see what works best for you.

It will take several minutes for the dipped chocolate to firm up completely. Store the finished buckeyes in a dry and cool location until you're ready to use them in the cookie cups, or eat them as they are! (I layered mine with parchment paper in a small cardboard cake box.)

To make the chocolate-chip cookie cups:
(Yield: At least 24 large-size cookie cups, with a little cookie batter leftover)

Grease 24 regular-size cupcake cups and then spray liberally with vegetable spray, or use paper cupcake liners in the pan(s).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached.)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt (I used kosher salt.)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs, large
2 cups mini-size semisweet chocolate chips

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. 
In the large bowl of your mixer, beat the butter until creamy on medium-high speed. Gradually add in the two sugars and beat until fluffy, about three minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl periodically. Blend in the vanilla, then add the eggs in one at a time, beating each until well combined. Add one third of the flour mixture on low speed, mixing just until combined; add in the rest of the flour gradually. Don't over-mix. On the lowest speed, pour in the mini chocolate chips, beating only until evenly incorporated.

Evenly portion the cookie batter into the cupcake pans (I used a no. 24 portion scoop; it holds 3 Tbsp. by volume).

Bake for about 10 minutes, until the cups have begun to turn golden. Remove them from the oven quickly and plop a buckeye into the middle of each one, gently pressing it down into the cup.

Put the pans right back into the oven and continue baking for about 6 more minutes or so. When they're quite golden, remove the trays and set them to cool on racks. Run a thin knife or metal spatula around the edges of the cups to loosen them before attempting to remove the cookie cups.

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