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It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Today: When you need a Valentine's Day gift that's so last-minute that you don't have time to run to the grocery store, these chocolate-coated peanut butter balls are your answer.
There's no way you've forgotten about Valentine's Day. We wouldn't let you do that. The world wouldn't let you do that. But with less than 24 hours before the start of what some (greeting card companies) might say is the most romantic day of the year, you are probably starting to have buyer's regret. Maybe that lifesize cutout of yourself isn't such a heartfelt gift. Or maybe, in a dramatic turn of events, the object of your affection has suddenly changed. The monogrammed handtowels just aren't going to work. You need something else -- and fast.
Behold, the deus ex machina: homemade buckeyes. You don't have to schelp to Soho (or log-in to Amazon Prime) and shell out money on gold-dusted truffles and designer handkerchiefs. You don't even have to schelp to the grocery store, in fact. Just open up your pantry -- the buckeyes are waiting for you. Make a dozen (or five) and package them in cellophane bags tied with pink ribbon. It's such a thoughtful gift, it won't even be necessary to rack your brain trying to write a passionate missive.
Makes 4 to 5 dozen candies
1 1/2 cups almond butter (or cashew, peanut, or sunflower butter)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar, as needed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
Sea salt, for sprinkling
Haul out your stand mixer and put on the paddle attachment, or get out the old wooden spoon and prepare yourself for an arm workout. Cream together the almond butter and the butter until light in color and airy in texture. If you don't have almond butter on hand, feel free to use whatever is in your pantry -- even crunchy peanut butter will do. Beat in the vanilla to combine. If you love almonds and want to accentuate the flavor, add a dash of almond extract, too.
In a separate small bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar with the cinnamon. Now is the time when you can add other spices and flavorings. Are you looking to add more spice to your romance? Add a dash of cayenne. Need a little zest? Add some ground ginger.
Next, pour in the confectioners' sugar, a little at a time, and beat until the sugar is incorporated and the dough holds together when compacted. If the mixture is still wet -- as might be the case if you're using almond butter with a lot of natural oils -- you'll need to add more confectioners' sugar. Make sure to add the sugar slowly: You can always add more but you won't be able to go back. (If you do make that mistake, however, it's not fatal: Add more almond butter or try adding a liquid sweetener, like honey, agave, or maple syrup, to bind your buckeyes back together.)
Now use your hands or a cookie scoop to shape the dough into small balls that are about the size of 2 compacted tablespoons. Place each ball on a parchment-lined baking sheet. It will take a while to get through all of the dough. Remind yourself: This is for love.
Put the baking sheets in the freezer to firm up for 20 to 30 minutes. When the peanut butter balls are sufficiently chilled, either use a double boiler to melt the chococlate, or melt it in the microwave in 20-second intervals until it's smooth and glossy. The type of chocolate you use is up to you: milk for a newer romance, dark for a more sophisticated one, and white for a relationship that errs on the side of vanilla.
Dip the frozen balls into the melted chocolate one at a time, coating each as much as you'd like. Once all of the peanut butter balls have their chocolate coats, lay them back to rest on the baking sheets and spear each with a toothpick for a cleaner eating experience (or leave them off with the knowledge that your fingers are going to get a little bit chocolatey). Sprinkle the buckeyes with flaky sea salt while the chocolate is still melty -- that'll help the salt to adhere.
Put the sheets back into the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the chocolate has set and the buckeyes are firm. Sneak 1 or 2 for yourself, then wrap them up for your valentine. (And save any extra in the refrigerator for the next couple of weeks. Or keep them in the freezer for whenever you need a spontaneous gift -- like next Valentine's Day.)
Photos by Mark Weinberg