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Peanut butter and chocolate. It seems almost cliché.
That's what I was thinking when we made buckeye candies for a friend's wedding a few months ago. I mean, sure, it's a classic combo; but couldn't we come up with something more, well, interesting? Add a little chili, perhaps, or an exotic spice?
And then I ate one. And my mind was blown.
The buckeye is named for the nut of the Aesculus tree; it's also known as a horse chestnut. If you're from Ohio, you might refer to yourself as a Buckeye (it is the Buckeye State, after all), even if you're not necessarily a rabid fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Needless to say, the groom at the wedding in question is a Buckeye himself, hence the request for the wedding favors.
I guess it all comes down to experience—I'm used to peanut butter M&Ms, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, stuff like that. And not too many high-end chocolatiers do a straight-up peanut-butter-and-chocolate combo; it's usually mixed with spices, or a layer of jelly, or something else mixed in (with mostly delicious results).
So what I think really bowled me over about this particular buckeye, which we'd made with really great ingredients, was just how great it tasted. As a rule, none of us in the kitchen at my candy company (Liddabit Sweets) really eat a ton of candy; we'll pick at scraps lying around, and the rest of it gets left for the people we share the kitchen with, or it gets tossed. When you're around sugar all the time, you tend not to eat quite as much of it for a treat.
These buckeyes were an exception. The extra candies in the fridge were gone after two days—gobbled down by my co-workers, as I'd only had a couple. Translation? We were impressed. I think what these buckeyes really do for me is deliver that salty-sweet combination. (To achieve this, it's imperative you use unsweetened peanut butter—I prefer unsalted, too, so you can adjust the level of sweetness and saltiness to your taste). Since we used a fleur-de-sel, there were little crunchy bits of salt in the peanut butter mixture, which is like little mouth-fireworks for me. Simplicity is really what makes these so magical.
Now, I'm not discouraging anyone from adding spices or flavorings, or using cashew butter or almond butter—by all means, go crazy! This is a recipe that really lends itself to variations. But I encourage you to try it au naturel first. You won't be sorry.
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