Thursday, October 22, 2015

Double Dipped Peanut Butter Balls

Feelings of nostalgia seem to intensify once October arrives and remain until shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday. No longer can I tell you how long it has been since my father has passed, as it simultaneously feels like a life time ago and only yesterday. Had fate not intervened, he would have turned 85 this month. In retrospect he was the first and quite possibly the most favorite, heroic figure in my life. To this day, his character, kindness, unconditional (and mostly unspoken) love, and work ethic remain the standards to which I have often compared the other men who have or have had a place of significance in my life. I have sought to internalize his best qualities as a way of ensuring he remains a presence in my life. As I may have shared before, he was the one who cooked all of the Sunday and holiday dinners. Because he had a bit of a sweet tooth, there would often be dessert. Sometimes cookies, sometimes cake. Sometimes store-bought, sometimes homemade.

Sometimes there was a discernible visual difference between the store-bought and homemade desserts. But there was always another, more signification distinction between the two. Growing up I didn't really understand why I preferred the homemade poppy seed cake (the one with not enough frosting) to the store-bought chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (and I loved chocolate). As I got older I realized there was an intangible quality I tasted in the first bite. Love is felt in many ways, but almost nothing compares to the taste of homemade love. And I have my father to thank for helping me to learn early on that there is a nuance to food that cannot be bought. 

In an effort to try to bring some order to the two large bins filled with recipes, I re-discovered the Peanut Butter Balls handwritten recipe card. One given to me more than thirty years ago and one I probably haven't made in about the same amount of time. There was a time, believe it or not, when candies dipped in chocolate called for the use of paraffin. Yes, paraffin, otherwise known as candle wax. I haven't quite figured out why this particular recipe card caught my attention, but it immediately went into the 'must make, with revisions' pile. And as if you hadn't guessed already, this time they would made without any paraffin.

Other than using some of my favorite melting chocolates (the ones from a local chocolatier as well from Ghiradelli), I made only two other ingredient changes. The addition of some sea salt and sprinkles. Who knows, maybe thirty years from now sprinkles will be considered passé. But I hope not!

Maybe thirty years ago stand mixers weren't as common of a kitchen tool as they are these days. But for thick dough confections, like these Double Dipped Peanut Butter Balls, they are lifesavers.

There may have been some ahead of their time home cooks out there using ice cream scoops to get uniform balls of dough, but early on in my 'cooking life' I wasn't one of them. Next to my kitchen aid, I think I couldn't live without them. 

The original recipe did not call for chilling the balls of dough or double dipping them. This version does. Chilling the dough allows the chocolate to set up faster in the first dip, making it easy to do the second dip while the bowl of melted chocolate remains tempered enough. 

Once I made the decision to add sprinkles to these Double Dipped Peanut Butter Balls, I realized it would have been easier if their were four hands instead of two making them. But I managed.

After the second dipping, I like to dip a fork into the remaining melted chocolate and swipe over the dipped chocolates to create what I call that 'candy store' finish. This is optional, but it is the step that enabled me to get the sprinkles to stick.

Once the chocolate sets, remove the Double Dipped Peanut Butter Balls from the parchment paper and place in paper cups.

I brought them to my running group last Saturday. While I was certainly hoping everyone was going to like them, they received higher rave reviews than I anticipated. And they weren't just being nice!

Yes, these are way better than those peanut butter and chocolate store bought confections you find in the candy aisle. I could give you a list of reasons why, but I think I will give you only one. They have that added intangible quality of containing that essential ingredient called 'homemade' love. And really, could it possibly get any better than that? 

Double Dipped Peanut Butter Balls (inspired by Barb Wayne's Peanut Butter Ball recipe)
Makes approximately 52-56 one inch sized candies

2 1/2 cups confectionary sugar
3 cups Rice Krispie cereal
16 ounces chunky or extra crunchy peanut butter (recommend JIF)
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 pounds of chocolate (milk, dark or mixture of milk and dark)
Optional: An assortment of sprinkles

1. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together confectionary sugar, salt, and peanut butter until you can no longer see the confectionary sugar.
3. Add slightly cooled butter and Rice Krispie Cereal. Mix until well blended.
4. Form peanut butter balls using a 1" in diameter ice cream scoop. Alternately use a tablespoon and roll into a ball shape. Place peanut butter balls on prepared baking sheet. Chill peanut butter balls for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
5. Melt chocolate in either a double boiler or in the microwave.
6. Remove peanut balls from the refrigerator and dip (one at a time) into the melted chocolate using a fork. Note: The chocolate will harden relatively quickly if the balls are chilled.
7. After first dipping, turn peanut butter balls upside down and dip again, this time using your hands.
8. If using sprinkles, sprinkle on lightly before chocolate dries. 
9. Allow peanut butter balls to set completely.
10. Place in small paper cups and serve. Store in a sealed box or container.

Fish in the ponds at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

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