Mistakes to Avoid When Making Buckeyes

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

If you’ve never had a buckeye, then first and foremost you should know that these sweet confections — that most often appear around holiday time — are pure bliss. They’re made with a ball of smooth peanut butter coated nearly all the way, save for a small area around the top, with a firm, crisp layer of chocolate. They can have a reputation for being tricky and messy to pull off, but as long as you steer clear of these common mistakes, you’ll find that neither is true and they’re actually quite easy.

1. Using chocolate chips.

These chocolate morsels are readily available and inexpensive, but they’re not actually the best choice for making buckeyes. Chocolate chips contain stabilizers, which help them keep their perfect shape even after they’ve melted and cooled. That’s great for cookies and quick bread, but not so much for this confection where we want chocolate that melts into thin, glossy puddles to create a firm outer coating.

Follow this tip: It’s important to remember that some types of chocolate will give you a better result than others because of their meltability. For a better batch of buckeyes, stick with using a few good-quality bars of chocolate, or even chocolate wafers.

2. Not chilling the peanut butter balls long enough.

Not giving the peanut butter ample time to chill and firm up in the fridge is one of the top reasons buckeyes get a bad reputation for being so messy to make. When the peanut balls aren’t chilled long enough, they still have a soft texture that makes them tricky to work with because it’s harder to have control when twirling them through the melted chocolate.

Follow this tip: After forming the peanut butter balls for the buckeyes, chill them in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Once they’re cold and firmed up, they’re so much easier to work with when coating them with chocolate — and the process is a whole lot less messy. I prefer to make this a two-day affair by making the peanut butter balls one day, the coating them with chocolate the next.

3. Removing the full batch of peanut butter balls from the fridge at once.

Buckeyes are so much easier and less messy to make when the peanut butter balls are cold and firm. And once out of the refrigerator, it doesn’t take too long before they lose their chill and start to soften. When you take the whole batch out of the fridge at once, the first dozen or so will be cool and easy to work with, but soon, the peanut butter will have warmed and softened. This makes it hard (or impossible) to hold them on a toothpick for the chocolate dip.

Follow this tip: When it comes time to coat the peanut butter balls with melted chocolate, work in batches. Plan to take just about a dozen peanut butter balls from the fridge at a time, which will keep the rest of the batch nice and firm until you’re ready for them.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

4. Not shaking off any excess chocolate.

Sure, you want as much chocolate as possible blanketing each tiny ball of peanut butter — I’m with you. But unfortunately, when you don’t shake off the drippy excess, the chocolate pools around the bottom once it’s set on a baking sheet to firm up.

Follow this tip: After twirling the buckeye through chocolate, lift up and turn the toothpick horizontally so that you are holding it at a 90° angle to the bowl, then gently shake your hand up and down so that any excess chocolate drips off the buckeye and back into the bowl.

5. Skipping the final chill.

You’re so close and ready to dig in, but don’t skip this last and important step! While the chocolate shell will mostly solidify at room temp, without one last quick stint in the fridge, it won’t totally firm up into that irresistible hard, snappy coating you expect.

Follow this tip: Pop your tray of buckeyes back in the fridge for one last chill. Ten minutes is all you need (although longer is okay) so the chocolate can harden into a firm, snappy shell.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)