Every September and October, the Fives come home with pockets full of chestnuts that have fallen from the trees in London. For weeks, I find them everywhere — school bags, shoes, buckets, drawers… In the face of my exasperation, and dodging the actual point I was making about hoarding, they informed me that these weren’t chestnuts at all. They are CONKERS. Silly mum. They even taught me the conker song:
Conkers, lovely conkers, I am trying to find the best
Conkers, lovely conkers, one that’s bigger than the rest
This odd celebration of a chestnut reminded me of a similar obsession back in the States. I am not from Ohio, but you need not have set foot in the state to know that they are so dedicated to their native chestnuts (a.k.a. BUCKEYES) that they call themselves the Buckeye State, residents are called Buckeyes, the Ohio State football team is called the Buckeyes and they even have a Buckeye mascot called Brutus. Behold:
I am not suggesting that England needs to try to compete (I am just from DC, to me it is just a nut). But I did feel inspired to share a childhood treat with the Fives and their friends. We have officially renamed these sweet little treats Conkers for our London friends, though in the States they are, of course, known as Buckeyes. They are easy to make, cute as a button, and fun for kids.
This won’t require an oven but you will need toothpicks, wax paper and a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler (I don’t either), place a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiled water.
115g butter (1 stick), room temp
1 450g jar (16 oz) of peanut butter
450g (1lb) of icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
300g (10 oz) dark baking chocolate
Beat butter and peanut butter together until smooth and add salt and then sugar gradually so as not to send it all over the kitchen. This doesn’t need to take long, the sugar just needs to be well incorporated and the texture needs to be malleable but firm enough to hold a shape. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to make the dough easier to work with.
Divide the peanut butter dough into even sized scoops. I used a rounded teaspoon to scoop balls of about 10g. If you are a perfectionist, shape these quickly into smooth, round balls. Place on wax paper and freeze for at least 30 minutes before moving on. If you are more forgiving in your standards, set up an assembly line with any interested children to accomplish the above tasks.
While peanut butter balls firm up, melt the chocolate by placing it in a heatproof bowl over a pan of very hot water. Leave the chocolate to melt with only an occasional stir to make sure that it all melts.
Insert toothpicks in each of cold peanut butter balls and dip them in the chocolate to coat, leaving a circle of peanut butter exposed. As the peanut butter warms up, it is more prone to dropping off of the toothpick and can be hard to fish out. It helps to work quickly-ish and dip at an angle.
Place back on the wax paper lined cookie sheet and return to the fridge to set.