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Saturday afternoon, I had my 2nd annual cookie swap party.  It was so much fun– I was excited to have some friends see our “new” apartment for the first time and for others to see the place all decked out with my Christmas decorations.  (I am in love with my little tree.)  I kicked out my husband and asked him to take the dog so I wouldn’t have to manage her the whole time, what with the eye-level food and chocolate and ornaments and crawling babies and such.  I was relaxed and in a festive mood, ready to host my little behind off.  The ladies and I had a few hours of pleasant chit-chat and snacks, were enchanted by the visiting 11-month old’s fascination with my cats and then got down to business: there were cookies to exchange. I have said it before, but man, can my friends bake!  There were some serious cookies on this table.  Zimtsterne, chocolate-drizzled spice cookies, snickerdoodles, chocolate-mint thumbprints, Italian seven-layer cookies, coconut cheesecake bars, chocolate chip cookies with dried apricots– that’s just a tiny part of the list!  There was a decadent coffeecake with a jam and cream filling that made it seem like a cheesecake.  There were buckeyes (my contribution) and biscotti and tiny log cookies, oh my.  It was exciting and overwhelming and impressive.  My husband is more excited to come home on the night of the cookie party than almost any other night of the year. If you haven’t been part of a cookie exchange before, try hosting one!  Ask your guests to bring cookies (I suggest 2 dozen each of 2 kinds of cookies/bars/candies, etc.) and an empty container to fill and bring home.  I host mine at Christmastime because I like the excuse to show off decorations and listen to holiday music, but it really could happen any time of the year, and there are definite arguments in favor of holding it at a less hectic time than December, perhaps a time when your family isn’t already inundated with sugary treats.  I hope my guests had as much fun as I did– I am already ready to start planning my cookie party for next year. Here is my recipe for buckeyes and a picture featuring R’s super-special square one.  It’s beginning to look a lot like holiday baking time…

buckeyes

Buckeyes, from Baked Explorations

  • 2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter*
  • 1 c. graham cracker crumbs (from about 6 whole grahams)
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 10 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 12 oz. good quality dark chocolate (I like 60%), coarsely chopped

Filling: Cream together cream cheese and peanut butter until fluffy and smooth.  (If you’re using a stand mixer, the paddle attachment works best.)  Add graham cracker crumbs and mix for 15 seconds to incorporate; scrape down sides with a rubber spatula.  Add powdered sugar and butter; mix slowly at first to prevent sugar from flying around.  Scrape down sides again, then increase speed and mix until everything is incorporated.  Using a tablespoon, melon baller, cookie scoop, etc., take small amounts and roll them into balls.  Place on a cookie sheet or parchment-covered plate.  Continue until all filling has been balled.  Put into the refrigerator, if possible; this makes the next step easier but is not required. Coating and Assembly: In a double boiler, over simmering water, slowly melt chocolate until it is creamy and smooth.  Remove from heat.  Now it’s time to dip your buckeyes, and this gets messy (but it’s fun!).  Here’s my method: using a wooden skewer, impale the rolled ball just enough so you can pick it up.  Swirl it through the warm chocolate until it’s almost covered; there will be a small area at the top without chocolate, which you want.  (I think they’re just peanut butter balls when they’re fully chocolated.)  Drip off excess chocolate and then place on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet or some parchment on the counter.  Repeat until all balls have been dipped.  If your chocolate starts to thicken, stop and reheat it as needed.  When you are done, if you want, take the back of a spoon and smooth over the skewer hole so it doesn’t show.  (I stopped doing this a few batches ago, but it does make them prettier for gifts.)  Set aside until the chocolate hardens; this can be done at room temperature or in the refrigerator.  Store the finished buckeyes in the refrigerator or freezer in a tightly sealed container, but let them come to room temperature before serving– they taste best this way.  But they also taste great cold and even frozen.  Mmm, buckeyes. 🙂 *You really need to use what I call commercial peanut butter, for lack of a better term; natural pb does not work for this recipe.  So, if oil separates from your pb at room temperature, it won’t work.  Think Jif, Skippy, etc. for this one.

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