Buckeyes are an fundamental part of the Ohio experience. In Ohio elementary schools, future corn-hole champions learn about the state's official tree, the Buckeye, and can identify its leaves before the age of six (although they will likely become confused that every stoner sporting a pot leaf t-shirt is an avid Ohioan...or maybe that was just me?). We learn about the state buckeye tree, we watch Buckeyes play football, and, best of all, we eat lots and lots of delicious peanut butter-chocolate buckeye likenesses.
The buckeye candy resembles the nut of the buckeye tree, with a shiny, dark brown exterior and light brown "eye." The story goes that buckeye's name came from Native Americans who thought the glossy, chestnut-brown seed resembled the eye of, you guessed it, a buck (that's a male deer, for you city folk). While the actual nut is poisonous, the candy variety is sugar-spiked and non-toxic*.
*Except, maybe, when we feed them to people who root for Michigan State.
Recipes for the peanut butter filling vary, but most contain a combination of peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter. The filling is rolled into substantial balls and partially dipped in chocolate (typically semi-sweet), leaving some of the peanut butter exposed to resemble the namesake nut.
Isn't that basically the same thing as a peanut butter cup, you may ask? Nay, nay, I say! First off, the ratio of peanut butter to chocolate is much greater than that of a peanut butter cup. Second, the filling is slightly firmer and smoother, giving the buckeye a longer, more satisfying bite—it's something you can really sink you teeth into. If the dipping chocolate is tempered, the coating also provides textural contrast with a nice snap.
Most Ohioans have their own buckeye recipe, but the confection is also available for purchase at virtually every chocolate shop in the state. As a Clevelander, I'm partial to Malley's Chocolates, which has been around since 1935, but whether you make them at home or buy them from the store, one bite and you'll cheer O-H-I-O!
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