So here's how it's done--it's actually very simple, really. The insides are just three ingredients; powdered sugar, butter, and peanut butter--that's all! I made double batches, so I used two pounds of powdered sugar, three sticks of butter, and four *heaping* tablespoons of creamy peanut butter.
First, melt the butter over low heat. While that's going, pour all the powdered sugar in a big damn mixing bowl. Once the butter is melted, dump it in and stir it up (a wooden spoon works best, I've found). After the butter is good and mixed in, hit it with the peanut butter. And it works best if the butter is still pretty warm when you do it--it makes it easier to stir, because once it thickens up, it's a cast iron bitch to mix. Unless, of course, you're using a Kitchen Aid mixer, or you have more upper body strength than your average little girl. I'm not complaining though--it was a good workout for me.
Three sticks of butter--I used one stick of salted and two sticks of unsalted. It's up to you. BTW, notice the cool Rachel Ray cookware...
Two lbs. of confectioners sugar in a big Pyrex bowl. That's where the magic happens.
This is what it should look like once all the mixing is done. It'll be kind of crumbly at first, but as you mix it, it should get to be about the consistency of Play-Doh.
One caveat, though. Mamasan has used Imperial margarine instead of butter in this recipe for decades, and we've always thought hers were damn good. But I'm not supposed to eat stick margarine at all (while I'm *sure* powdered sugar is good for me...), and I just prefer the taste of real butter. Also, once you start rolling the balls out, the ones made with butter are MUCH easier to work with, while the margarine version seem to need a lot of babysitting. On the other hand, if you use margarine, the mixing process is very easy.
After you get it all stirred up and all of the sugar and butter is incorporated, you should let it cool for a bit. Put a lid on it and put it in the fridge for about a half hour or so. (If you use margarine, it's easier to work with if you put it in the freezer, instead). Relax, have a drink or something.
When you're done sipping your drink, get a couple of large cookie sheets out, and find a good podcast to listen to. I find that either Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal doing the NFL lines on ESPN.com, or any random Adam Corolla podcast are good choices for background noise while I sit for an hour rolling the dough into individual balls.
Don't worry about greasing, flouring, or spraying the cookie sheets. It's not necessary. But once the dough is cooled down a bit, break off little pieces and start rolling them into balls. Smaller is better--I've found that the ideal size is about as big around as a quarter. Just set them on a cookie sheet in rows (I've found that I can get 77 of 'em on a large cookie sheet). If you make this double batch recipe, it'll yield around 120-130 pieces, depending on 1) how big your heaping tablespoons are, and 2) who is helping you. When I make them with Mamasan, she can't resist munching on the dough. I have more self control, so I always get a higher yield...
Also, if you go the margarine route, this step is a complete pain in the arse. I think the dough is too loose unless it's super cold, and then it sticks to your hands. If you use butter, it's very easy to work with, and you don't have to wash your hands a half dozen times before you get them all rolled. (In case you haven't figured it out, I've tried both methods in the past couple of weeks, and I much prefer to use real butter instead of margarine).
Once the cookie sheets are filled, cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge. Or the freezer works fine, too--it doesn't much matter, as long as they get cool again since your hands warmed up the dough.
While they're cooling, prepare a double-boiler. I just use a saucepan and a smaller Pyrex bowl. I get just enough water in it so that it barely touches the bottom of the glass bowl, and that seems to work for me. While that's heating up, you'll need some household canning paraffin. I use plain old Gulf Wax, the same stuff we've had in our pantry since before I was born.
Cut off a chunk about an inch wide, and melt that in another saucepan--not too hot or it'll smoke. You want to melt it, not burn it, and you definitely don't want to put a permanent wax coating on your cooking pans.
Now that the double boiler is good and hot, turn it down to low heat, and add the chocolate. We normally use semi-sweet chips, but you can use milk chocolate if you want. I prefer the darker chocolate, though. Once it starts to melt, pour the wax over the top of it. Don't worry, the wax is completely edible and harmless (come on, haven't any of you city folk ever eaten fresh honeycomb straight from the hive before?). Stir it up and the chocolate will become silky smooth--you can't have any lumps.
Now here's where the 'art' part comes into play. You've got to maintain a pretty good balance--you can't get the chocolate too thin, so keep the heat low. But it's got to stay hot. If it gets too thick, you can add more wax--but not too much--otherwise you'll ruin the taste of the chocolate. So the trick is maintaining a good balance. Hot, but not so hot it destroys the dough, and it's got to be thick enough that it stays on once they get dipped--you don't want the chocolate running off onto the pan.
So once your chocolate is at a good consistency, you can start dropping the naked peanut butter balls in, a couple at a time, getting them good and coated. I use long-handled ice-cream spoons to dip mine, but any old spoon will work. I've heard that some people use toothpicks, too, and just stick 'em and dip 'em. I dunno--I go old school with the spoon. Once coated, I gently drop them back onto the cookie sheet to cool.
I've found that it takes about a bag and a half of chocolate chips to coat a double batch like this, but then again, it depends on how big you make them, how thick or thin your melted chocolate is, and how much gets dropped onto the stove and counter top when you're doing the dipping. But once they're all coated, back into the freezer they go. I keep them there until they're ready to go into the gift tins. The colder they are, the better they travel. And the wax in the chocolate makes them very nice and shiny, too. That picture up at the top is a pan of the finished product--I took that photo late last night (and you can clicky on it to enjoy the full-sized mouth-watering goodness).
So this morning after I got up, I packed up a couple of very big gift tins, and then two smaller gift tins, and headed up to Vanderbilt for my weekly stabbin'. My first stop was back over to the Intensive Care Unit to give the big tins to the staff there, since they took such good care of me back in September.
I hadn't been there since then, in fact, they wheeled me out of there in my bed, so walking back in was an enlightening experience. The first thing I did was take one lap around the unit, remembering how hard it was to make that lap back when I could barely walk or even sit up on my own. I got about halfway around when I saw a patient in her bed, all wired and tubed up, obviously having a very bad week. It gave me an instant panic/anxiety attack, and I had to duck into a corridor for a moment to compose myself.
But I was ok after that, and made my way to the charge desk. I told the nurse who I was and why I was there, and dropped off my tins full of goodies--one for the day shift, one for the night shift. She accepted them and told me to go ahead and walk around and let folks know, so I did another couple of laps around the unit. It was much easier the second time, and then I said goodbye and headed over to the diagnostic clinic. I checked in, then went back and gave the gals their treats. And you know what they did as soon as they got them? Yep--they stuck another needle in my arm.
I would've been cool with just a simple 'thank you, Mikey'. Heh.
Anyhow, we finished up, I wished them a Merry Christmas (none of this 'Happy Holidays shiat--I don't care who I offend) and headed back down to pick up my truck. The plan was to meet Scottie and Tim for lunch and the locally-famous Brown's Diner.
Tim and I had lunch there last week, and we loved it. And we both decided that Scottie should've been there with us. Well, this week, Tim couldn't make it, but Scottie could, so I met him there after I got done at Vanderbilt--it's just down the road from the hospital.
But first, as I was driving through Hillsboro Village, there was a Ghetto Sled sighting! I swear, the old girl lives! Either that, or it was a twin. Anyhow, I got so excited that I just *had* to snap a photo...
Anyhow, about Brown's Diner. It's a new favorite, and the word 'dive' doesn't even begin to describe it. It makes the Double Down back in Vegas look like the Petrossian Bar at Bellagio. It is definitely a hole-in-the-wall joint, but they make a damn good burger.
The best part is that nothing on the menu is over $6.99. Actually, only one thing on the menu is that price--the catfish dinner. Most everything else is $4.75. And their hush puppies are only $1.75. They only have Budweiser on tap, but they *do* have Amber Bock and regular Michelob Light (which I love). Their food tastes all home-made, which it is, and I swear they use the exact same chili recipe that Cyndi uses.
I stuck with their regular cheeseburger--a flat-iron grilled burger just like mom used to make, with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and mustard, while Scottie had the Frito chili pie. Oh, and I can't forget the hushpuppies. Tim and I joke that I'm gonna go in there with a ten-dollar bill and lay it on the table, and tell the waitress to keep the hushpuppies coming until I run out of money. They're pretty damn good.
I had some extra peanut butter balls that I brought to Scottie, and of course we shared a couple with the waitress, too. Well, she saw them and we could see her eyes get big, so we shared. Of course she loved them! And since Brown's diner is well within my budget these days, I even picked up the lunch tab when we were done.
After that, Scottie headed back to work, and I made my way back down here in the rain to Spring Hill. I've got a few little household chores to do this afternoon before Cyndi gets back in town, and then the weekend of chaos starts up again (when I get a chance, I'll tell y'all about last weekend when I did a complete 360 on Briley Parkway).
So I'm gonna wrap it up for now, but if anyone makes themselves some peanut butter balls, I'd like to know how they turned out and how they were received.
Talk to ya soon!