Some candies are among the most challenging of homemade sweets, requiring meticulous temperature management and a delicate touch with melted sugar. Others fall at the opposite end of the difficulty spectrum, requiring little more than a few minutes' mixing. Peanut butter balls fall squarely into the second category, an alluringly rich and sweet confection that's simple enough for even young children to make.
Measure 1 part butter or margarine and 8 parts peanut butter into a mixing bowl. Add a pinch or two of salt, if your peanut butter is the "100 percent peanuts" variety.
Warm the peanut butter and butter over a double boiler or at 50 percent power in your microwave, until it's soft and easily stirred. The time required will vary, depending on the size of the batch you're making, but it should only be a few minutes. Heating the mixture is optional, but it makes it easier to incorporate the sugar.
Stir in a splash of vanilla extract; then start adding powdered confectioner's sugar. As a rule, you'll need roughly the same quantity of sugar as peanut butter, by volume, so start with a cup of sugar for each cup of peanut butter. Mix by hand or with a hand or stand mixer, until the ingredients come together to form a stiff dough. Peanut butters vary widely in their consistency, so add more powdered sugar as needed until the mixture is sturdy.
Shape the peanut butter mixture into balls approximately 1 inch in diameter, and arrange them evenly on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment. Refrigerate the balls overnight, or freeze them for 30 minutes, to firm them before dipping.
Melt chocolate "dipping wafers" or "candy melts" in a heatproof bowl over a double boiler or at half-power in your microwave oven. An ordinary dark chocolate bar or chocolate chips will also work, though you might need to thin the chocolate slightly with vegetable oil to achieve a thin, even layer on your candies.
Drop the balls into your chocolate one at a time, lifting them out with a fork. Let the excess chocolate drain from your fork for a few moments; then draw the fork across the edge of your bowl to remove any further accumulation. Transfer the dipped peanut butter balls to a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper, and use a toothpick or the top of a knife to slide them from your fork. Repeat for the remaining balls, re-warming your chocolate as needed to keep it smooth and runny.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.
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