I like to think that I have a pretty good sense of humor. My brother and sister are both hilarious, and as the runt of the family (yes, the youngest and shortest), I’ve spent my life trying to emulate their coolness and hilarity. That being said, there are times when even us funny ones (okay, and wannabe funny ones) need to go for the easy joke. The joke that everyone is thinking, but no one says. Well, in my family we’ve started just saying it, and at Christmas no less.
For as long as I can remember, my family has made the same cookies year-after-year: chocolate crinkles, bon bons, sugar cookies, ginger cookies, mini pecan pies, and krumkake, just to name a few. We end up with enough cookies to live off of for months, and that’s pretty much what we do, except maintain the amount of cookies you’re imagining, then condense “months” into a span of two weeks and you have my family’s holiday food ritual. A few years ago, my sister decided to shake up our routine by adding a newcomer to the bunch. Is it fancy? No. How about pretty? Not even a little bit. Is it even a “baked” good? Nope, it doesn’t so much as glance at the oven. So why did we veer away from our usual lineup for a decidedly un-Christmas-y cookie? In true family tradition, we did it for two reasons: humor and the opportunity for increased sugar intake.
Before we get into the details, I want to preface the recipe by saying that I’m aware that this humor is a bit adolescent. Sure, you would think my siblings and I would have outgrown this phase when we transitioned into adulthood, but the irony mixed with the cookie’s absurd deliciousness have made this recipe stick around. As with most jokes, this one is not without objectors; my dad refuses to call the cookie by its correct name, so that he can avoid feeling awkward about his new favorite Christmas treat. The rest of us, however, roll with the simple joke and accept ourselves for what we are: inappropriate cookie consumers.
- 1.5 cups creamy peanut butter (about one jar)
- 1/2 cup (one stick) butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups confectioners'(powdered) sugar
- 12 ounces chocolate, divided (I used 6-ounces of milk chocolate chips and 6-ounces of white chocolate chips)
- 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, divided
Arm yourself with a medium-sized bowl and a fork, and combine the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar little-by-little, as being patient will make your life easier than if you try to add it all at once. Once the batter starts coming together, you may want to switch to a spatula so you can fold the mixture together. If you’re really fed up, use your hands (but WASH your hands first! I’ll know if you don’t. How? Don’t worry about it).
Once you’re done, you’ll have a smooth dough that can hold its shape. Speaking of shape, begin rolling the dough into balls. Since you’re not baking them you don’t need to concentrate on making them a uniform size, so go ahead and let your mind wander if it must. Once the balls are formed, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Add a toothpick to each ball for easy dipping, and put the sheet in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
Bring a pot of water to a light boil, and place a glass or metal (note: NOT plastic) bowl over the top. Add the shortening and six-ounces of chocolate. Stir constantly until it becomes smooth. In previous years I hadn’t added the shortening, but this year I had vegetable shortening left over from my Thanksgiving Pie, so I decided to throw it in and see what happened. The result was perfectly silky chocolate that begged to be licked off the spoon. Try to resist, because you’ll want that chocolate for your balls.
I personally like having some variety in Santa’s Balls, so I melted six-ounces of milk chocolate with two-tablespoons of shortening for half the batch, then melted another six-ounces of white chocolate with another two-tablespoons of shortening for the rest. If you have a chocolate preference, go ahead and stick with one type. It’s your world. When you’re done thinking about the chocolate and ready to actually use it, simply place the balls one-by-one into the chocolate, covering as much of the ball as possible. Place back on the baking sheet when finished.
Try to wait to indulge until the chocolate hardens on the outside. When the chocolate has cooled, the balls will be perfect circles of sweet, somewhat crumbly peanut butter, cloaked in a smooth chocolate shell.
Some might call them “Buckeyes,” but these cookies are so good that they need a name that differentiates them from the crowd, that makes people smile before they even know what they’re getting into. And let’s be real, these cookies need a Christmas-y name so we all have a reason to add them to our holiday cookie repertoire. So go ahead and take your traditions by the balls…you won’t regret it.