Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Jingle Bells
We know some of my husband’s thoughts on dessert, but ask for his Christmas must-have: “Mom’s peanut butter balls.”
There were literal gasps of disbelief when I confessed that these oh-so-sweet, chocolate-drenched treats were completely unknown to me until trading my last name for his. And during our first holiday with his family it became apparent that — like my mum’s kringle — they’re essential to the dessert table, and relatives practically mutiny if absent.
No doubt hers will forever remain the best in his eyes, but for the years we’re not able to make it home to Wisconsin, it’s up to me to keep Christmas traditions alive.
But to alter a beloved family recipe is to tread on sensitive ground.
So, this 4-ingredient recipe doesn’t actually deviate much in terms of flavor, or of total sugar, fat, and calorie amounts. It does, however, take a slightly more natural approach: Crushed grahams become peanut flour + good-quality honey replaces powdered sugar (try earthy buckwheat, smoky mesquite, floral wildflower, or citrusy orange blossom) + a rich dark chocolate, we like ours with at least 70% cacao.
Even with the culinary liberties, my intensely flavorful Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Jingle Bells merited his stamp of approval. SUCCESS.
What’s in them for me?
The Jingle Bells are fairly calorie-dense, at about 200 calories apiece, but the good news is that they are also nutrient-dense, and this version is gluten-free, grain-free, and refined sugar-free. If you swap the honey for maple syrup, and use non-dairy chocolate, it can be both vegan and dairy-free.
Nuts and seeds provide healthy polyunsaturated + monounsaturated fatty acids, as well as essential minerals and fiber. Peanut butter in particular is a good source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, plus vitamins E and B3 (niacin). There is a significant amount of fat (16 g per 2 Tbsp), but it’s predominantly the healthful unsaturated fats, and ounce for ounce, peanuts have a higher protein content than any other nut – 8 g in 2 Tbsp. Peanuts also contain cholesterol-lowering sterols, and research suggests that a potent antioxidant phytochemical found in peanuts, resveratrol, may also be play a role in protection from certain cancers.
Dark chocolate has a richer flavor, and generally contains slightly fewer calories, less fat, and no added sugar, in comparison to milk chocolate. Additionally, dark chocolate has roughly 2x the fiber, is a better source of the blood-pressure regulating compound theobromine, and is a rich source of polyphenols called flavonoids — antioxidants that may help reduce risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Pure honey is a natural, unrefined sweetener that also provides small amounts of minerals and antioxidants with some antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
Though these will never replace his mom’s famous creations, my Jingle Bells are a winning alternative. A bit salty, definitely sweet, with a double hit of peanut under an intensely deep chocolate coating — maximum satisfaction in every bite, guaranteed. Perfect for hostess gifts, holiday parties, and of course the family dessert table!
Tell me… What’s the one food or drink you have to have during the holidays?
- 2 cups homemade or store-bought "natural" peanut butter (see HGN Notes)
- 1/2 cup nut or seed flour (I used homemade peanut flour; see HGN Notes)
- 1/2 cup good-quality honey (or pure maple syrup)
- 8 oz good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (or 8 oz dark chocolate chips)
- In a large bowl, stir together the peanut butter, peanut (or other nut/seed) flour, and honey until fully combined. The "dough" should form a stiff ball -- add more nut/seed flour 1 Tbsp at a time if the dough is wet. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes to firm up. Test for readiness by rolling a piece of the dough into a 1-inch ball. If it holds together, proceed; if not, recover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for another 10 minutes. (MAKE AHEAD TIP: The dough can be refrigerated, tightly covered with plastic, for 1 to 2 days until ready to shape and coat.)
- When the dough is ready, use a small scoop or your fingers to get small portions, then shape each into a 1-inch ball. (If the dough softens too much while you're working with it -- likely either from a warm kitchen or warm hands -- return the bowl to the refrigerator for another 10 minutes.) Place the formed balls onto a tray lined with parchment or wax paper. Cover the tray with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before dipping in chocolate. Add more refrigeration time if your kitchen is particularly warm. (MAKE AHEAD TIP: You can stop at the tray of formed peanut butter balls. Refrigerate the entire tray, tightly wrapped in plastic, up to 2 days until ready to chocolate-coat.)
- When you're ready to coat the peanut butter balls, place the chopped chocolate (or chips) into a glass microwave-safe bowl. Melt on HIGH for 1 minute, stir briefly, then continue to microwave in 15-second intervals, as necessary, until the chocolate is smooth and completely melted. (Alternatively, melt the chocolate using the double boiler method on the stove.)
- Remove the chilled peanut butter balls from the refrigerator. Insert a toothpick or wooden skewer into one of the balls, and gently dip and twirl it into the melted chocolate to fully coat. Let some of the excess drip off over the bowl, then use a fork or another toothpick/skewer to transfer it onto a parchment or waxed paper-lined tray or plate. Continue with remaining peanut butter balls until all are coated. Transfer the tray/plate to the refrigerator to set, at least 30 minutes. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 5 days, or freeze up to 1 month.
If using store-bought peanut (or other nut/seed) butter, choose a jar that has only that nut or seed in the ingredients list. There is occasionally added salt -- opt for one without if you can, though it's not necessary.
Instructions for homemade nut flour can be found in the Leftover Nut Pulp + Homemade Flour post: http://www.heathergnutrition.com/2014/10/16/frugal-files-leftover-nut-pulp-diy-flour/.
Otherwise, run 1 cup raw nuts or seeds -- peanuts, pecans, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pepitas, etc. -- through a food processor or high-speed blender on high until a fine meal is achieved.
You can also purchase peanut flour. Sources are limited, but Amazon has Protein Plus Peanut Flour (https://goo.gl/BzxM7Y) and PB2 (https://goo.gl/HOnIcC). Do note, though, that the latter contains added sugar and salt.
+ I use a smoothly ground peanut butter, but you could try a chunky version for some texture!
+ Peanut allergies, or prefer another type of nut or seed? Substitute equal amounts of almond butter, sunflower butter, or any other nut or seed butter that for the peanut butter.
+ You can also swap the peanut flour for other nut/seed flour, even coconut flour or oat flour (certified GF, if needed).
+ Make these vegan with maple syrup in lieu of honey, and swap vegan chocolate for the regular chocolate.
+ Add a pinch of your favorite ground spice, e.g., cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, to the peanut butter dough, or sprinkle them on top of the coated balls before refrigerating to set the chocolate.
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