Monday, March 15, 2010

Peanut Butter Balls - The Next Generation

I grew up in the 70's and 80's, raised by a single mom with a serious sweet tooth that she tried to suppress in favor of the brown rice syrup, date sugar, and other assorted non-sugary sweets of the hippy healthfood movement of the day. In my family, this desire for sweets is a phenomenon much larger than my mother. The evidence of this is clear amidst any gathering of the maternal side of my family, the Wynbergs, where the love of cooking and eating is paramount, but where the number of desserts at a meal usually matches or exceeds the number of savory dishes.

I stared working in bakeries in NYC shortly after graduating from college in 1995. Spending my days surrounded by sugary treats, my hands rolling dough, chopping chocolate, decorating cookies and making frangipane, set my heart alight, and the freedom to sample these treats at my whim curbed my sweet tooth, well, just a bit. Suddenly sweets where not rare, forbidden or expensive.

There are certain healthy sweets I have terrible memories of from my childhood, and which I have completely avoided as an adult. Peanut butter balls fall into this category. I remember sticky, goopy, peanut butter molded into blobs served up to us kids at our cooperative daycare. Now don't get me wrong, I love peanut butter (and cooperative daycares for that matter), but there was something about the memory of this food that screamed "yucky-super-crunchy-granola-snack-no-kid-really-likes". It is amazing how things can change once you have children of your own...

Confronted last week by a 1 1/2 year-old asking for yet another spoonful of peanut butter (only half of which makes it into her mouth), the memory of peanut butter balls resurfaced, but took on new significance. To make these treats, peanut butter is mixed with something like oats or powdered milk to form a firm dough. Hence, the peanut butter my daughter scrapes off of bread with her pointer finger or smears onto her face or in her hair when I'm not looking would be rendered un-smearable!

So I set off to tackle this tainted treat and breathe some new life into it. Some freshly ground peanut butter from the grocery store (the cheapest all natural PB around) was mixed with some honey, cinnamon, quick oats, a little powdered ginger and a pinch of salt till it formed a stiff nicely sweetened dough. Then rolled in coconut, or cocoa to help them resemble truffles rather than the gooey blobs of my childhood. Well, it turned out that my 5 year old boy loved these (as did I), but the one year old, well, not so much. She still prefers the stuff straight from the jar on a spoon. But, at least me and my boy have one more healthy sweet treat to share, since of the two of them, he has clearly inherited the Wynberg sweet tooth.


  1. nice post! the balance between health foody treats and "genuinely satisfying" is tricky indeed. we used to make a lot of peanut butter balls, actually, and got out of the habit. ours were roughly equal parts PB, honey and carob powder, rolled in toasted sesame seeds.

  2. Very cute -- and well written. Why not mix in chocolate chips? --Your sweet-toothed Mom.