Soft and chewy peanut butter wrapped around crispy cornflake cereal makes this a sweet and salty treat to die for. This recipe is perfect for anyone that wants to start getting into candy making and has little to no experience working with sugar. It only requires 4 ingredients for addicting little balls of pure bliss. These things are also great for giving out as gifts and you could easily make a small army of little peanut butter balls in an afternoon.
The History Behind the Recipe
Now, this is really more of a P.S. Love Great Great Grandma, but I thought that may be a bit wordy. My mom has been making these since I can remember and it was kind of a special family secret recipe and treat. My mom can make some fantastic rice Krispies, but every mom has a recipe for that. She has an awesome pot roast recipe too, but who doesn’t? However, I have never seen another mom make these peanut butter balls, so they felt really special growing up. It was the kind of treat we would always show off to our friends and we would get all excited and buzz throughout the kitchen when my mom announced she was making them. They were one of the treats I missed the most when I moved for college. They were just a little piece of my mom that no one could replicate.
However, I found out recently that it was actually my great great grandmother, Eupha VanAtta’s recipe (yes, that is her real name, pronounced You-fa Va-na-da). You can see in the images above, her original recipe for peanut butter balls is barely legible and worn from use and age. I never had the chance to meet her, but her spirit has definitely lived on through my mother. Recently my mother showed me a whole box full of her recipes and I can’t wait to make some more. She even has a cutout of the original Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe (curious if it has changed at all). So there may be more of her recipes in the future 🙂
These things could probably last through a war, but they start to really decline after about a week. They start to become rock hard and could probably be used as some deadly slingshot ammunition (thank goodness we weren’t more malicious as kids). They will harden as they sit, so it is very important to store the peanut butter balls in an airtight container and if you give them out as gifts be sure to make them last and hand them out as soon as possible. My great great grandmother would give them to her dogs once they were too hard for humans to bite through and apparently they loved them, however, with the high amount of sugar and corn syrup I do not recommend giving them to dogs (it was a different time back then).
Recipe Tips + Tricks
If you don’t have a candy thermometer or are too scared to use one, you don’t have to. I prefer to use one because then it ensures the batch will turn out properly every time, but you do you. My mother does it by sight and time so I will teach you how to do it too (next paragraph). If you are using a thermometer make sure it is calibrated to your area before starting (depending on elevation and some other factors your mixture can reach ‘softball’ earlier or later than the traditional 236°F, so you should calibrate it – instructions here).
My mother says that once the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture has begun to bubble and is, for the most part, transparent and clear (compared to how it was at the beginning) it is probably ready. You can leave it on for 1-2 more minutes before spooning the peanut butter in and moving forward with the recipe. You can also use the good old cold water test if you want. Instruction on that here. So hopefully you feel comfortable with one of these methods because the recipe is fairly easy and not that time-consuming.
The candy will reach the softball stage quicker than a recipe that uses water. Since the water isn’t preventing the sugar and corn syrup from heating too quickly the temperature rises rapidly compared to a recipe that has water in it (like my Caramel Filled Apple Ribbon Candy Recipe), so keep an eye on it at all times. It will only take 10-15 minutes for it to come to temperature.
This recipe is great for someone that hasn’t worked a ton with sugar before because it has a lot of wiggle room. You can get it too hot or not hot enough by a few degrees and it won’t make a substantial difference. I have made them on humid days before and they still turned out great. This recipe isn’t hard or finicky, making it a great beginner’s recipe to sugar-based candies.
Let’s get to the recipe!
Peanut Butter Balls (A Passed Down Family Candy Recipe)
Creamy peanut butter draped around crunchy cornflakes for the perfect sweet treat!
Do not replace the sugar and corn syrup for healthy alternatives, I can’t assure it will turn out and this is candy darn it!
- 6 cups of cornflakes
- 1 + 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 14 fl oz white Karo corn syrup
- 16 oz peanut butter (we prefer and strongly recommend Jif)
Directions1. Gather all ingredients and measure them out. This recipe moves fast once the sugar is up to temperature, so have your peanut butter ready to go and place the measured cornflakes into a very large bowl.
2. Combine the sugar and corn syrup. In a medium (2 qt) heavy-bottomed saucepan, gently combine the sugar and corn syrup (try not to get a ton on the sides of the pan) using a wooden spoon.
3. Heat the sugar mixture. Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until all the sugar has dissolved (if it starts to bubble in any way, stop stirring). Once the mixture has started to bubble, pop in your candy thermometer. Bring the sugar mixture to the soft ball stage (236°F) and remove from heat when it reaches temperature (read above for how to do this without a candy thermometer).
4. Stir in peanut butter. As soon as the sugar mixture reaches temperature and is off the heat quickly add in the peanut butter and stir to combine using the wooden spoon.
5. Pour over cornflakes. Once the peanut butter is thoroughly combined, pour the still very hot peanut butter and sugar mixture over the cornflakes. Using the wooden spoon, carefully fold and stir the mixture to combine the peanut butter and cornflakes. Try not to smash the cornflakes too much (want them to stay intact as much as possible) but makes sure everything is combined well.
6. Make blobs. Place large sheets of wax paper out and tape down (if necessary) to place the completed balls on. Once the cornflakes and peanut butter are well mixed, use a large dinner spoon to scoop up some of the mixture and blob it onto the wax paper (see image above, left). You can really make these any size but stick to something smaller than a golf ball so that they can still be easily eaten. The mixture is still very hot, so be careful. Let your blobs cool slightly until they are a comfortable temperature that you can handle (should take a few minutes at most). Also, it will harden as you scrape, so as you get to the end it may be hard to get everything (and it’s not worth breaking a spoon over). Clean up with hot water and soap.
7. Make balls. Once the blobs are cool enough (not too cool or they will set up) take clean and slightly damp hands (wet and then patted off lightly) and roll the blobs into balls. Place the balls back onto the wax paper as you roll. Repeat with all the blobs until you only have balls.
8. Cool. Once the balls are all rolled out, let them cool for a few moments (about 15 minutes), and then immediately pack up. These things can get hard easily, so it’s best to package them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag (still on wax paper so they don’t stick) as soon as they have cooled.
9. Enjoy! Leave a peanut butter ball out for yourself (or five), and enjoy! 🙂 They should last about a week.
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed the recipe!
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