It’s no surprise that the peanut announces its presence with authority in Southern sweets. In shelled form, the goober stars in brittles and pies. Ground into butter, it becomes a reliable and inexpensive friend of the Southern home cook in recipes that favor economy and taste over aesthetics. Brandon McGlamery, an Athens, Georgia, native who now lives and cooks in Winter Park, Florida, has a fondness for peanut butter confections nurtured by a childhood filled with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—a commercial cousin to the no-bake peanut butter bonbons often passed around at holiday parties throughout the South this time of year. “A Reese’s is the perfect combination of creamy and crunch, salt and sweet,” he says.
When it came to making a peanut butter dessert for the holidays, McGlamery collaborated with his chef de cuisine, Derek Perez, who grew up in Ohio, where chocolate-covered peanut butter balls dipped so they resemble the nut of a buckeye tree are as common as snow in a Midwest winter. “Being from the South, a lot of my roots are tied into the things I grew up with,” McGlamery says, “but I also take a little something from all the chefs I admire.”
With additional help from the pastry kitchen, McGlamery “Southerned” the buckeye, adding benne seeds from Anson Mills (you can also substitute sesame seeds) to the peanut butter, and then dipping the entire ball into an ancho chile–spiked chocolate glaze that pays tribute to the Latin influence present in Southern restaurant kitchens.
“We’re always kind of looking for something that is original but that also respects tradition,” he says. “These are a fun way to do that.”