We're all Ohioans now

I guess I don't know exactly what it is that makes one an Ohioan. We haven't lived here long enough to understand the quirks or peculiarities of this place, and there's nothing so obvious as an accent, like Minnesota or Boston, and no iconic food, like Maine's lobsters or Vermont's maple syrup.
But if there's anything one can do to become an Ohioan, surely the way my son spent his morning should count: collecting the spiny-husked buckeye, then using a hammer to loosen the shell and get to the seed. (The hammer, by the way, isn't really necessary. But if you're 3 and you have a shiny hammer of your own, then by golly, you use it.) There are plenty of them around, which explains why buckeyes are the state tree. (For those of you non-Americans, it may help you to know that Ohioans are nicknamed "Buckeyes" after the tree, and even the state university's mascot is a buckeye.) After admiring the shiny, rich grain on the brown seeds, (who knew they were so beautiful?) I went inside to celebrate our buckeye bounty by making another kind of buckeye.
And if eating these is what makes one an Ohioan, well, we're all Ohioans now.

Dairy-free Buckeyes

2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut oil (soften as needed to make it mixable) (you can use butter if dairy's not an issue)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4-2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

chocolate coating:
9 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate, either chips or coarsely chopped. (If you really need it to be dairy free, check the ingredients on the chocolate. Many brands add milk, but some don't, especially if it's dark.)
2 Tablespoons coconut oil

Stir together filling ingredients. I used the lesser amount of sugar, which really lets the peanut flavor shine. It does make for a softer filling, though, which is trickier to work with and definitely has to stay refrigerated. You decide what you like. If  When I make these again I'll try adding a little cornstarch in the filling to make up for the missing sugar.

If your filling seems scoopable, go ahead and scoop up 1-inch sized balls, placing them on a parchment lined baking sheet. If it's too soft, pop the filling in the fridge for awhile--it will firm up. Once the balls are all scooped, they need to go back into the fridge to get nice and firm, at least for an hour. Once you're dipping them, you'll want to just work with some of the balls, leaving the rest chilling, particularly if you're using less sugar. So go ahead and get another tray ready with parchment paper, and then you can rotate the baking sheets in and out of the fridge as you work.

Meanwhile, melt your chocolate in a bowl over hot water, and add the coconut oil (or shortening if that's what you have.)

Remove some of the balls from the fridge, then use a toothpick to dip them into the chocolate, leaving the top uncovered (this is what makes them look like buckeyes). Let some of the chocolate drip back into the bowl, then place back down on the baking sheet. They won't all stay perfectly round, but that's ok.  In all that hunting and pounding we did with the real ones, we never found a perfectly round one. Just call it realistic. They'll need to go back into the fridge to set up, and depending on the weather where you are and how firm your filling is, it may need to stay there. We kept ours in the refrigerator, although Finn definitely preferred to let it warm up a bit before eating, even though it quickly became a mess. Oh wait, maybe that was the point.

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