Popping Buckeyes & Eggnog Cocktails - Modernist Cuisine

Popping Buckeyes & Eggnog Cocktails

Recipe • December 21, 2011

My mother used to make Buckeyes for me, and I’d help her sometimes. It was always a fun experience, and it was my first introduction to cooking. Unfortunately I can’t eat them much anymore because I ate so many as a kid. I used to sneak behind my Mom’s back to get them out of the tin she kept them in, in the freezer.

I’ve always called them Buckeyes because I grew up in southeastern Ohio, which is known as the buckeye state. And of course the treats also look like the nuts of the buckeye tree. Keeping that name for this recipe is a little bit of my Ohio pride coming through, even though I haven’t lived there in years.

The coating of Pop Rocks in this recipe is a variation on the usual chocolate coating. It adds a neat twist. You can buy pastry rocks, which are pretty much the same thing as Pop Rocks, from Chef Rubber.

Sam Fahey-Burke, Development Chef


Eggnog has long been a Christmas tradition. In this recipe, we give it a Modernist update and transform it into a decadently rich foam. We prefer to use freshly-grated spices on our egg nog. martini glasses cropped

Additional Tips for Making Popping Buckeyes

  • We like both the taste and color of hazelnut, but you can make these with peanut butter or any other kind of nut butter or paste. Vary the amount of butter used depending on the consistency of nut paste used. When using creamy peanut butter, for example, no butter is required.
  • We use PreGel nut pastes and butters.
  • If you have access to a colloid mill, you can make your own hazelnut butter by running hazelnuts through the mill a few times. The greater the number of passes through the mill, the smoother the texture of the nut butter.
  • Weigh each lump of dough before rolling it between your palms to form a sphere. Each ball should weigh approximately 20 g.
  • The spheres don’t have to be perfectly round!
  • You can get neutral-flavored pastry rocks from Chef Rubber or try using Pop Rocks candy, which come in a variety of colors and flavors. Some flavors may work better than others when mixed with nut paste and chocolate!
  • Use a bamboo skewer to dip the ball into the melted chocolate.
  • Let the chocolate layer harden completely before removing the skewer and placing the buckeye on the tray.
  • Store the buckeyes between layers of wax paper in an airtight container in the freezer.
  • The buckeyes keep, frozen, for about two months.
  • After sitting at room temperature for about an hour, the buckeyes become too soft and should be refrozen.
Additional Tips for Making the Cocktails
  • Add the rum or cognac to the coffee or tea shortly before you serve the drinks, so that the alcohol doesn’t evaporate away.
Additional Tips for Making Eggnog Foam
  • Depending on the size of the eggs, you will need about 15 eggs to yield 250 g of egg yolks.
  • Make sure to cool the foam base completely after cooking it sous vide.
  • Because of the low viscosity of the base, we have found that only a whipping siphon creates foam of the proper texture. Whipping with an aerolatte does create a foam, but it isn’t as stable and airy as a siphoned foam.
  • We garnish the coffee drink with chocolate and anise; we use nutmeg and anise to garnish the tea. But feel free to improvise with other freshly-grated spices that you like.
  • These drinks are best made to order; if they sit too long, the foam runs down into the beverage.
  • We prefer using a cold-brewing coffee kit such as a Toddy, which produces coffee with a delicious, low-acid flavor. But you can instead make hot coffee and then chill it.
  • The foam base keeps, refrigerated, for about two days.