Amanda & Merrill

Fudgy Bourbon Balls

December 24, 2010

Fudgy Bourbon Balls

- Amanda

I never had a rum ball until I met Merrill. And Merrill knows a good rum ball when she tastes one; she has taught me the finer points of rum ball-dom. A proper rum ball must be dense but moist, and ideally a little gooey. It must sing with booze but shouldn't be too sweet. It should look unpromising and deliver a bang.

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It turns out that our friend Melissa Clark has just the recipe for such proper rum balls in her terrific new book In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite. I tasted them at a recent joint book signing I did with Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis (Baked Explorations), Melissa Vaughan and Michael Harlan Turkell (The New Brooklyn Cookbook), and Melissa. Barely a soul showed up, so we sat at the long signing table as if we were on a banquette at Balthazar, and dug into samples of the rum balls (a successful signing in my view).

What makes Melissa's rum balls peerless is that she uses Nabisco chocolate wafers, and a little honey to sweeten the "dough."

Fudgy Bourbon Balls

Adapted from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

Makes about 48 balls

  • 2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (best made with Nabisco Famous wafers, pulverized in a food processor)
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans
  • 1/2 cup good bourbon or rum
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus additional for rolling
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the cookie crumbs and pecans until the nuts are finely ground.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together the bourbon or rum, 1 cup confectioners' sugar, the cocoa powder, and honey. Add the mixture to the food processor and pulse until just combined. Let the dough rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 4 hours or, lightly covered, overnight. This will dry it out a little.

3. Use your fingers to roll the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Roll the balls in confectioners' sugar. Store the balls airtight if you like them moist, or uncovered if you like them to develop a crunchy sugar crust on the outside. Sprinkle with (or roll the balls in) additional confectioners' sugar just before serving.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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witloof December 17, 2016
I just made a batch of these, but the grocery in my NYC neighborhood didn't have the cookies. I called the Food Emporium on Union Square and asked "Do you sell Nabisco Famous Wafers?" The guy on the other end of the phone said, "We don't carry the famous ones, just the regular."
cookinalong January 2, 2011
I made these to bring as a hostess gift, and they were a hit! Also had to leave some at home for my husband...One ingredient I could not track down was the Nabisco chocolate wafers. I don't know if it's a post-blizzard shortage or whatever...But they were not to be found in my corner of NYC. I have to confess that until I wanted to make this, I hadn't ever looked for these cookies, homemade being the standard in these parts! But I substituted Stella D'Oro chocolate biscotti and they were just great! The only adjustment I had to make was to cut the drying time. Biscotti don't have as much fat as the cookie recommended, so you don't want to dry them so long they get crumbly. Not that you'd have any trouble getting rid of the crumbs! I'm loooking forward to trying it again with the Trader Joe's cookies.
AntoniaJames January 1, 2011
These are terrific. I made a batch using, of all things, Trader Joe's Chocolate Cat Cookies, and they turned out perfectly. I also toasted the pecan pieces before processing. It made the crumb mixture small fabulous, but the bourbon is so strong, toasting may not have mattered, ultimately. I gave "bread and chocolate" as my edible holiday treat for friends and neighbors, making rosemary epi roll wreaths, and putting a bag of these bourbon balls in the middle of each . . . with a jar of a tart plum jam I made last summer as well, on the side. I rolled the bourbon balls in ground chocolate instead of confectioners' sugar, which worked very well. Great, great recipe! ;o)
borntobeworn December 26, 2010
I've been making Ky bourbon balls since 1983 -- made 330 of them this year plus espresso truffles and my new favorite, pecan pie truffles (adapted from a NYT recipe that was posted right before Thanksgiving). The key to real candy balls is dipping them in high quality chocolate. It's extra work but the presentation is worth it.
Amanda H. December 28, 2010
Thank you -- will try that next time.
lksugarman December 26, 2010
This looks like a good recipe...but, I grew up on a Kentucky, my mother's recipe for Bourbon balls was quite different and will always be *the* authentic Bourbon ball candy for me.

It started with harvesting black walnuts in the fall and laying them out in the driveway to run over every time we drove in and out to remove that tough green, finger-staining outer husk. Then came the hard work of cracking those tough nuts to extract the precious nutmeat. Anyone who's ever done that knows how tedious this is!

When it came time to make the Christmas Bourbon balls, Mom would soak the back walnuts in Bourbon for at least 24 hours. She'd then make a simple "fondant" of mostly confectioner's sugar and butter to which she'd add the drained nuts. Mix, roll into small balls, chill. They'd then be dipped in bittersweet chocolate.

Talk about bonbons with a punch! Everyone in our extended family looked forward to those Bourbon balls!

Now, all I have to do is find a recipie....
lksugarman December 26, 2010
Ah! Please excuse the typos! I was lost in the haze of Bourbon-soaked memories!

So, it was all about using black walnuts and real Bourbon! None of that sour mash whiskey made to the south of Kentucky, home of *real* Bourbon!
Amanda H. December 28, 2010
Wow -- and yum! I grew up making black walnut cookies (sadly NOT soaked in bourbon). We always had a basketful of black walnuts in the garage but we never thought to run over them with our car (and my dad was in the car business -- what a handy selling point that could have been.. ). Instead, we cracked them using a vise. My mother would chop them finely and add them to a cookie that's much like a Swedish nut cookie.
cookinalong January 2, 2011
Ohhhh! What a blast from the past! I spent two very happy years in Kentucky, in the Lexington area, and every Christmas I pine for those black walnuts...In anything! And Maker's Mark bourbon, which you can now finally get here in NYC. Thanks for the memories!
dancing K. December 24, 2010
My grandmother used to make rum balls every year. One year she didn't have the necessary rum, but had an old bottle of wild turkey. We had turkey balls that still makes me chuckle like I'm 12.
Amanda H. December 24, 2010
Turkey balls! Too funny.
mrslarkin December 24, 2010
Yum! And yet another opportunity to roll dough into balls. Thank you!
Amanda H. December 24, 2010
the P. December 24, 2010
I make Rum Balls every Christmas. But, I think I really need to try these! Yummy!
Amanda H. December 24, 2010
Yes, do, and let us know what you think!
AntoniaJames December 24, 2010
Yessss! Have you been reading foodpickle lately? I was whining about a rather "ordinary" bourbon ball recipe I tried recently and how I'm now searching for another one. This is it!! And, given that I'm still in the office putting the finishing touches on documents for deals that should close today (and have kept me in the office and out of the kitchen for the past two months), I actually will be doing some holiday cooking, baking, etc in the next few days. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! ;o)
Amanda H. December 24, 2010
Somehow, I completely missed that thread! Here's to serendipity!
Sagegreen December 24, 2010
I think I may include these on my platter for New Year's, interspersed with my springerles....Thanks!
Amanda H. December 24, 2010
Not to sound self-serving, but I think they'd be a terrific pairing!
cbear1984 December 24, 2010
I've made these twice this holiday season so far! I love her book. I got a very deep amazing cocoa flavor, when I used Newman's Own Chocolate Alphabet Cookies, rather than the wafers. They are fantastic!
cbear1984 December 24, 2010
...and I should also add, that at the cookie exchange I went to, there were a bunch of hungover people who quickly got a little tipsy again.
Amanda H. December 24, 2010
Yes, they pack a punch. Thanks for the Newman's tip!