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."
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.
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).