Growing up, I remember all the yummy, tasty gifts that would arrive during the holiday season. You know, trays of treats and canisters of confections that friends of the family would deliver while spending some time visiting with the folks. One family in particular, the B’s, always brought over Panettone and bourbon balls.
Those bourbon balls were legendary in their power over the palate (and senses)! As a distilled confection, my mom would store them in glass Mason jars in the freezer. She would break them out after dinner on special occasions to be enjoyed by all the adults. While my sister and I were only allowed one during the holidays, we would pilfer those jars throughout the year!
As life started to pass by, I realized my love of those bourbon balls had endured through boys, sign-language courses, several jobs and a cat. A food-memory if you will. I associated them with a wonderful time and fabulous friends. I started to crave these goodies and share their distilled deliciousness with my friends.
I put in a few calls and ended up on the phone with Mrs. B. She waited patiently on the line while I scrawled her recipe on a scrap of paper. I think she was tickled with the request. I’m not sure whether it was because her family tradition had made such an impression or simply that the recipe was not all that secret. I know it was a bit of both. I was giddy from the gift of friendship from the 90-proof confections!
While I’ve already told the tale of how this spirited treat has infused my dreams, I am happy to report that I have found that scrap of paper. So, while you (and @MagicBartender) may already know the recipe, here is the one that has had my mind marinating for a while now:
Mr. & Mrs. B’s Bourbon Balls
2 1/2 cups vanilla wafers
1 cup walnuts
2/3 cup good bourbon (I’m partial to JD and counsel away from the bottled bird. Otherwise it’s your game.)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (that’s powdered sugar for the Gen-Xers)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Various toppings, confectioners & crystallized sugars to roll the balls in for presentation.
Pulverize wafers with a mallet (or use a food processor) and put in big bowl. Grind walnuts (use a food processor this time) and add them to the wafer crumbs.
Blend the remaining ingredients (except the various toppings) for 10 minutes and add to the crumby bowl.
Mix all the ingredients well. This step can be fun yet messy using your hands or quick and even using a big bowl mixer or a food processor. Either way, lapping up the sticky mixture is quite the treat. Tip? Think of the end-user. Hands only for the solo hoarders. Mixers for mixed company.
Then, let it all sit and stew. Both the mixture and you. Drink a few shots and shoot the breeze with your family, friends or the cat. However, don’t get carried away and don’t throw darts. You’ve got to get all the mixture rolled into balls and rolled again in any toppings.
Turning the strong-smelling chocolate mess into handsome balls of fun takes quite a bit of time. You’ll need to prep a clean flat surface (waxed paper on cookie trays or your husband’s recently-cleared desk).
Roll the mixture into 1 inch balls (use a spoon or one of those nifty cookie dough scoops). [Note added after original post: Cookie dough scoops just won’t cut it. Use a teaspoon and the palm of your hands to roll into balls. Yes, this is messy. Use some of those plastic, food service gloves. Place the balls on the waxed paper.
Roll in the topping(s) of your choice. Gaze at your work and decide who deserves them enough to receive as gifts. Divvy them up and store in airtight containers for at least 24 hours before serving or delivering them to the lucky ones.
If delivering past the porch, please do not eat these balls and drive!
Special thanks to Mr. & Mrs. B for all the special memories and that beautiful, ball-shaped, crystal serving dish!