When that holiday sweet tooth starts acting up, we’ve got the perfect solution: Bourbon balls. There’s only one problem — at last count, there were approximately one trillion different recipes for bourbon balls, so how to choose just one?
Do we go with powdered sugar versions, sans chocolate? With or without pecans? Bake or no bake? The variations are endless. Luckily, there is one constant: bourbon. You can’t have a bourbon ball without bourbon in it, so let’s face it, any recipe is going to be a winner.
We’re in for the Chocolate
We’ll be happy to try any version of a bourbon ball, but we do feel that linking bourbon and chocolate is a pairing made in heaven, which is why we serve chocolates at our Lux Row Distillers tastings — and then offer them for sale in the gift shop — both a milk and dark chocolate sea salt caramel, as well as dark-chocolate-covered cherries. Put them together and the chocolates heighten the bourbon’s caramel, fruity, and sweet notes.
Our Favorite Things
With chocolate in mind, we also pondered that in addition to holiday gatherings (which may be fewer and farther between this year), one of our favorite settings for bourbons balls is a Kentucky Derby party. So we went to the source, so to speak, for a surefire recipe: the Kentucky Derby Museum. Having produced the Kentucky Derby Museum Cookbook, which is loaded with southern delicacies, they graciously gave us permission to adapt this classic recipe.
Kentucky Bourbon Balls
(makes 4 dozen)
1 stick of butter
1 box of powdered sugar (approximately 2 cups)
1 cup chopped pecans
4 tablespoons bourbon (Ezra Brooks KSBW or Rebel KSBW are both good options)
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
4 ounces bitter chocolate
Prepare the filling one day ahead. Start by softening (not liquefying) the butter in a microwave for 15 to 20 seconds. Then mix the butter and sugar by hand in a large mixing bowl for several minutes.
Once mixed well, add the chopped pecans and bourbon and mix all it all together. If you like, add another splash of bourbon.
Use a teaspoon as a guide, create little balls and place them on a waxed-paper-lined cookie sheet. Don’t forget to taste test before placing in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, melt both sets of chocolates in a double boiler — this provides a more consistent temperature and better-tasting chocolate. Insert a skewer into the chilled bourbon balls, then dip into the hot, melted chocolate. Use a spoon to help drizzle the chocolate over hard-to-reach places on the bourbon ball. Place the finished treats on a new piece of wax paper and then refrigerate to harden. Serve at room temperature and enjoy.
A Few Other Tips
For more bourbon flavor, soak the pecans in bowl of bourbon overnight before adding into the butter and powdered sugar mixture.
Before melting the chocolate in the double boiler, add paraffin wax to the chocolate mix. Typically found at grocery stores, it comes in boxes containing four rectangular wax bricks. Using a potato peeler, slice bits of the wax off into the pot with the chocolate. The wax keeps the chocolate shiny and will hasten the hardening process, so the chocolate won’t melt all over the place during dipping.
If the consistency is still a tad liquid-y, pop the mixture in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden. A peanut-butter-like consistency will make the ball-rolling process much easier.
To add a little more pizzazz to your finished presentation, try placing a whole pecan on the top of the bourbon ball just after it has been dipped in the melted chocolate.