I’ve made Kentucky bourbon balls for several holidays over the years and found a wide variety of recipes. Kentucky isn’t very standard on how to make their bourbon balls. Many recipes use crushed vanilla wafers in them. Some put chocolate in the filling. Even the chocolate coating can vary from milk to dark chocolate.
I’ve tried most variations and my personal choice is no vanilla wafers, soaking the nuts overnight in lots of bourbon, no chocolate in the filling, and I like them dipped in milk chocolate. But I don’t eat a great deal of them so I compromise with the person who does eat them: my P.S. That means when I’m in the mood to please him, I used dark chocolate for the coating.
My P.S. happened to bring home a few bags of Ghirardelli dark chocolate wafers for candy coating awhile back. It was after the holidays (Valentine’s and Easter) and I had no intention of making candy any time soon. I’ve been known to make lots of dippable treats around Christmas but the rest of the year is a candy-making void around here.
But! With the Derby approaching this weekend I wanted to do another Kentucky recipe in honor of the race. Bourbon balls and those chocolate wafers came to mind. Another excuse for bourbon, a good excuse for using my candy wafers.
I put the pecans in the small bowl of my food processor and chopped them finely. You could use a blender or a mallet but I went for fast.. I put them into a bowl and added the bourbon My bourbon of choice is always Makers Mark.
I put the bowl into a zippered bag, closed it and let it set for 24 hours to soak up the lovely bourbon.
The following night I mixed my softened butter and powdered sugar well with my electric mixer. The nuts had soaked up all of the bourbon so I didn’t have any to drain off this time. In the past I’ve not drained the nuts and ended up making a way bigger batch with a lot more powdered sugar needed to make the balls firm. So drain the bourbon off if necessary. You might save it to use in another recipe; it is still bourbon with a slight hint of nutty flavor now.
I mixed the nuts into the mixture then rolled it into ¾” balls. I use a small cookie scoop to get uniform amounts that are more like half balls. I let them set overnight in the fridge and then roll each between my hands to make them smoother before dipping.
I melted the chocolate wafers in a glass bowl in a saucepan of boiling water. I set the pot on a trivet off the heat and stir the chocolate until it is melted and smooth. The water comes about halfway up the side of the bowl of chocolate and will keep it melted long after I’m done dipping..
I remove about 6 balls from the fridge onto a plate at a time, and set each one on a fork, pouring chocolate over it with a spoon and shaking the excess off. I use a toothpick to slide each ball off the fork onto a waxed paper covered plate. When all 6 balls are coated I put the plate in the fridge to firm up and continue with the rest of the batches.
As the coated balls are firmed up I place them into a storage container and return it to the fridge. It’s an assembly process, moving from plate to plate to plate to container in the fridge. You get used to your method, once you get it established. The recipe makes 24 balls, but doubling or tripling the recipe to make more for gifts really doesn’t take that much longer. Your system is in place already, it’s just a few more minutes for extras. Just sayin’.
The bourbon balls will keep for several weeks in the freezer, or for several months if frozen. They’re so delicious they don’t last long in our house. This batch with the dark chocolate went fast. Just like the Derby race.
Kentucky Bourbon Balls
1 cup pecans; very finely chopped
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon Kentucky bourbon (I use Makers Mark)
½ cup butter; softened
1 pound powdered sugar
18 ounces chocolate for dipping (I used dark chocolate Ghirardelli wafers)
Place the nuts in a zippered bag, blender or food processor and crush finely. Place in bowl or small jar and cover with bourbon. Cover and let stand overnight.
Mix the butter and sugar well. Drain nuts and stir into the mixture well. Form into 3/4″ balls using a cookie scoop and your hands. Refrigerate an hour or overnight.
Line a plate with waxed paper. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or the top of a double boiler over just-barely simmering water, stirring frequently and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching.
Removing a few from the fridge at a time, place each ball on a fork then lower it into the chocolate to coat. Tap fork on the side of the bowl to shake off excess and remove to the waxed paper using a toothpick.
Working in small batches, refrigerate to firm coating, then place in container and store in refrigerator until serving.
Best when allowed to come to room temperature before enjoying.
About 24 balls
Adapted from All Recipes