A Kentucky tradition, it’s hardly the holidays without Bourbon Balls. They are a delightful concoction of sugar, butter, pecans and bourbon which is then rolled and painstakingly dipped in chocolate before being topped with a lovely pecan half. They will make you say, “Ho, ho, ho!” *wink*
Ruth Hanly Booe created the Bourbon Ball in 1938 as a result of a comment by the Kentucky Governor who remarked that there was no better taste than a bite of chocolate followed by a sip of Bourbon. Her recipe was hailed by Gourmet and by Craig Claiborne, who wrote about it in The New York Times in the 1950’s. Since her candies are still produced in Frankfort, Kentucky by the company bearing her name, I’m sure the original recipe is top-secret.
This, however, is my version of them, and while they are certainly not an ‘easy’ candy to make, they are surely worth the effort. Now, an education in Bourbon. While Bourbon can be made anywhere, the only real Bourbon (in my mind) is made in Kentucky. There’s whiskey and there’s Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey and there is a difference. While there are plenty of makers of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, I’m rather partial to Maker’s Mark. It could be the wonderful full-bodied, smooth, oaky flavour; or it could be the cute little red wax top on the bottle. And I’m not telling which it is. *wink*
Anyway. Make these. They are delightfully rich, deliciously sweet, boozy, and coated in chocolate, people!
- ½ pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted (don't skip the sifting)
- ⅓ cup Bourbon, or to taste (meaning you can add more)
- 1 cup pecans, chopped fine
- 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, cut in pieces (I use a mixture of 60% and 80% cacao, but chips work fine)
- 1 tablespoon shortening
- In the top of a small double boiler (you could use a sauce pan and suspend a bowl over the water, not touching it), melt the chocolate and the shortening together. (The shortening acts to thin the chocolate so it coats more easily.)
- In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter and confectioners' sugar.
- Add the Bourbon and continue mixing until smooth.
- Add the pecan pieces and mix until blended.
- Refrigerate until chilled (important - they have to be COLD to be rolled and dipped)
- Shape the butter sugar blend into small balls.
- Working rapidly, using a toothpick dip the balls one at a time in the chocolate and place on a parchment surface.
- Remove the toothpick and place a pecan half on the top of the spot where the toothpick was removed.
- Allow the chocolate to set.
- Move the balls into candy papers and store in an airtight container.