A few years ago, I decided it would be a great idea to make bourbon balls for tailgating at the Georgia-Kentucky football game. Toby wasn’t home, so I found a recipe online — epicurious.com or foodnetwork.com, can’t remember which — and followed it. The resulting bourbon balls tasted gross and looked completely disgusting. It was not good.
After that complete fail, Toby mentioned that his aunt makes really great bourbon balls. And the recipe isn’t even a secret. So I thought they would be the perfect thing to make for Derby Day.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned.
I keep my stand mixer unplugged when I’m not using it, and apparently the women who clean our house accidentally turned it on while they were cleaning. I didn’t realize that, so I threw some butter and about a pound and a half of powdered sugar in the bowl and plugged it in. I think it was on level 10. Epic powdered sugar explosion followed.
And of course I was still wearing the dry-clean-only dress I wore to work. Ugh.
But it takes more than an insane, sticky, extremely difficult to clean up mess to deter me. I just had to wait until Toby could go get me some more powdered sugar to proceed.
I have to warn you: Even if a powdered sugar bomb doesn’t go off in your kitchen, these are pretty messy to make. Rolling the butter-sugar-bourbon-pecan mixture into balls is a sticky affair, and dealing with all that melted chocolate can be pretty drippy.
I tried a couple different tools to dip these in the chocolate. I found tongs to be the easiest, but you can also use a spoon or stick a skewer in each.
Mine didn’t turn out quite perfect, looks wise. But I was very happy with how they tasted. Everyone at the party we went to liked them, too… though I wouldn’t recommend them if you don’t like the taste of alcohol. They’re definitely bourbon-y.
In fact… I think I’ll have another.
Bourbon balls (Adapted from Cathy Burt, makes about 70 large-ish or 7 dozen small balls)
2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup bourbon
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 pounds powdered sugar
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate
24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/8 bar paraffin wax (optional — I didn’t use this)
Place the chopped pecans in a bowl and pour the bourbon over them. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Once pecans are ready, cream the butter and about 2 cups of the powdered sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer. Continue adding powdered sugar a few cups at a time until all sugar is incorporated. Stir or beat in the pecans and remaining bourbon.
Roll the batter into small balls (mine were about the size of golf balls, which is too big) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Refrigerate at least an hour and a half to set. Once they’re partly set, you can roll them in your hands again to fix the shape if the mixture wasn’t cooperating the first time. Keep the baking sheets in the fridge while melting the chocolate.
To melt the chocolate, cut or break the bars into small pieces and place in a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl over a pan of hot (not boiling) water. If you’re using the paraffin, add that along with the chocolate. Keep stirring the chocolate mixture until everything is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.
Remove some of the balls from the refrigerator. Using tongs or a spoon, dip the balls into the melted chocolate one at a time. Make sure to cover them completely. Set back them back on the lined cookie sheet. Try to minimize drips and excess chocolate puddles on the baking sheet (I failed at this). Continue until all the butter-sugar-pecan balls are covered in chocolate.
Place the baking sheets with chocolate-covered bourbon balls back in the refrigerator to set. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.