Bourbon: the Spirit of Kentucky. Aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of 2 years, the flavor of Bourbon Whiskey is one of the most authentic of spirits – no additional coloring or flavoring, merely corn mash and grain. It is this distinct taste that makes Bourbon an ideal match for any dessert. I’ve baked with Bourbon in the past (most notably in pies and cookies), and have come to appreciate the sweet, spicy profile it provides. With the University of Kentucky as her alma mater, my friend Beth knows good Bourbon. So when she asked me to bake desserts for a small gathering, I chose to bring out the sweeter side of Kentucky's finest by making Bourbon Balls and Bourbon Chocolate Chip Blondies.--------------------------------------------------
Bourbon balls were the creation of Kentucky native Ruth Hanly Booe. Hailing from Frankfurt, Ruth co-founded Rebecca Ruth Candy with here friend Rebecca Gooch in 1919, though it wasn’t until 1938 (after prohibition, naturally) that Bourbon Balls made their famous debut (according to Epicurious.com). She knew that chocolate and bourbon were a match made in heaven, and I wholeheartedly agree.
Today, there are two different forms of the classic. The first is your Betty Crocker classic: crushed cookies, chopped nuts, corn syrup, cocoa powder (optional), and bourbon. This mixture is formed into balls and coated in confectioners’ sugar or cocoa powder to seal in the flavor. A variation of this recipe uses rum in place of bourbon (click here for my version - second recipe down). These should be made at least one day in advance to allow the flavors to fully develop.
The second type is plain and simple: crushed nuts, powdered sugar, butter and bourbon. I hadn’t heard of this variety until recently, but had to try it! The chocolate coating is what gives these confections a gorgeous finish. These took three days to make, so I recommend planning ahead. The result was a creamy filling coated in silky chocolate. Trust me, these are worth every second!
Kentucky Bourbon Balls
Adapted from AllRecipes
Yields: 24-30 balls
- 1 cup chopped nuts
- 5 to 7 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon (I used Maker's Mark®)
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 (16 ounce) package confectioners' sugar
- 18 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 1/4 cup heavy cream, or more if needed
Place the nuts in a sealable jar. Pour the bourbon over the nuts. Seal and allow to soak overnight.
Mix the butter and confectioners' sugar; fold in the soaked nuts. Form into 3/4" balls and place in a sealable container; refrigerate overnight.
Line a tray with waxed paper. Melt the chocolate with heavy cream in 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. Using toothpicks, roll the balls in the melted chocolate to coat; arrange on the prepared tray. Carefully remove toothpicks. Store in refrigerator until serving.
A hybrid of bar and cookie, Blondies are notable for their rich texture and buttery taste. Made from your everyday staples, Blondies leave room for creativity: coconut, chocolate chips, peanut butter - you name it, it’s possible. According to FoodTimeline.org, the appearance of Blondies predates that of brownies. The main ingredient is brown sugar, which was more readily available than cocoa powder (brownie’s main ingredient).
This recipe is from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything – a great book that provides an overview of the basics followed by a plethora of variations. These blondies have a moist crumb with a crunchy exterior, making them all too good to resist. The bourbon adds just the right level of spice, and I added chocolate chips, well…just because. Enjoy!
Bourbon Chocolate Chip Blondies
Adapted from How to Cook Everything
Yields: 16-20 squares
- 8 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup all-purpose + 2 tablespoons flour
- ¼ cup bourbon
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Butter an 8×8 pan
Mix melted butter with brown sugar – beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.
Add salt, stir in flour. Mix in bourbon, then fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle. I always err on the side of caution with baking times — nobody ever complained about a gooey-middled cookie. Cool on rack before cutting them.