In my family, it isn't Christmas until somebody makes a batch of bourbon balls. This recipe, passed down from my Great-Aunt Marie, is the only one that will do. Because the bourbon isn't cooked down, the candy retains the taste of the bourbon used. I think it's pretty important to use a rich wheated bourbon like Maker's Mark to retain the sweetness of the dough. Bourbon balls made with a rye blend bourbon (think Early Times or Old Forester) tend to add a bitter note.
This yields between six and seven dozen bourbon balls.
- 1 to 2 cups good bourbon whisky (I use Maker's Mark)
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 to 1 cup whole pecan halves (optional)
- 1 two-pound bag of powdered sugar
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 2 bags Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips
- paraffin wax
- Place 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped pecans in shallow bowl. Pour Maker's Mark over nuts, immersing completely. Cover and let soak 12 hours to overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecan halves in shallow pan and toast lightly for about ten minutes.
- Cream butter in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Combine bourbon-pecan mixture with just enough powdered sugar to form a stiff ball. Refrigerate to let stiffen slightly.
- Roll dough into small balls.
- In double-boiler (or a sauce pan placed over a cooker full of boiling water), add a third to a half a bag of semisweet chocolate chips and a small shaving of paraffin wax (no more than 1/4 cup). Heat until just smooth. Dip dough balls into the chocolate mixture. The key is to coat them quickly and make small, frequent batches of melted chocolate.
- Place bourbon balls on wax paper to cool. Top each with a toasted pecan half, if desired. Results are better if you leave them to cool at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator.