My mother does not like it when I adapt her recipes, but I am a rule-breaker where recipes are concerned. So when I called to ask about bourbon balls, those funny-tasting holiday treats that I vaguely recalled her making when I was young, I warned her that I would undoubtedly fuss with her recipe.
They were, and are, more of a grown-up thing — that intensely boozy flavor wasn’t so appealing as a kid. But now? That strong aroma of bourbon, coupled with a hint of chocolate and the vaguely gingerbready flavors of gingersnaps — well, it tastes like the embodiment of Christmas festivity. They’re wonderfully nostalgic — the kind of thing you might expect at a Mad Men holiday party, but very of the moment now that bourbon is so well-loved again. Their simplicity makes them welcome in this busiest of months.
1 1/2 cups crushed ginger snap or vanilla wafer cookies (tip: use Mi-Del ginger snaps to make it gluten free)
1 cup pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup bourbon (or rum)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons honey
Pulse the pecans in the bowl of a food processor until they are coarsely ground. Add the crushed ginger snaps, along with the confectioner’s sugar, bourbon, cocoa powder and honey. Pulse until the ingredients are combined. Place in a bowl.
Chill until thoroughly cooled in the refrigerator, about two hours. (You can expedite this by chilling in the freezer for about 45 minutes.)
Remove the dough from the fridge. Using a teaspoon as a measure, roll out small balls with your hands, about one inch in size. Toss to coat in a bowl of powdered sugar.
Store in the fridge for up to a week.
All photos by Kimberley Hasselbrink