My neighbor Sylvia graciously invited me to her cookie exchange today. I have never been to one. Earlier this week, writer Dianne Emley posted on Facebook that she unknowingly committed a cookie exchange gaffe by going through the line twice. She saved me from the same breach of etiquette, as I would have done the same.
Sylvia and many of her friends are teachers, and very craft-y. They regularly host big family parties, as well as wedding and baby showers, for which they create elaborate invitations. They also fashion all centerpieces, favors, and decorations themselves. With this bunch, I knew I’d be completely outdone in the cookie department. I didn’t dare fetch one of those plastic tubes of dough at Ralph’s, slice it up, bake it and be done with it, but I wasn’t going to venture into trying to make fancy cookies shaped like tiny hot chocolate cups. And I don’t know from dragées.
So I decided to mine my Kentucky heritage and make bourbon balls. This is what they are supposed to look like.
I’ve never made them, but the recipe sounded easy enough – stir together confectioner’s sugar and butter, and generous lashings of bourbon. That part was pretty simple. I licked the spoon and got quite a jolt. You chill the potent stuff for eight hours, and then shape it into balls and press a pecan onto each one. This is where I had trouble — my bourbon ball filling was too gooey and wouldn’t form nice round shapes, probably because I flung in too much Woodford.
I wished my friend Ilona Toth Robinson had been here. She and I have joked about rum balls and bourbon balls at the holidays, but have never made or eaten any together. Aside from the fact that we would have laughed a lot together, Ilona is a master chef, and I know she could have helped me rescue the sticky filling.
When I tried to dip the clumsy shapes into melted chocolate, they began to fall apart. So I shifted my strategy and poured the chocolate over them instead. The result is more bourbon plops than bourbon balls. When I arrive with these little catastrophes at the cookie exchange later this afternoon, the neighbors will probably think I was deep into the bourbon when I made them. They look like hell, but they blend the rich tastes of chocolate and bourbon with quite a little kick.