Bourbon balls are one of many items that can be filed under the category of “things I’d never encountered until I moved to the South”.
Invented in the early 20th century in bourbon’s homeland of Kentucky, these little booze infused treats have become a staple at Christmas gatherings in the South.
Variations on the theme exist but the most common versions are made from crushed cookies, chopped pecans, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, corn syrup and of course a generous slug of bourbon. Other versions often use more chocolate and fewer cookies.
After experimenting with a number of permutations, I have settled on the recipe below. Although loosely based on the bourbon ball recipe from the splendid book, “Southern Living Christmas All Through The South”, I have substituted most of the main ingredients with products from the other side of the Atlantic. Balls with a British twist, you could say.
I have seen many recipes over here use vanilla cookies as their base. I have opted for Hobnobs, one of the most popular biscuits in Britain. The recipe uses plain Hobnobs, which are available in the US but harder to find than the chocolate covered versions which many supermarkets carry. They are available online if you can’t find them in a store.
For the key ingredient, namely the alcohol, I have gone for Scotch whisky. The primary ingredient in Hobnobs is oats, which pair well with Scotch, as seen in other delicious Scottish oat and whisky combinations such as cranachan and atholl brose.
I also plumped for walnuts instead of pecans and rather than corn syrup I used Golden Syrup, a popular sugar syrup from back home. These little delicacies are pretty easy to put together but look and taste great.
Oat and Walnut Whisky Balls
12 plain Hobnob biscuits (around 6oz)
0.25 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp Golden Syrup
0.25 cup Scotch whisky
Lightly toast the walnuts over medium heat until aromatic, stirring regularly (about 4-5 minutes). Take care not to burn them. Once they have cooled a little finely chop them. Put around one third of the nuts aside to decorate the balls later.
Crush the Hobnobs into a fine crumb. You can put them in a bag and bash them with a rolling pin or whizz them in a food processor.
In a large bowl, mix two thirds of the chopped nuts and the crushed biscuits with the other ingredients. Once thoroughly mixed, roll the mixture into 1″ balls, then coat them with the remaining chopped walnuts.
Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.