As a child, my relationship with unsweet baker’s chocolate was one of suspicion. Why would they take something sweet and delicious like chocolate and make it bitter? I remember one December, when my very organized father uncharacteristically forgot that the chocolate he was melting in a double boiler on the stove was unsweetened and thoughtfully offered for me to lick the spoon. The sharpness that hit my expectant middle-schooler palate was disappointing, to say the least.
Now I can appreciate that unsweetened chocolate has a place — and its place is atop the delectable treat my dad was making that evening.
Drizzled in baker’s chocolate, these bourbon balls are a staple of my family’s Christmas celebrations. We serve them to gathered family members on Christmas Eve after church. We sneak tastes of them off the trays stashed in the refrigerator. We box them up and give them to friends as gifts. We bring them to parties at other people’s houses.
The recipe comes from one of the best sources out there, second only to handwritten recipes passed down from family, friends, and church potlucks: those ’80s-era, annual Southern Living hardcover anthologies of recipes submitted by readers who have collected them from their family, friends, and church potlucks. It’s from Judy Cunningham of Roanoke, Virginia.
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup bourbon (it’ll be mixed with plenty of other flavors, so no need to use anything too fancy. Jack’ll do fine.)
16 oz. sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
8 oz. unsweet chocolate
1 tbsp. shortening
“Soak walnuts in bourbon at least 3 hours,” Judy writes. “Drain. Combine walnuts, sugar, and butter. Shape into 3/4-inch balls; chill at least 30 minutes.”
In the meantime, “combine chocolate and shortening in top of a double boiler; heat until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.”
Judy suggests using a skewer to dip the balls into the chocolate, but my family has found it’s quicker (and just as tasty) to leave the bourbon balls spread out on wax paper on a cookie sheet and drizzle them generously with the chocolate. However you choose to do it, the only step left is chilling them in the refrigerator, where you can keep them stored.
Whether you need a last-minute gift that’s more personalized than a gift card, a sweet finger food to bring to a Christmas party, or just a festive snack to make while your home is full of visiting family, add this recipe to your repertoire.