Friday, November 11, 2005

Spirited Rum Balls

As the holidays begin to approach - despite store displays that indicate that Christmas began in October - it is time to start thinking about holiday gifts and cookies, both for swapping and for eating. This recipe is a variation on Martha Stewart's Bourbon Balls. The biggest change is that instead of bourbon, I prefer to use dark rum, which is made from fermented molasses. Alcohol and molasses? Sounds like Christmas to me! Of course, I'm only kidding. I confess that these are actually a bit too... alcoholic for my personal tastes, but the combination seems to make them a very popular choice for holiday parties.
I wonder why.
These no-bake cookie-like confections have a soft texture and rummy taste. The best way I can think of to describe them is as the cookie version of a truffle, because they certainly bring truffles to my mind, though they lack the rich creaminess of the candy. I think that they are quite fun to make, not to mention exceptionally easy if you have a food processor. I would not advise attempting them without one, since it would be difficult to achieve the right consistency using a rolling pin and a spoon. You can use any brand of vanilla wafers or substitute animal crackers, which are slightly less sweet and work equally well.
I actually do not recommend eating these when they are freshly made; they will be too wet, have a sharp alcoholic taste and a somewhat gritty texture. Because the flavors (and texture) meld rather impressively over time, it really is best to make these a few days ahead. And as many of us get rather busy around the holidays, who can complain about something that you can do a week ahead of time? Once you've rolled them, leave the rum balls out for about 24 hours to "dry" a bit, and then seal them in an airtight container. If you use a small container, you can pop them in an envelope and mail them to a friend. By the time they arrive, they should be just about perfect. I recommend making them at least 3 days ahead.

Rum Balls
3 cups vanilla wafers (or animal crackers)
1 cup pecans
1/2-2/3 cup dark rum
1 cup confectioners sugar
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
2 tbsp corn syrup
additional confectioners sugar, for rolling

In a food processor, whizz wafer cookies until they are reduced to crumbs. Add pecans and continue to process until mixture is uniform. Add sugar, cocoa and corn syrup. With the motor running, drizzle in rum until the mixture comes together in a thick, sticky ball. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and coat with confectioners sugar.
Set in a single layer to dry for 24 hours before storing. Make at least one day ahead.
Makes 48 balls.