I closed out 2014 somewhat exasperated (and quietly anxious and queasy because I was first trimester-ing this bunny) that I had so much I’d wanted to cook and tell you about that year but couldn’t fabricate the time. Then I added a new tiny wonderful human to the mix and needless to say, the song has not changed. So, I’m going retune it. It’s better to have too many ideas than too few, after all, I’m sure there will be a time when these kids don’t call (sob) and the apartment is finally clean and organized and there are no items left on my tumbling to-do list when I’ll maybe even miss the chaos the chaos of feeling like I was barely keeping afloat. Plus, seriously, this was such an unquestionably excellent year, from impending babies, actual babies, missing front teeth, a new weekly digest newsletter, and even crazy milestones, like the 1000th recipe on this site (my favorite cocktail, go make yourself one, I’ll wait). How could I want to change a thing?
Most Popular Smitten Kitchen Recipes of 2015: Savory
- mushroom marsala pasta bake
- my ultimate chicken noodle soup
- obsessively good avocado cucumber salad
- tomato and fried provolone sandwich
- baked chickpeas with pita chips and yogurt
- oat and wheat sandwich bread
- oven-braised beef with tomatoes and garlic
- broccoli cheddar soup
- perfect corn muffins
- zucchini rice and cheese gratin
- spaghetti pangrattato with crispy eggs
- cornmeal-fried pork chops + smashed potatoes
- caramelized onion and gruyère biscuits
- takeout-style sesame noodles with cucumber
- herbed summer squash pasta bake
- fake shack burger
Most Popular Smitten Kitchen Recipes of 2015: Sweet
- pecan pie
- salted chocolate chunk cookies
- the ‘i want chocolate cake’ cake
- key lime pie
- carrot graham layer cake
- butterscotch pudding
- salted peanut butter cookies
- liège waffles
- black bottom oatmeal pie
- pull-apart rugelach
- very blueberry scones
- cannoli pound cake
- crispy peach cobbler
- strawberry cornmeal griddle cakes
- the browniest cookies
- chocolate chunk granola bars
I’m excited about 2016. It’s the year (I’m writing it here, so you all better hold me to it), I’m going to start reading books again, and not just The New York Times, The New Yorker and every terrible thing anyone has ever linked to from Facebook. And it’s the I’m going to finally finish the next Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, the one that’s been bumping about in my head for way too long. What’s on your agenda? May I suggest you mull it over with some chocolate sprinkled pretties on hand?
My mother-in-law has often told me that her coworker makes the best rum balls for their holiday party. Yes, rum balls, that holiday party staple from the 1960s, things that we thought went the way of bellbottoms and turtlenecks under dinner jackets. I figured they were just a giddy little way for people who need their booze cloaked in layers of sugary dessert to hit the sauce, and thus were not my thing until she plopped one in my hand week and I had to hold myself back from eating three more. Guys, please let’s make these a thing again.
Of course, I ended up mashing her recipe up with one that had caught my eye from Melissa Clark. Clark uses chocolate cookie crumbs instead of the usual vanilla wafers and bourbon instead of rum, which I think we already knew I was going to. Her recipe uses honey instead of the usual corn syrup, but I couldn’t resist using molasses because the flavor is so grand against that chocolate and bourbon. As I’ve already sung the praises of black cocoa powder once this month, I’ll spare you, but I couldn’t resist slipping it in here because things are the pitch of Oreos are always more welcome than things that are not.
The result is like a sip of bourbon, a brownie and a chocolate truffle ran away together, and rolled in the shimmery sprinkly deep, are 100% more dressed up for a party that I’ll manage to be by 8 p.m. tonight. Plus, they’re no-bake and keep exceptionally well (and even get better with age, should they be ignored long enough to actually rest, i.e. I suspect this theory has never been tested); I’m so taken with the brilliance of these retro treats, I’m wondering what else we should be reconsidering from the 1960s in the new year. Pillbox hats, definitely.
Fudgy Bourbon Balls
Adapted from Melissa Clark
Makes about 42 with a 1 tablespoon scoop
2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs or about 260 grams chocolate cookies
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons honey or molasses
Sprinkles, sanding or coarse sugar, additional chopped nuts, extra cookie crumbs or coconut to roll balls in
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the cookies, whole or already in crumbs, and pecans until the nuts are finely ground. In small dish, whisk together the bourbon, powdered sugar, cocoa and honey until smooth. Add to the food processor bowl and pulse until just combined.
Set aside at room temperature, uncovered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or up to 4 hours, to give the crumbs a chance to absorb the liquid and become more fudgy and easier to roll.
Scoop dough into about 1-inch or 1 tablespoon-sized balls and roll them in toppings of your choice. The balls can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge. If at room temperature, you can leave them covered for more moisture or uncovered if you like them with more of a crust. Balls will keep for as long as you can hide them from people.
Notes: I’m going to do a little Q&A with the comment section that lives in my head. :)
- Can I make these with gluten-free cookies? Probably.
- Can I make these without nuts? There are many nut-free rum ball recipes on the web to get you started, or, I’m sure you can fudge these a bit with extra crumbs to balance the missing nuts.
- Can I make these without alcohol? Absolutely, in fact, I made 1/3 of these (the ones with colored sprinkles) with apple juice. Other liquids that might work, should you not have a 6 year-old who would be rather infuriated if sprinkle-covered balls of chocolate were given to everyone but him as your intended audience, coffee, strong black tea, a favorite juice, etc.
- Nabisco Chocolate Wafers are impossible to find! Yes, they are. There’s always Amazon, but those prices are insane. A bodega in my neighborhood sells these Leibniz chocolate cookies, which I used instead, but of course any plain chocolate cookie will do. This sound insane, but for a homemade option, the cookie portion of these Oreos is unbelievably easy to make in the food processor and you could have them going into the oven 15 minutes from now, with the bonus of have a surplus of excellent chocolate sugar cookies when you’re done.
- That’s a lot of booze, Deb! Yes, it is. My MIL’s uses more like 1/4 cup for a pleasant kick of spirits. This is more assertive, although my testers assured me, not unwelcome. Should you wish to halve it, you’ll want to hold back on the cookie crumbs to adjust. Start with half and add more until you get a good thick consistency.
- Where’d you get those sprinkles? I showed exactly zero restraint on my most recent trip to NY Cake and Baking on 22nd Street. This was the result.
- Can’t I just roll these in powdered sugar, as the original recipe suggests? In my opinion? No. The result was damp and slippery and would need to be re-rolled on the regular to keep a pretty finish. Go with something with more texture and it will hang on longer.