Today’s Kentucky Bourbon Balls with White Chocolate Drizzle are a tribute to the distilling traditions of Kentucky and homage to my visit to Louisville. Besides, they are just downright fun to make and eat!
A few years ago I checked off one of my biggest bucket-list items, a visit to Kentucky! The annual IACP conference was held in Louisville and I couldn’t wait to discover the beauty of the area, visit with my cousins and nephew, see my IACP friends, and tour the hallowed grounds of Churchill Downs! Oh, and then there are the quintessential sweet treat, Kentucky Bourbon Balls!
My parents grew up in a small southern Indiana town just outside of Indianapolis and about 2 hours from Louisville. When you grow up in that area of the country there are three things that you are passionate about … basketball, the Indy 500, and the Kentucky Derby. My folks passed along many aspects of their Midwestern upbringing and traditions, and every time I visit the area, it feels like home. I never had much interest in basketball, don’t care much about the car race, but I was always fascinated with anything to do with thoroughbreds.
Just like every other little girl, I loved horses and dreamed of having my own one day. I read books about them (Misty of Chincoteague is still one of my favorites), saved my allowance to buy toy horses instead of dolls, and took horseback riding lessons. And of course the first Saturday in May there was the Derby.
I loved the pageantry of the Derby, admiring the beautiful women in their fancy hats, the dapper gentlemen sipping mint juleps, and of course the excitement of the races. For a day each year, I could pretend I was part of the crowd and cheer on our favorites!
The Triple Crown, American horse racing’s premiere achievement. Since it’s inception, there have only been 12 horses who won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes in the same year. During the 1970s, I sat mesmerized like everyone else as three horses took the Triple Crown. When Secretariat won in 1973, it had been 25 years since the last time a Triple Crown winner was crowned. Four years later Seattle Slew won the three races and the following year, in 1978, Affirmed repeated the almost inconceivable triple wins. It was an exhilarating time and one I will never forget. It was 37 years until we saw the next winner, American Pharoah in 2015 and then Justify repeated the feat in 2018.
Today, in honor of the Kentucky Derby and my memorable visit, I made these Bourbon Balls with White Chocolate Drizzle. I think they should be the official Kentucky state dessert! Incredibly easy to make and no-bake, this is one dessert that definitely will be enjoyed by the adults in your family and are usually the first ones to disappear on my holiday buffets.
If you’ve never made them, they are simple to mix together. If you have a food processor, everything can be blended together in a snap. If you don’t, you can crush the cookies by hand using a rolling pin and then mix the rest of the ingredients in your mixer or with a spoon.
An ice cream scoop makes quick work of rolling the dough into balls – just be sure to press the dough tightly into the scoop before squeezing the handle to release them onto the parchment paper. Then a quick smoothing in your hands to compact them and make the tops nicely shaped and they are ready for drizzling.
You could make green and white for St. Patrick’s day; red, white, & blue for the 4th of July; green, gold, and purple for Mardi Gras; red and green for Christmas; white and blue for Hanukkah … the list – and the fun – is nearly endless!
Enjoy these sweet Bourbon Balls with White Chocolate Drizzle boozy treats and you’ll swear you’re in Kentucky getting ready to watch the Run for the Roses!
Happy Chocolate Monday and enjoy your Valentine’s Day celebrations tomorrow!
Key Ingredients for Kentucky Bourbon Balls with White Chocolate Drizzle:
- Fine cookie crumbs, almond meal, powdered sugar
- Light corn syrup, bourbon
- Mini white chocolate chips or finely chopped white chocolate
- Unsalted butter, coconut oil, or vegetable shortening
- Food coloring, optional
You can use nearly any cookie you want to make the crumbs. For mine I used a vanilla-flavored cookie, but you could use almond cookies, chocolate, or whatever is your favorite flavor profile.
How to Make Gluten-Free Cookie Crumbs:
Use store-bought GF cookies or make a batch of gluten-free cookies, such as Chocolate Chip Cookies (without the chips added). Bake a touch longer to get the cookies quite crisp. Cool completely, then break into pieces and pulse in a food processor until you have very fine crumbs. The cookies and crumbs can be made a day or two ahead to make it faster to make the bourbon balls. If you don’t have a food processor put the cookies in a resealable bag and roll them with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs.
This is the perfect recipe to use your spring-loaded scoop. It will save you a bunch of time and give you bourbon balls that are all the same size.
How to make Kentucky Bourbon Balls with White Chocolate Drizzle:
- Process the cookie crumbs, almond meal, and powdered sugar; add corn syrup and bourbon and pulse until moistened; if needed, add another splash of bourbon and pulse again
- Scoop into 1-inch balls, roll between your palms to smooth them if needed; set on a parchment-covered baking sheet, cover and set aside until ready to drizzle
- Melt the white chocolate stirring constantly with the butter and food coloring if using; mix until the color is smooth with no streaks, the cool slightly
- Pour into a piping bag or plastic bag and press into one corner or the bottom of the bag; snip a little piece of the corner and drizzle the glaze in a zig-zag pattern over the bourbon balls; let them set up before serving or storing
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Though the gluten from the grains is destroyed in the distillation process and technically alcohol is gluten-free, there are some people who still have reactions to it. Some distillers add caramel coloring and that can contain gluten. If you are very reactive or making these for someone with Celiac, you can use potato vodka and a little brown sugar in place of the bourbon to be safe. Look for the asterisk for specifics. It won’t taste the same, but it will be delicious and you can eat them with no concerns about getting sick.
- 1-1/2 cups (about 208 g) fine cookie crumbs (use gluten-free if needed)
- 1 cup (112 g) almond meal, hazelnut meal, or very finely ground fresh pecans or other nuts
- 1/2 cup (about 68 g) sifted powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup bourbon, or as needed *
White Chocolate Drizzle
- 1 package (12 oz; 340 g) mini white chocolate chips or finely chopped white chocolate
- 2 tsp unsalted butter, coconut oil, or vegetable shortening
- Food coloring, optional
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Make the Bourbon Balls: In a food processor, combine the cookie crumbs, ground nuts, and powdered sugar. Pulse until completely blended and there are no streaks; scrape the sides to be sure nothing is caught in the corners. Add the corn syrup and bourbon. Pulse until all the dry ingredients are completely moistened. Turn off the machine, pinch some of the mixture. If it doesn't easily hold together, add a splash more bourbon and pulse again. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl again.
- Use a spring-loaded scoop to form 1-inch diameter balls. Place each on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. You can make these up to 1 to 2 days ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to add the drizzled glaze.
- Make the Drizzling Glaze: Set a bowl over a pan of simmering water, and add the chocolate, butter, and food coloring if using. If you are making more than one color, heat each one separately. Heat, stirring constantly until the chocolate is melted and the color is evenly blended with no streaks.
- Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Transfer to a piping bag or resealable plastic bag. Press the chocolate into one corner and twist the top of the bag tight. Hold the bag in one hand by the top, with the corner pointed up. Snip a tiny piece off the corner and drizzle the glaze in a zig-zag pattern over the bourbon balls. Let them sit until the glaze has set before serving.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days or in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. The longer they are stored, the more pronounced the bourbon flavor will become. If you are stacking them, place a sheet of waxed paper or parchment between each layer.
* If you are celiac or very reactive to gluten and are concerned about using distilled alcohol, you can use potato vodka in place of the bourbon and add 2 tsp brown sugar to approximate the flavor.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 84Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 16mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 1g
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