Monday, December 28, 2009

Cognac balls are a tasty gift

I should have written this post a month ago, when all you cooks were scouring the Internet for tasty holiday treats to make and share. You'll just have to tuck this thought away for next year. Or make them for New Year's Eve!

I got a little bag of these cognac sugar plums from my friend (and fabulous artist) Mai Wyn last year and they were so very sinfully tasty. I begged the recipe from her this year and started making batches of my own.

The original recipe is from "The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook." Mai Wyn leaves out the candied cherries, and so do I. They're not necessary.
Here's what you need:
  • 2.5 cups of ground-up vanilla wafers (a regular Nabisco box like you see here has a little more than you need. The box of organic wafers from Whole Foods will have a little less than you need and make you mad. If you want organic, get two boxes.)
  • 1 cup of ground-up pecans
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 cup cognac
Start off by putting the chocolate in a double boiler to melt. Just put a metal bowl or pot over another pot with a couple inches of water in the bottom. Bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat way down. The chocolate will melt slowly without burning.

While the chocolate is melting, grind up the cookies and the pecans separately in a food processor. (You could use a rolling pin and mallet if you are food processor-less.) Also set out a bowl of sugar for dusting and a platter or container to put the finished balls on.

Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the corn syrup, the sugar and the cognac. Mix it all together, then add the cookie meal and pecans and mix thoroughly.

Now you'll need to work quickly, because the cooler the mix gets, the less it wants to stick together. If you can have a helper handle the dusting part, so much the better. But it's doable on your own.

Just grab a pinch of the mixture and roll it between your palms to make a ball. The mixture is surprisingly unsticky on your palms. I started out making really small, bite-sized balls, but that was too time-consuming, so the next batches were larger. About the size of a Superball.

Roll a bunch and drop them into the bowl of sugar, then push them around in the sugar to coat them. Remember, you need to work fast.

This recipe makes between 90 and 110 balls, depending on how big you make them. Store them in an airtight container. They get better with age.
If you are making up gift bags, figure on at least 15-20 balls per bag. Less just looks stingy. You can buy food-safe cellophane bags online or at places like The Container Store. I attach ribbons to a twist-tie rather than around the bag itself, so you can easily open and close the bag without having to cut the ribbon off.

Enjoy!

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