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Rum Balls

December 21, 2010

For me, it isn’t Christmas without rum balls. When I was a kid, my family would get some every year from a family friend. Innocent that I was, I really thought that the alcohol had been cooked out of them. The tipsyness I felt was surely just an abundance of holiday spirit. It wasn’t until I moved out and started making them myself that I realized they aren’t cooked at all. I was just a child eating liquor. Yummy!

Needless to say, this is a treat for the grown-ups at Christmas – the kids have enough fun.

I remembered this year how much rum balls are a combination of big American brands: Nabisco Nilla Wafers, Hershey’s Cocoa Powder and Karo Corn Syrup. Of course, I managed to work it out. Instead of the Nilla wafers, I used these shortbread cookies. They were a bit more buttery than the ‘Nillas, but I’m not complaining.

Those aside, you start by whisking together powdered sugar and cocoa powder:

In a small bowl, combine syrup and rum. I had to use Lyle’s instead of corn syrup, but thankfully, the Captain was one brand that managed to sail over the pond. You can use whatever rum you like here, or a bourbon for that matter.

Add the rum mix to the sugar and cocoa. It’ll become a decidedly party-friendly chocolate syrup.

Chop up a cup of pecans pretty fine – about the size of rice.

And here’s my low-tech way of crumbling up the wafers: put them in a sturdy sealed bag and whack them with a rolling pin. Pick out any large chunks and crumble them by hand, then combine them with the pecan bits.

Mix the pecans and crumbs into the chocolate-rum syrup.

Before you get your hands all sticky, set up a shallow bowl or plate with powdered sugar and somewhere to put the rum balls.

I have found in previous years that the mixture can be a little dry. If it is too dry to form balls, add a little extra corn syrup. Roll them between your hands. The Joy of Cooking points out that they don’t have to be the same size – I like to imagine someone hunched over her rum balls with a tape measure.

Roll them in powdered sugar and shake off the extra.

Store them in an airtight container, with parchment paper between the layers. These last several weeks, provided you can resist eating them, and get better with age.

Rum Balls

Makes 40-60 balls, depending on the size
From Joy of Cooking

1 Cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ Cup dark rum or bourbon
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup (or Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
2½ Cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1 Cup finely chopped pecans
extra ½ Cup of powdered sugar for dusting

1. Whisk together sugar and cocoa in a large bowl.
2. In a small bowl, combine rum and syrup. Mix well.
3. Mix syrup mixture into sugar and cocoa.
4. Combine wafer crumbs and chopped pecans. Add to other ingredients and mix well.
5. Form mixture into bite-sized balls and roll in powdered sugar.
6. Store in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between the layers. Enjoy with a hot toddy – or just a glass of milk. 🙂

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