Originally concocted by Ruth Hanly Booe, a Kentuckian who started a chocolate business in 1919, bourbon balls generally come in two forms: One that’s heavy on the chocolate and one that relies more on a cookie base. Rhonda Ruckman, the executive pastry chef of Herbsaint, Cochon Butcher, Calcasieu, and Pêche in New Orleans, counts herself firmly in the chocolate camp. “I wanted to use something different from the traditional vanilla wafers that are crushed and rolled up,” Ruckman says. “I’m an enormous fan of chocolate, so this is more like a truffle with shortbread crushed up into it.” After trying out her recipe, we have to say she has us convinced.
For the chocolate, Ruckman likes to use Valrhona Equatoriale bittersweet, but any good dark chocolate will work just fine. Add in the nuts, a little honey and vanilla, plus, of course, a healthy pour of Kentucky’s finest, and you have a decadent Southern treat worth stacking up for a party or stuffing into a stocking. Just make sure to snag a handful for yourself.