Edible Gift Recipe: Coconut Ganache Bourbon Balls

The holidays are here, and every good Southerner knows it's best to be prepared with an arsenal of hostess gifts. And what better way to get any party started than with bourbon? Chocolate ganache covered bourbon balls, that is.
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I started preparing these to serve at my upcoming Thanksgiving festivities, but they're just so easy I ended up making four (four!) batches to have on the ready. To keep things interesting, I decided to do a little experimenting along the way. It's all in the name of research.

Batch one was the control group, using a traditional recipe with vanilla wafers and Karo corn syrup. Batch two contained vanilla wafers, hand chopped nuts, and Steen's Cane Syrup, a dark and rich Southern pantry staple. Batch three contained graham crackers and nuts, all processed in a food processor, and Steen's Cane Syrup as well. Batch four is pretty similar to the recipe you see below, using corn syrup and topped off with the coconut ganache.

The final results were tasted (and re-tasted) last night at a family dinner gathering. All were delicious, but the coconut ganache balls slid into first place unanimously. Second place was the graham cracker version with Steen's, which had a complex, nutty flavor and a nice fudgy texture. Any way you make them though, they're going to be great.

Mind you, these little "shots" of heaven are not for the faint of heart -- they're called bourbon balls for a reason. I'd keep them away from the kids table if I were you.

What sweet treats do you like to give as hostess gifts? I'd love your recipes!

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Coconut Ganache Bourbon Balls

Yields approximately 30

For the Bourbon Balls
2 cups vanilla wafers or graham crackers crumbs (ground fine)
2 cups chopped pecans (by hand or in food processor)
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup bourbon or whiskey
6 tablespoons cane syrup or corn syrup

For the Ganache
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Bourbon Balls
In a large bowl, combine cookie crumbs, pecans, confectioners sugar, and cocoa powder. In another bowl, whisk together bourbon and syrup and then combine thoroughly with dry mixture (I find using my hands works best). Allow to sit for a couple of minutes.

Using a small scoop (I prefer a spring-release ice cream scoop), spoon out rounds of the bourbon ball mixture, mashing flat against the side of the bowl to create a flat bottom. Release onto a sheet pan.

For the Ganache
In a food processor, process coconut flakes into small bits. Combine chocolate chips and heavy cream in a glass bowl and microwave one minute to one minute and twenty seconds. Stir until chocolate is melted and glossy.

Dip bourbon balls in melted chocolate (you don't have to coat the flat bottom surface), reheating chocolate as necessary, and place on a cooling rack set on top of wax paper. Sprinkle coconut on top of balls, using fingers to cover the sides thoroughly. Re-use the leftover coconut that falls through the cooling rack wires, if necessary. Allow to set for at least a couple of hours, or overnight (they taste even better after the flavor has a chance to mellow). If you don't like coconut, feel free to just cover them in ganache and allow to set overnight.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Related: Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie: A Corn-Syrup Free Recipe

(Images: Nealey Dozier)

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Candy, Dessert, Recipe

Nealey Dozier is a former wedding planner turned chef, culinary instructor, recipe developer, and food writer. She is based in Atlanta. You can find more of her Southern adventures in eating and entertaining at www.dixiecaviar.com.

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