Rum Balls

Welcome back to Cookie Monday! Enjoy this week’s installment:

This week’s cookie recipe comes from my dad’s good friend and long-time colleague, Hal. Along with his wife, Ellin, Hal puts on frequent “Inventory Reductions” throughout the year that are filled with incredible food, including cookies, appetizers, and Hal’s specialty, Rum Balls.

Like the true Silicon Valley engineer that he is, Hal approaches all of his cooking projects with a sense of precision and logic—most of his ingredients are measured by weight rather than volume and the recipes show an exhaustive list of ingredient alternatives and recommendations. After many years of experimentation, he has come up with the ideal proportions of chocolate cookies, rum, sweetener, and pecans, to make these small holiday cookies full of pecans and chocolate that really pack a punch. For those of you who have never tried a Rum Ball before, think of them as the 1960s version of a cake pop without frosting.

The Rum Balls come together very quickly in the food processor, don’t require any baking, and keep for a few weeks at room temperature, making this batch perfect for our annual Christmas party. Thank you for the recipe, Hal—I know that these Rum Balls will be enjoyed by all of our guests.

Dark Rum Balls

Recipe from Hal Jerman

Makes about 4 dozen Rum Balls

9 oz. (1 box) chocolate wafer cookies. I have used a small producer organic brand that I can no longer find.  Newman’s Own makes a chocolate alphabet cookie that is not bad.  The Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies are also OK.  Most published recipes use Vanilla wafers, but I think the chocolate wafer cookies make a better product)

6 oz. toasted pecans (can be made with walnuts, but I prefer pecans)—if measuring by volume, this is roughly 1½ cups of pecans

6 oz., 72% chocolate, chopped (the better the chocolate quality, the better the cookie; I have used the 72% Trader Joe’s “Pound Plus” chocolate, which is OK.  The 72% Scharffenberger or Valrhona is noticeably better, but significantly more expensive.)

3 oz. dark brown sugar—if measuring by volume, this is approximately 6 tablespoons of tightly packed dark brown sugar.

3 tablespoons dark Karo syrup (dark corn syrup)

½ cup dark rum (I use Meyers, the dark rum seems less “alcoholic” than Bourbon, light rum, or Cognac)

½ teaspoon vanilla (not sure if this is helpful)

2/3 cup sugar, for coating (you can use coarse sugar, or add a few drops of festive food coloring to granulated sugar and mix well)

  1. Toast the pecans at ~375F for 6-8 minutes on a baking sheet until fragrant; be careful not to burn them.  Grind the cookies to a rough powder and grind the pecans (not too small!) in a food processor.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (see note), then remove from heat, mix in the brown sugar and the Karo syrup until incorporated, then stir in the rum until smooth.
  3. Add the ground cookies and pecans and the vanilla, and stir until incorporated (mix should be “damp”, but not loose or runny).  Cool in the refrigerator for about 1 hour, then form into balls and coat with coarse granulated sugar.  Traditionally red and green colored sugar is used around Christmas, and often sugar like this is in fairly large grain size, which is OK.
  4. Refrigerate overnight in a closed container, then store in a closed container at room temperature for up to a couple of weeks.

Note: To construct a DIY double boiler, bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer, then place either a metal or glass bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl. To melt the chocolate in it, place the chopped chocolate in the bowl, and stir constantly with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted. Take care not to let the water splash into the chocolate, as this will cause it to break and curdle.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

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