A Birthday Surprise: Bourbon Balls and Hazelnut Brownies

Today at the office, we had a little surprise birthday party for one of my colleagues.  It didn't take me long to decide what I wanted to make for the occasion.  Our birthday boy spent a large part of his childhood in Kentucky and is a fan of bourbon, so bourbon balls were an obvious choice.  Plus, a recipe for bourbon balls made it into the top ten list from the Los Angeles Times' Holiday Cookie Bake-Off last month, so I was fairly confident that they would be pretty yummy.

The bourbon ball recipe is not difficult; no baking is required.  I just ran pecans and graham crackers through the food processor, added powdered sugar, and then stirred in a mixture of melted chocolate, corn syrup, and bourbon.  You chill the mixture briefly before forming it into balls and rolling the balls in granulated sugar.  That's it.   

I got exactly four dozen bourbon balls from the recipe (using a #60 scoop to measure out the dough), so each individual ball only contained 1/12 ounce of bourbon.  Still, the finished product had a surprisingly strong bourbon taste.  Tom took one bite, and without knowing that the recipe was from the LA Times holiday bake off, his immediate reaction was that the flavor reminded him of the holidays.  The texture is a little bit like raw cookie dough -- soft, but the batter holds its shape well.  Rolling the balls in sugar gives each bite a pleasing little crunch.  Since I'm not a fan of bourbon, I didn't really care for these, but the birthday boy and other folks enjoyed them quite a bit, so I'll count them as a success. 

I felt the bourbon balls were a bit of a cop out, though (since they didn't even require the use of the oven!) and so I also wanted to make another dessert for the party.  I had some extra hazelnuts on hand, and so I decided to try a Bobby Flay recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies with Milk Chocolate Frosting.

The brownie recipe is pretty much just a basic brownie, with the addition of chopped toasted hazelnuts and Frangelico.  I debated whether I should even make the frosting.  Generally speaking, I think that if a brownie is good, then any frosting is just gratuitous; if a brownie actually needs frosting to taste good, then there is something wrong with it.  But I thought what the heck, I'd give the frosting a try.  This frosting recipe is basically a milk chocolate ganache that also includes a small amount of cocoa powder and Frangelico.

When I tasted the finished brownies, all of my skepticism faded away.  These brownies are absolutely delicious.  The brownie itself is moist and moderately fudgy, with lots of crunchy hazelnut in every bite.  The frosting is creamy and completely complementary to the brownie --it doesn't seem like a separate component that was just slapped on, but an integral part of the whole.  A lovely hazelnut treat!  I may have just become a brownie + frosting believer!



Tyler Hewitt said…
pI picked up a recipe very similar to the bourbon balls years ago in a grocery store. This version calls for vanilla wafers and cocoa powder, although I think graham crackers and melted chocolate would be better. I remember they were giving out samples, and I do recall them tasting very strongly of alcohol.

The hazelnut brownies sound wonderful!
Suelle said…
Those brownies look sensational - it's a pity I'm baking without butter at the moment!
Louise said…
Take a look at Bobby Flay's 2004 version of the Hazelnut Brownies. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/03/24/earlyshow/contributors/bobbyflay/main608434.shtml There's proportionately much more chocolate, plus salt. And it looks like it would make a 9x13 pan, not 9x9. Maybe he has learned "less is more".