Baked Sunday Mornings: Derby Cookies

In honor of the Kentucky Derby, this week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe is "Derby Cookies" -- buttery brown sugar bourbon walnut balls.

These cookies are easy to make. You mix softened butter with vanilla and bourbon; add dark brown sugar and beat until light; incorporate flour and salt; and stir in chopped walnuts. You immediately scoop out the dough into balls and freeze them for about 30 minutes until baking. I used a #50 scoop and got exactly three dozen cookies from the recipe. Before baking, you roll the cookies in bourbon sugar; I made my bourbon sugar by shaking some bourbon with turbinado sugar in a closed container and letting the flavor develop for about an hour.

The recipe says that you can bake an entire batch of these cookies on one baking sheet because they don't spread, but that's not my experience. I first made these cookies for our holiday party two years ago and the notation I made in the cookbook reads, "they spread!" The same thing happened to me this time as well; I could only fit 18 cookies on a half-sheet pan and my cookies ended up as flattish domes.
I decided not to roll my baked cookies in powdered sugar just to avoid the mess. Because I don't drink alcohol at all, I don't like baked goods with strong alcohol flavors, but I really enjoyed these cookies. It's a relatively small amount of alcohol in the recipe (only two tablespoons in the cookie batter and a half teaspoon in the bourbon sugar) and the bourbon gives the cookies a smoky, complex flavor with just a hint of alcohol. The dark brown sugar also contributes to the cookies' carmel-y character. The cookies had a sandy but not overly dry texture and my favorite part was the sweet and crunchy coating of turbinado sugar.

I ended up serving these at a Cinco de Mayo-themed party at work and no one seemed to mind that they were terribly off theme. You can enjoy these sparkling little gems year round!

Recipe: "Derby Cookies" from Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.

Previous Post: "A Birthday Surprise: Bourbon Balls and Hazelnut Brownies," January 12, 2011.


Isla said…
Do you think Muscovado sugar would work here?
I have to say that I never use muscovado, only because it's so expensive here. But from what I understand, I think it would work fine in place of the dark brown sugar, but it might produce a stronger molasses flavor.