Chocolate Rum Balls: A Quick Gift to Yourself

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett

Two days after Thanksgiving, I gazed at my Christmas tree with the sweet satisfaction of domestic competence. Fully lit and decorated, we’d accomplished the set-up with ease this year.

The glow lasted about 5 minutes. When I looked at the calendar, Christmas loomed in, it seemed, about 5 days. I went fast from bliss to bah humbug trying to envision how I’d get everything done, and with two days til Christmas, I still don’t have the answer.

Right after Thanksgiving, I made my periodic trip to Whole Foods, which I usually try to boycott; I have to break that boycott when I need its bulk dried herbs or spices. I bought anise seeds for springerle, my family’s traditional German Christmas cookie, for which I have custody of my grandmother’s special rolling pin. Finally, I thought, I’d get the springerle made at the beginning of December, as it should be, instead of just before Christmas. Ha: Whole Foods didn’t have anise extract (weirdly, for the pretentious organic-y place that it is, it had just anise “flavor,” from an unspecified flavor source). Neither did my next three stops, and suddenly, it’s weeks later and the springerle pin has only just gotten its annual workout.

None of this comes as a complete surprise. Between catering, writing, volunteering at school, and keeping up with the kids’ after-school commitments, I’ve struggled more than ever this year to balance my days. Still, though, I expected my Christmas spirit to catch up with my schedule by now.

Then tonight, as I planned what baking to finish tomorrow, that spirit slipped in, inspiration struck, and my usual recipe tinkering paid off. I thought about how long it had been since I made bourbon balls, that classic Southern recipe of crushed vanilla wafers, sugar, nuts and liquor, all bound together by a bit of corn syrup. Why, I thought, couldn’t I use Oreos instead of the wafers? The cream filling would give a bit of stickiness to the dough, and the chocolate would provide a flavor punch missing in ordinary bourbon balls. Then I sniffed the bourbon and the dark rum to see which struck my brain as a better combination. Rum won, hands down.

Just like that, I have a new recipe for the holidays, one I like better than the old, and that sense of competence tiptoed back, conjuring visions of (rum-scented) sugarplums, children all snug in their beds, and one mommy in the Christmas mood.

Recipe: Chocolate Rum Balls

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