Czech Christmas Cookie #6
Rum, chocolate, walnut balls with the delight of rum-soaked dried cherries in their centers, pack a delicious flavor punch. No wheat flour needed. They even improve with age, but I tend to eat up the first batch quickly. They are traditionally rolled in unsweetened cocoa, which gives them a nice flavor bite, but you can get even more creative, as I did for the photo above (cocoa, finely grated coconut, finely chopped/ground nuts, and multi-color nonpareils).
In the rum ball dough, I use melted unsweetened baking chocolate, which is what my Czech mother-in-law used. The sugar provides sufficient sweetness, but people with extra sweet tooths can use bittersweet. I find the unsweetened chocolate and cocoa allows the rum and cherry flavors to really shine. This may sound strange, but those who love their coffee black may really appreciate this. If you don’t like the idea of the cherry in the middle, the soaked cherries can be eliminated from the recipe, but I can’t imagine wanting to do that.
- 2 Tbs rum (I use dark), plus enough extra rum for soaking pitted dried cherries
- 1/3 cup dried pitted cherries
- 3 egg yolks (from large pasteurized eggs, if raw worries you)
- 1/2 cup (110 grams) caster sugar (super fine granulated, in the US) or regular granulated works, but may need extra time to dissolve (slight crunch)
- 4 oz (110 grams) very finely chopped walnuts (I use my food processor “S” blade), or more
- 4 oz (114 grams) unsweetened or bittersweet high-quality baking chocolate (depending on sweetness preference). Chocolate choice may affect dough appearance and walnut amounts.
- 1/2 cup quality unsweetened cocoa, for rolling balls in (or other choice)
Soak dried cherries in rum in a small bowl for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight, covered with plastic wrap. Cherries will swell as they absorb the rum.
In a medium-sized bowl or food processor, beat/mix in egg yolks well with caster (super fine) or regular sugar and 2 Tbs rum (you can steal it from the cherry soaking supply). Mix in the finely ground walnuts.
Melt baking chocolate according to method of your choice. Add chocolate to walnut/rum mixture and mix (pulse in) well. This should form a wet dough. If it’s still more like a batter, add some more ground walnuts, little by little. Chocolate and sugar may affect color and amount of walnuts needed.
Divide dough into 2 equal sized mounds on parchment paper or waxed paper covered plate or tray. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 20 to 30 mins until dough slightly firms up and is easier to work with.
Take first mound and roll into a long log about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Then do the same with the second mound. [I usually put the second mound in the fridge while working the first.]
Take first log and cut in half. Then halve the halves. Repeat until you have 16 equal-sized pieces. [You’ll do the same with the second log later.] Between the two logs you’ll end up with 32 rum balls total.
Thoroughly drain cherries (reserving the rum, if you’d like to drink it). Pat fruit with paper towel, if very juicy. Take one piece of dough and press into a flat round. [I usually do this in my hand.] Put one rum-soaked cherry into the middle. Envelope the cherry and then roll into a small ball. Place on a waxed or parchment paper covered tray. Repeat with the rest of the pieces. Do the same with the second log.
On a plate, put unsweetened cocoa (or other things to roll the balls in). Roll all balls (a few at a time) and shake off excess. Put rolled balls back on paper covered tray or in mini paper baking/candy cups. No need to refrigerate. Balls will firm up and flavor will develop further over time.