It seems like we’re on a bit of a nut kick recently with the Baked Sunday Mornings selections. Or maybe Matt and Renato just bake more with nuts than I’m used to doing myself. The recipe for today is Derby Cookies (aka Buttery Brown Sugar Bourbon Walnut Balls), because the first Saturday in May is the annual Kentucky Derby. The names these people give their poor horses never cease to amaze me, with this year’s runners including the ridiculous “Mor Spirit”, the awful “Suddenbreakingnews”, and the depressing “Oscar Nominated”. Unlike the horses’ names, these Derby cookies are creative and tasteful, combining a buttery shortbread base with ground walnuts and bourbon for the perfect slightly nutty, vanilla-perfumed, melt-in-your mouth cookie.
The Derby cookies from Baked Occasions are also very simple to prepare. First, prepare your bourbon sugar. I opted for the quick and dirty approach of just pouring 1/2 teaspoon of bourbon over the 1/2 cup of demerara sugar I would use to roll the dough balls in, and left a plate over the bowl of bourbon-ed sugar for a couple of hours (but it can be as short as 30 minutes, so you don’t need to do this until you’re ready to start making the cookies). Toast a cup of walnuts (the recipe says this should weigh 110g, my cup weighed 190g and I used all of that without any ill effect) in the oven for about 10 minutes at 300 F. Grind them in a food processor (or put them in a large Ziploc and crush them with a rolling pin or glass). While the nuts are toasting, you can be whipping your softened butter, vanilla, and bourbon together. Add the regular dark brown sugar, repeat until light and creamy.
Then mix in the flour and salt, fold in the walnuts, and portion into balls. Piece of cake compared to some of the other desserts I’ve been making recently. I didn’t notice that the recipe called for a single tablespoon of dough as the ball size. I used a small ice cream scoop to portion about 2 tablespoons of dough, thus I wound up with only 19 cookies instead of the 36-40 listed in the recipe header. Not that I have the counter example, but I think I prefer this size anyhow. Tiny cookies aren’t really my thing.
You freeze the dough balls for at least 30 minutes, while pre-heating the oven to 350. Just before you plan to bake them, let the cookies come out of the freezer for 5 minutes, roll them in the bourbon dememara sugar, and bake for 13 minutes (that was the right amount of time for my doubled-size cookies). Once they cool 10 minutes, roll them in powdered sugar if you like.
My Derby cookies didn’t stay in ball form after baking and I’m not really certain they needed the powdered sugar, but neither hurt the final cookie any. The predominant flavor just after making them was vanilla, but after letting them sit a day in an air-tight container, the walnut and bourbon are much more pronounced. I liked these cookies a lot more than I thought I would. They are definitely addictive with the crunch of the demerara sugar around the outside and the walnutty shortbread on the inside. Check out the recipe for Derby Cookies at Baked Sunday Mornings and see the gorgeous creations of the other bakers here.