Ryan Thomas is a university student who enjoys cooking recipes from a wide variety of culinary traditions.
One of the most decadent holiday desserts I have had are bourbon balls—bourbon-soaked nuts coated in chocolate. They have an incredibly rich and smooth flavor that comes from the bourbon mixed together with the walnuts and the delicious coating of chocolate. It got me thinking, what about using orange-flavoured Grand Marnier instead?
With some inspiration from an Albanian cookbook that I have, the result is these equally decadent balls of Grand Marnier–soaked almonds, toasted to give a deeper and more august flavor, married with cream cheese and sugar for sweetness and flair, then coated with honey-candied nuts, either chopped or ground. The flavor is sweet, with definite orange notes from the Grand Marnier, but what it is really tantalizing about it is the mixture of the toasted nuts and the deep flavor from the Grand Marnier. It's almost harsh, refined, mixing together the sweet orange with the bitterness of the alcohol and the toasted nuts. The honey can really make a difference: I used wildflower honey, which has a less sweet flavor, and so other types of honey would have a huge impact.
Although I did take some inspiration from some other recipes, this recipe is definitively my own. Nevertheless, I did definitely take ideas from The Best of Albanian Cuisine, by Besa Kosova, as well as The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia, by Darra Goldstein.
- 1 cup slivered or chopped almonds
- 2/3 cup Grand Marnier
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups chopped walnuts
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Toast the almonds for 4 to 5 minutes at 350 degrees F in a toaster oven. Once toasted, transfer the nuts to a glass jar and cover with the Grand Marnier. Soak overnight.
- In a bowl, combine the sugar and the cream cheese. Mash until well mixed. Add in the soaked almonds and vanilla extract. Mix well and thenn refrigerate.
- Toast the walnuts in a toaster oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
- In a small but tall saucepan over medium heat, bring the honey to a boil. Then add in the walnuts and cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Pour onto waxed paper, then put this into the oven again for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F once it has cooled to be hard.
- Remove from the oven and allow it to cool. Next, either chop finely or chop and then place into a blender or food processor to get a fine powder. Shape the cream cheese and almond mixture into balls using a spoon, 1 inch across, and then roll or coat with either the finely chopped or powdered walnuts (I recommend powdered).