Bring these to your next get-together and you may never be without an invitation to a party again. Try not to be offended that you may only be invited for the sweets.
Most people are familiar with Greek Ouzo, the sweet, black-licorice flavored liquor. Pretty much all Greeks and their friends will have an “Ouzo story”, and many don’t end well. However, not as many non-Greeks have had Metaxa, a Greek spirit made from brandy and wine from specific grape varieties found in Greece. It’s good stuff. Really good.
Many people are also familiar with the sweets known as Bourbon Balls, made from crushed cookies, corn syrup, and of course, Bourbon. My little lovelies are a riff on that idea with some slight changes that give it more of a Greek inspired flavor and uses my favorite Greek spirit, Metaxa (my cousin is pretty fond of it, too!).
These also have orange blossom water, not to be confused with orange extract. This flavoring is frequently used in pastries and sweets from Middle-Eastern countries and eastern Europe. It’s flavor is unique and perfume-y, and not quite like oranges. A little dab will do ya’, so don’t get carried away with it. The end result is a tender sweet that starts off with a hint of orange and finishes with the smooth taste of brandy. Yeah, it’s good.
Greek Brandy Confections Recipe
The amount made will vary depending on how large you shape your balls. Go for smaller rather than larger, about 3/4 inch across is good. You should get around 2 dozen at that size, if not a little more. Also, don’t make more than one batch at a time because the mixture starts to dry out and get crumbly before too long, which makes it very difficult to roll. One last note, patience is a virtue with these, as the flavor will intensify as they sit and they will taste so much better after a couple of days or more!
- 2 1/2 cups crushed vanilla-wafer type cookies, choose a good quality brand as this will be a predominant part of your confections
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted (measure by scooping spoons-full into your measuring cup to avoid packing it, then sift)–this is a great way to use up any leftover powdered sugar from making kourambiethes!
- 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. Metaxa, or brandy
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 tsp. orange-blossom water, also called orange-flower water, can be found in most Middle Eastern or Greek delis (an additional tsp. of Metaxa can be used instead if this isn’t available)
- Powdered sugar and/or colored sprinkling sugar
The easiest way to crush up the cookies is with a food-processor, but you can also do it by putting the cookies in a zip-type plastic bag and rolling over it with a rolling pin. The amount of cookies needed will vary based on what kind you use. You want the cookies to be fine crumbs, but it is okay if some slightly larger bits remain. Put the cookie crumbs into a large bowl, and add the sifted powdered sugar. Whisk them together.
In a small bowl, put the 1/4 cup of Metaxa, honey, and orange water and stir until combined. Drizzle the liquid into the cookie mixture while stirring with a fork. Mix until all the ingredients are combined. At first you will get large clumps forming, but soon the mixture should be able to hold together when pressed into a mound.
The mixture will be too sticky to roll just yet, so allow it to sit for a couple of minutes so the liquid can be absorbed into the cookie crumbs. After it sits, knead the mixture together just a little until it is no longer sticky. Take about a tablespoon full and roll it between your hands into a small ball. Set it aside on a tray. Repeat until all the mix is used up.
In a small bowl (a teacup will also work), put the 1 Tbsp. of Metaxa. Have another small bowl available. In a shallow pan, like a pie-tin, put the sugar that you want to roll your confections in. I like having a mix of colored sugar and powdered sugar coated candies, try putting a few different colors of sugars together to create fun combinations.
Take one ball at a time and dunk it into the Metaxa just to coat it, shake off the excess, then roll it around in the empty cup to help remove the extra liquid (see the video below). This will provide the moisture needed for the sugar to stick, without being too much that it just dissolves. Place the ball into the pan of sugar and roll it around until completely coated, then place it into a candy cup or on a platter. Wipe the moisture out of the empty bowl with a paper towel before repeating the process.
Once all the confections have been rolled in the sugar, place them on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit at least a day before serving so the flavors can completely blend together. They will really taste so much better!