These make-ahead confections are easy enough for the kitchen novice, but they will still dazzle your dinner party crowd. 

Brennan Long

Let me preface this by saying that I don't feel uncomfortable in the kitchen. When I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to work at Southern Living, I was delighted to finally have my own apartment and my own kitchen. For Christmas, I asked for a Lodge cast-iron skillet so I could try my hand at some of the recipes I had been staring at all day. But baking? That is just not my strong suit.

I think this all stems from the fact that I am a little too laid-back with recipes. Put the ingredients in the bowl out of order? It's going to be just fine. Substitute lemons for limes? Perfect, you're a culinary genius. While I can often get away with this freestyle attitude towards my weeknight dinner projects, it doesn't always pay off when I am attempting to make a gorgeous plate for the office cookie swap. It's a good thing I found these Pecan Bourbon Balls, the easy cookie recipe of my dreams.

This recipe is a nutty twist on a Southern classic. Bring these rich, chocolaty treats out at the end of your dinner party and I guarantee no one will be asking, "Where's the layer cake?" If I have your attention now, just you wait. This recipe is mostly no bake (you'll just need to toast some pecans!), make-ahead, and a handful of the ingredients might already be hiding in your pantry.

Powdered sugar, cocoa, and bourbon? Check, check, check. I did run to the bulk bin at Whole Foods to pick up both the pecan halves and finely chopped pecans. This is my favorite way to shop for nuts because I can get quality ingredients in the exact amount I need for a recipe.

If I am being completely truthful here, I would have to share that I was all ready to start and realized that I did not have light corn syrup on hand. I apologize to all of the Southerners that are shaking their heads at me right now. I am a lazy cook and could not bring myself to run back out to the store, so I ran to the internet instead! I learned that it would be okay to substitute honey in the same amount. The bourbon ball batter tasted fabulous and held together well, so I stand by my switch.

When it comes to the process, I am happy to report that I did follow the recipe. I rolled most of the bourbon balls in powdered sugar, but I loved the presentation of the toasted pecans. If I bring these beauties to a holiday party, I would definitely stick to the pecan method for the entire batch.

WATCH: How to Make Bourbon Balls

If I've done anything this week, I hope I've convinced to stop putting quite so much pressure on yourself for a wow-worthy dessert. Baking isn't your thing? I guarantee you will cure everyone's sweet tooth (and get the party started!) with a batch of these easy make-ahead cookies. Now, excuse me while I go figure out what to do with 3 dozen bourbon balls on a Friday afternoon!

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