A non-bake boozy version could contain:

A note on the uncharacteristic vagueness in the ingredients list:

When I was 8, I got given a kid's cookbook for my birthday. It contained many simplified recipes perfect for kids, and was heavy on non-cook versions that you could make by yourself without a grownup having to turn the oven on for you. As far as I can recall, every single one of my friends also had this book, and some of the recipes in it quickly became classics cum childhood memories and comfort food.

Of these, "chocolate balls", as they are known (Hebrew balls don't bear the same double meaning as English ones), are perhaps the most ubiquitous. They are what every little girl made for her own birthday party when she was allowed to help; what every mother brought to school when it was her turn to bake for Kabbalat Shabbat; what was shown in the cooking section of every Blue Peter-like program we ever watched.

This wild popularity is due to many things, mostly to do with convenience from the parents' point of view: they're single serving sized and non-messy, they re-use stale and leftover ingredients, they're made from chocolate which all kids love, and they're small and really easy for grownups to pilfer without being caught. All this congeniality has naturally led to such a wild proliferation of versions that today there simply isn't a single authoritative recipe of this tasty treat.

Of course, different people want different things from their chocolate balls. Some folks like them to be dry and crunchy, so they use the driest biscuits, chop them up roughly and reinforce them with coarsely chopped nuts. Some strange individuals like the balls to be as gooey as possible, to which end they use finely crumbed sponge cake, lots of rum, and the additional slimy, alcohol-soaked yumminess of raisins, dates, dried apricots etc. For myself, I am somewhere in the middle. What makes the chocolate ball perhaps the ultimate dessert snack is that it is a perfect marriage between chocolate and starch: a divinely chocolaty biscuit, or better yet, a reassuringly doughy chocolate truffle.

To this end, and in order to always achieve the perfect synthesis between moisture and substance, it would be impossible for me to give any indication of measurements for this recipe. I simply start with what I've got and add bits in as I think I need them, to tweak the wetness or dryness of the mixture this way or that. On one memorable occasion a series of slips of hand on my part led to the inclusion of old leftover wine, melted down chocolate chips and those nasty biscuits that lie at the back of the cupboard because no one will eat them; it was still heavenly.

To elaborate:

  • The base of the balls can be anything, from the simplest of wheat biscuits to some really nice but stale chocolate cake, right through digestives, Oreos, bits of leftover cheesecake crust and what not. My only recommendation would be not to use biscuits with jammy fillings, as the flavours are unlikely to work well together. Then again, YMMV.

  • The size to which you pulverise your biscuits, and the amount of other dry ingredients (such as nuts) you add also influences the final moisture levels of your mixture. This is important because, personal tastes aside, if it's too dry your balls will crumble and fall apart, not really deserving the name.

  • The type of alcohol you use is entirely up to you: in my time I've made chocolate balls with red wine, rum, brandy, chocolate liqueur, and other stuff I can't even remember - severally and in combination. As long as you don't use anything really potent in flavour like Blue Curacao, it should be OK.

The Money Shot, or How to Make the Damn Things After All:

  • About 2 packets dry buscuits such as Rich Tea
  • 1 packet Lindt or other very dark chocolate
  • About 50g (1 inch slice) of unsalted butter
  • A splash of cream or milk
  • .5 cup good brandy
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or almonds
  • Cocoa powder - not drinking chocolate!
  • Dessicated coconut flakes
  • Paper cupcake cups

  1. Break the biscuits into pieces, then zap them in a food processor until they achieve the required thinness of grain. (Note: if you haven't got a food processor, double bag your biscuits in plastic bags, wrap in a kitchen towel and beat vigorously with a pin roller. Very therapeutic.) Mix well with the other dry ingredients - nuts, and raisins if using (yuck).

  2. In a Bain Marie, melt the chocolate slowly with the butter and cream or milk, stirring gently once in a while. Once it has achieved a unifromly liquid, sleek and shiny consistency, take off the heat and mix in the brandy.

  3. Pour the hot chocolate mixture over the crumbs. To give yourself some room for maneuver with the moistness issue here, either reserve some extra crumbs before had, or don't pour all the chocolate into the bowl at once. In any event, hedge your bets. Tip: occasionally the mixture can be dried out by adding a few tablespoons of cocoa powder, which will also increase the resulting chocolatiness.

  4. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon (don't be tempted to use your hands, it's hot). When the desired consistency is arrived at, leave to cool slightly.

  5. With the aid of a dessert spoon, take little amounts of the mixture and form them into balls by rolling them around in your palms like play dough. Needless to say, these can be whatever size you like. Bit of a treat, this part, as your hands will get pasted in chocolatey goodness, and you will lick it all of when you're done.

  6. Roll each one in either coconut flakes or cocoa powder then place in a little paper cup jobbie. Arrange attractively on a tray, alternating the two like on a chequerboard, and refrigerate, sitting impatiently on your hands and resisting the urge to sneak a preview bite, for at least two hours. Serve. Enjoy. Improve on it next time and let me know.