chocolate nut butter truffles

tray1It’s late afternoon on a very warm Saturday in Perth. I’m curled up on the couch in comfy slacks, tapping on blackened keys whilst being continuously nudged by the wet nose of Loki. He’s a little bit sick of my passion for writing this week. It’s detracted my attention from his quick brown paws and beckoning eyes on multiple occasions. He’s taken to alternate strategies for attention, like dropping things off the back of the couch onto my head, keyboard or the timber-clad kitchen floor. I become easily engrossed when I write, so… let’s just say I’ve learned certain things the hard way. Like the level of attention required when holding hot tea.

Anyway, the intention of this post was not to continue rambling about Loki (though he did visit the vet yesterday and I did trim his wispy grandpa beard). Rather, I just want to share in a sentimental fashion about life, the universe and everything that’s been significant over the past couple of weeks.

Including peanut butter, because… well, peanut butter. You get me, right?

bowl

If you’re a regular reader of the Mess, you’d be aware that I’ve been in a bit of a funk over the past twelve months. Certain events led to maudlin thoughts and general pessimism which in turn informed some melancholic narratives. Well, enough is enough. It’s a new year and I’m done with subjugation and general inertia. There’s something beautiful happening in my consciousness which is inextricably linked to mindfulness and positivity.

Yep, I said it. Positivity as a cognitive strategy. I should probably have forewarned you of the cliched #inspo territory but it works, people, particularly when mixed with gratefulness and acceptance (that’s when the mindfulness comes in). I’m letting myself embrace each moment for its individual benefits, discomfort and impermanence. The cloud is finally lifting.

pot

In reflection, these realisations are rather comical, seeing as I’m a social worker by formal training. I’m used to dialogues of self care, impermanence and resilience on a daily basis. For other people, not me, akin to a plumber who never fixes his own dripping tap (due to post-work fatigue, lack of impetus, general excuses and probably a touch of laziness).

I’m therefore claiming this bojon period (thanks Alanna!) as a time to transition theory to practice. I’m excited. Life is good.

And you know what? So am I.

ing2mix dough

So, back to the recipe below. Let’s call them ‘little balls of happiness’ (‘nut butter’ somehow translates into ‘happy’ for me) to be shared with the best of friends. In past decades, I would have made these with just peanut butter and a pile of powdered sugar (as per the original peanut butter ball) however both age and wisdom have inspired the reinvention of this much-loved treat.

This incarnation contains just 100% natural nut butter, powdered peanut butter (see my notes below regarding PB2 nutrition vs. peanut flour), maple syrup and non-dairy dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt (the use of Bahen & Co cracked coffee bar also contributes the crunch of a bitter coffee bean here and there). Mixed nut butters also contribute added nutrition from calcium-rich tahini, omega-3 rich pure-state Super Spread and protein-rich peanut butter.

I was even going to go as far as using raw chocolate (such as the coating on my salted tahini date caramel slice) instead of melted dark chocolate but, well… it’s a little less stable in the summer heat.

And I’m intending on sharing these happy treats far and wide.

tray2Chocolate Nut Butter Truffles

Makes 28

Filling:

  • 1 cup 100% natural nut butter (I used a mixture of Mayver’s crunchy peanut butter, hulled tahini and Original Super Spread)
  • 2 tbsp dark roast peanut flour or powdered peanut butter* (I used PB2), plus a little extra if required
  • 3-4 tbsp pure maple syrup, to taste
  • pinch of sea salt flakes
  • water, if required (for correct consistency)

Coating:

  • 200g good-quality dark chocolate (I used 75g Bahen & Co cracked coffee for a touch of depth mixed with 125g plain 70% cocoa non-dairy dark chocolate)
  • flaked sea salt, to sprinkle (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix together the nut butters and maple syrup until well combined. Taste and add a little sea salt if desired. Sprinkle in the powdered peanut butter, then mix until you have a smooth ‘dough’. Here’s where you need to use your instincts: the mix should be soft and cohesive (see image below), not dry or crumbly (if you experience the latter then add a few drops of water and mix again). If your mix is too wet, oily and/or sticky, sprinkle in a little more powdered peanut butter and mix again.

doughball

When the mix reaches the right consistency, roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place onto a lined baking tray. Refrigerate or freeze for 15-20 minutes.

balls

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl (preferably glass) over a pot of gently simmering water until smooth and glossy. Remove from the heat and place on a stable surface. Using two forks, drop each frozen ball of nut butter dough into the melted chocolate mixture, roll until evenly coated, then pick up, allowing excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl (I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to this process, however if you’d like perfectly glossy truffles invest in a truffle dipper or follow this Saveur tutorial). Carefully place back onto your cold lined baking tray. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt (optional).

Carefully return the baking tray to the refrigerator until the truffles have set.

inside

pb2

*Powdered peanut butter (in this case, PB2) is basically peanut flour (peanuts that have been pressed/defatted to remove most of the oil content) with additional salt and sugar. It’s a processed, imported product with added refined sugar so it goes against three of my key principles of eating (whole foods, refined sugar free, locally produced and/or grown) but for some reason I was curious enough to purchase it.

It’s not terrible; it’s still relatively low in sugar (1.0g per 2 tbsp serving as opposed to average 3.0g for traditional peanut butter), has no trans fats (much better than Jif or Skippy, which contain hydrogenated soybean and palm oils – basically trans fats – and emulsifiers) and reports being non-GMO (see Bell Plantation’s FAQ’s).  It’s a little grainy and dry when mixed with water (as per the suggestion for reconstituted peanut butter) but works well as an agent to soak up natural nut oils (such as in the recipe above) and/or to mix into baked goods and sauces.

If you’ve got peanut flour on hand, I’d totally recommend using it as an alternative to the PB2 in this recipe. However, use of either powdered peanut butter or peanut flour will work similarly to create a dough-ish consistency with increased protein and peanut butter flavour. It’s useful to note that traditional buckeye candy and peanut butter truffles use a hell of a lot of powdered sugar to the same effect (somewhere between 2-3 cups per cup of peanut butter) so whether you use peanut flour or powdered peanut butter with the natural sweetener, you’re still winning.

pb22

raw cacao mint truffles

plate2

The following recipe was created for my beautiful friend Stephie’s blog, Eat Your Heart Out, as part of her ‘Friends First‘ series for April. I’m re-posting it here primarily for organizational reasons.

I initially stumbled across Stephie’s blog in September last year. I can’t quite remember how (I initially thought it was through her mother, Julie, an equally kind and humorous reader of this blog. In hindsight, I think that she found me through Stephie) but after reading this post I was hooked by Stephie’s down-to-earth warmth, positivity and heartfelt honesty.

I’ve since been a loyal follower of Stephie’s blog (in part because of her incredible baked goods) whilst progressively discovering her feeds on facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And you know what? She’s an amazing inspiration.

Even if she doesn’t like chocolate (yeah… I don’t get it either).

cacaoplate

So, onto the recipe. I shared this method for raw cacao mint truffles with Stephie’s readers for two reasons; 1) Stephie hadn’t posted a similar recipe before, and 2) I figured that northern hemisphere readers might appreciate a ‘healthy sweet treat’ in the lead up to summer’s swimsuit months.

The biggest selling point is the fact that they’re no-cook, a.k.a ridiculously easy to prepare. In ten minutes, you’ve got something deliciously satisfying that’s also healthy. It’s a sweet treat to satisfy any chocolate craving.

So without further ado, scroll down for my raw cacao mint truffle recipe. Each bite is packed with both goodness and flavour, so your heart and your body will thank you.

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Raw Cacao Mint Truffles

Makes approximately 20 balls

  • 1 cup (100g) raw almond meal (ground almonds)
  • 1/2 cup (60g) raw cacao powder (substitute Dutch process cocoa)
  • 1-2 tsp cacao nibs
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp (15-30ml) raw honey*, maple syrup or agave, to sweeten
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) water
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) coconut oil
  • 1-2 drops peppermint oil, to taste
  • Cacao powder, cocoa or desiccated coconut, to roll

Place the almond meal, cacao, dates, water and coconut oil into the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture starts to come together. Taste and add some honey, maple syrup or agave to sweeten if required (I used 2 tbsp of honey, however if you’ve used cocoa instead of cacao powder you’ll probably require a little less). Process again and tip into a medium sized bowl.

bowl

Add the cacao nibs and a drop of peppermint oil. Mix together, using your hands or a metal spoon. Taste again and add a little more peppermint oil if desired.

With clean hands, roll the mixture into balls (I used ½ tablespoon of mix per ball). Roll each ball into some cocoa powder or desiccated coconut before placing them onto a lined baking tray. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve*.

*Use maple syrup or agave as a vegan alternative to honey. Do not keep these balls at room temperature or they will become very soft.

plate

hazelnut praline truffles

There’s a slow breeze drifting through the door. It’s cool, not cold, and heady with the sweetness of grass, fresh rain and sprouted freesias. Outside, the sky is inky black, peppered with glowing streetlights and shadows of cloud. Today is the third day of the second month of Australian Spring: October 3rd, 2012. And despite being a working day, it has started well.

Yes, started. It’s 12.15am to be exact. I’m mostly awake out of stubbornness, fingers primed for a flow of words despite the intoxicating pull of sleep. I chew absentmindedly on a stick of apple-green gum, thinking. It’s been an awfully long time between posts. Twenty two days to be exact. That’s enough time for a hamster to give birth to a litter of young and get impregnated with the next… darn productive creatures.

As for me? Well, I’ve worked for fourteen days, discounting a public holiday. I’ve eaten one box of Cruskits, drunk about two litres of milk, made some cherry almond rocky road (one of my very favourite chocolate treats… I’ll share the recipe sometime), completed about sixteen home aged care assessments and fallen asleep by candlelight. Oh, and I turned twenty nine. At 10.32pm, whilst sitting with my two favourite people in a tiny restaurant called Blackbird on Claisebrook lake.

Yep, twenty nine. One year older than the average age of retirement for an NFL player… sad huh? Comment of the week: “Ah, you’re still under thirty… that means you’re still young!”. Young? Yeah, I guess… probably in the same way that Olivia Newton John still looked ‘young’ as a thirty year old teenager in Grease. Delightful, in a wrinkled kind of way.

Anyway, moving on. The main reason that I’m writing this post is to share with you the ‘recipe’ (or rather, my notes) for creating hazelnut centred, rum infused 70% cocoa truffles, drenched in smooth chocolate and crunchy praline. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that right at the end of my recipe post for Chocolate Truffle Cake, I mentioned that any leftovers could be easily transformed into dense praline truffles in no time. This supplementary post explains my method on how to do just that.

As you read my notes below, you’ll realise that there’s a sad absence of step-by-step photography. That’s primarily due to the fact that these truffles were made on the run, in preparation for a dinner at a friend’s house. I plan to embellish on this post one day, but in the meantime I’d encourage you to check out my beautiful friend Talitha Sprigg’s Oreo Truffle tutorial via High Tea & Trinkets. It contains step-by-step photography on how to shape, chill and decorate your truffles with minimal fuss for a shiny, uniform finish. As with my notes, her recipe takes kindly to any variations you fancy… so feel free to experiment until you create your own version of chocolatey perfection.

Hazelnut Praline Truffles

Makes about 20

  • 2 medium slices of room temperature ganache-iced Chocolate Truffle Cake* (or other chocolate mud cake, preferably ganache-iced)
  • A splash of good-quality rum
  • 1 quantity of hazelnut praline, crushed*
  • 20 toasted, peeled hazelnuts*
  • 1 block (about 200g) of 70% cocoa good quality dark chocolate (not cooking chocolate)

*recipes and tutorials can be found in my Chocolate Truffle Cake post.

Crumble your cake into a bowl, then add in a generous splash of rum. Work the mixture together with a spatula until it becomes smooth, glossy and melds to itself. Set aside briefly.

Divide your mixture into about 20 pieces (or less, if you prefer bigger truffles). Flatten each piece into a disc, then place a hazelnut in the centre. Fold the mixture around your hazelnut, pinching the edges together. Roll the finished ball, with the enclosed hazelnut, in the palms of your hands until it becomes round and smooth. Place onto a tray lined with baking paper, then repeat with your remaining nuts and mixture.

Place your finished balls into the fridge for about half an hour to firm up (if you’re pressed for time, use the freezer). In the meantime, cut your block of chocolate into pieces and place them into a glass bowl over a double boiler to melt. When the mixture is almost smooth, turn off the heat and leave your bowl to stand over the hot water until you’re ready to coat your truffles.

To decorate: Remove your chilled truffles from the fridge or freezer. Gently drop one ball at a time into the melted chocolate, turning it to coat evenly. Lift it out from the chocolate using a fork and spoon, one on each side, suspending the truffle over the bowl briefly so that any excess chocolate drips away. Gently place your coated truffle back onto the paper-lined baking tray, taking care not to mark the sides of the truffle with your fork.

Leave for a few seconds, until the surface of the chocolate clouds slightly (indication that the chocolate is setting). Sprinkle over a pinch of crushed hazelnut praline before the chocolate sets (gently press onto the surface with your fingers if required). Repeat with your remaining balls and chocolate.

Leave your truffles to set at room temperature, then store them in an airtight container. If desired, they can be refrigerated, however be aware that this increases the risk of ‘chocolate bloom’ (separation of sugar and fat from the cocoa solids, which results in the formation of a powdery white substance on the surface of your chocolate. This is usually caused by exposure of the chocolate to moisture and sudden temperature changes).

Notes:

  • There are thousands of truffle recipes on the internet, most of which use a pure ganache as the truffle filling. I prefer using dense, flourless cake mixed with a little melted ganache and alcohol as the result is a dense, rich truffle that’s slightly less cloying (it’s a little like a cross between a cake pop and a truffle). The hazelnut meal in the Chocolate Truffle Cake also adds a delicious savoury note and a little extra nutrition (clutching at straws, I know!).
  • This recipe lends itself well to adaptations. Try adding some diced glace ginger into the mixture, some freshly chopped or dried mint leaves, peppermint essence, spices (cinnamon and cardamom, possibly with some dried chilli) or different nuts. Almonds work especially well with a complimentary splash of Amaretto in place of rum.
  • If you can’t be bothered with the melted chocolate, just roll your truffles in coconut, crushed pistachios or organic cocoa powder. Beautiful and deliciously easy (though in regards to the latter, don’t inhale whilst eating them… trust me).
  • You can pretty much use any chocolate in the process of making the Chocolate Truffle Cake… same goes for coating your truffles. White chocolate made with pure cocoa butter works well as an offset to a dark, bittersweet centre. I’d just recommend that you don’t buy compound or cooking chocolate of any type. Not only can you taste the difference, but there’s also a subtle textural variation due to the added vegetable fat and sweetener. When melted, this can produce a grainy consistency.
  • Your finished truffle balls can be frozen, uncoated, for up to one month. Just shape and freeze them in a single layer on a baking tray, then when they’re no longer sticky to touch, place them in an airtight container or snap-lock bag to freeze until ready for use.
  • This is a great way to use up any leftover cake sitting in your fridge. Lemon cake works especially well with some melted white chocolate and a splash of limoncello in the mixing stage. Before serving, coat the balls in pure white chocolate, then decorate with some candied lemon rind. Easy.

P.S. I finished this post at 7.52am. Yes, I did sleep and eat a bowl of Mini-Wheats in between.

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