I don’t think I’ve ever compiled a list of my favorite foods (although now I am considering it) but if I did have a list, I know there would be at least one chocolate item in the top ten. Like a sea salt brownie, or one of those fancy-schmancy chocolate bars that mixes in orange peel or cracked black pepper or bacon. Yes, bacon.
I’ve learned that keeping some high-quality chocolate items stocked around the house is a good idea. If it’s 8:30 at night and I realize there is no chocolate around, the most convenient solution is running to 7-11 for a pint of ice cream. But having just a couple squares of a really good chocolate is (usually) just as satisfying and (mostly) curbs the late-night ice cream runs.
Still, I’m always open to even healthier chocolatey items, so the recipe for Cocoa-Date Truffles in the June issue of Bon Appetit was interesting to me. While typical chocolate truffles usually rely on whipping cream and chocolate with some amount of refined sugar, these truffles rely on dates to provide sweetness and something for the raw cacao to bind to. Yes, raw cacao… apparently there are some people who believe that raw cacao has more health benefits than roasted cocoa (I guess the roasting process also changes “a’s” into “o’s” and vice versa). I have not done enough research to be an advocate of raw cacao, but since I needed to purchase cocoa/cacao anyway, and the recipe called for raw, I decided to go with it.
A couple disclaimers/warnings:
First, just a heads up- these aren’t going to taste like those typical truffles with chocolate ganache centers. “Well, of course they’re not!” you might reply. To which I would respond, “Hey, there might be some people out there- intelligent people seeking graduate degrees who usually aren’t fooled by health foods masquerading as indulgent treats- who see the words ‘cocoa’ and ‘truffle’ and envision something rich, creamy, and decadent. And said people might be shocked to discover that pureeing dates doesn’t magically transform them into something resembling ganache. But after the initial shock wears off, said people can appreciate these date-based truffles for what they are. Chocolatey and chewy with the perfect amount of sweetness. So… let’s not judge, okay?”
Second, if you don’t like getting your hands sticky, you’re probably not going to enjoy this.
Third, when working with a powdery substance like cocoa- ahem, cacao- powder, you might want to make sure the ceiling fan isn’t on.
Have you ever noticed that, at least in America, we seem to like things that are individualized, personalized, and customized? If it wasn’t for this need, I don’t think we’d see vanity license plates, monogrammed L.L. Bean backpacks, or personal checks with dolphins on them. And so these truffles are perfect, because there are a number of mix-and-match flavoring (coconut, orange zest, or espresso) and coating (more coconut, sesame seeds, pistachios, or hazelnuts) options. So you can make these truffles your very own.
Cocoa-Date Truffles (from Bon Appetit, June 2012)
Makes about 20 (according to their website, a serving size is 2 truffles)
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted
3 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut (you can substitute 3 tbsp quick-cooking oats)
Pinch of sea salt
Flavoring: 1 tsp finely grated orange zest (you can also use 1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut or 1 tsp instant espresso powder)
Coating: 1/2 cup crushed lightly toasted pistachios (you can also use 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, 1/4 cup lightly toasted sesame seeds, or 1/2 cup crushed lightly toasted hazelnuts)
Confession: I didn’t toast my pistachios… I know toasting nuts is supposed to deepen the flavor, blah, blah, blah… but I’m too lazy for that. And I think the raw pistachios taste just fine.
Puree cacao powder, dates, 3 tbsp coconut, and salt in food processor until almost smooth, adding water by the teaspoonfuls if too dry and crumbly, and coconut by teaspoonfuls if too wet and sticky. Add orange zest (or coconut or espresso powder) and pulse to combine.
Scoop date puree by the tablespoonful and roll into 1-inch balls. Roll truffles in pistachios (or coconut, sesame seeds, or hazelnuts) to cover.
Can be stored, covered and chilled, for up to a week.