With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, what could be a better gift for your beloved (or your beloved self) than a batch of hand-made chocolate truffles? … How about hand-made chocolate truffles that are not only vegan, but pretty darn healthy?
I made up this recipe while daydreaming a few weeks ago, and couldn’t resist the urge to jump into action and make a batch for our whole family. Since then, they’ve become one of our favorite chocolate treats. Now they can be one of yours too.
Although there are a number of steps to this process, I’ve provided quite a few options along the way to make it quicker and simpler if that’s what you prefer. But if, like me, you had childhood fantasies of being a chocolatier, there’s also the opportunity to have a whole lot of fun.
Once you get the hang of the recipe, you might find yourself looking for excuses to make these again, especially when you realize the unlimited potential of the many possible variations. Enjoy!
Angel’s Heavenly Chocolate Truffles
2 cups ground mac nuts (preferably lightly roasted)
1/2 cup tapioca flour or potato starch
2 Tbsp cocoa or cacao powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. organic vanilla extract (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup agave nectar
(For a quick version, simply melt some store-bought vegan chocolate or chocolate chips.)
1/4 cup cacao butter (optional, but highly recommended. See below.*)
1/2 cup coconut butter
2 Tbsp. cocoa (sifted)
1/4 cup agave
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt
(If you prefer your chocolate lighter/darker/sweeter/more bitter, feel free to adjust the amounts accordingly.)
flat tray and cooling rack
* It’s possible to substitute additional coconut butter in place of the cacao butter, to make the recipe less expensive and the process more simple. (Coconut butter can effectively ‘melt’ at room temperature with enough stirring.) However, without the cacao butter, the final product will melt more easily at room temperature, or when it comes into contact with the heat from the eater’s fingers. In addition, unlike coconut butter, cacao butter has a delicious, ‘neutral’ flavor and smooth texture that is (in my opinion) key to the chocolate experience.
- Omit the cocoa from the filling for more of a vanilla flavor, but make sure you omit some or all of the agave as well!
- Try adding different flavor extracts, such as coffee, hazelnut, or orange
- Experiment with different coatings, such as sifted cocoa powder, finely ground nuts or dried coconut
- Make a white chocolate coating by eliminating the cocoa
- Flatten out the mixture rather than rolling it into balls, and serve it as ‘chocolate truffle squares’, or use small cookie-cutters to form it into shapes
Okay, here we go. The first part is really pretty simple.
Basically, you combine all the ‘filling’ ingredients in your food processor, starting with the dry ingredients, and adding the liquids at the end, after the nuts have already started to break down and become oily. (You will notice the mixture starting to clump together and form a ball, which lets you know that the oils are being released. This is when it’s time to add the liquids.)
Taste the mixture to make sure it’s delicious! You can always add more of a particular ingredient such as agave, vanilla or sea salt.
Once you’re happy with the flavor of the filling, transfer it into a bowl, cover it, and put it in the freezer while you make the chocolate coating (next page). This will cause it to firm up, making it much easier to work with.
Alternatively, if you don’t have the time or the desire to make actual truffles, you can also press the mixture into a flat tupperware or baking pan, put it in the freezer to cool, then simply pour the chocolate coating over the top, and cut it into pieces after it’s solidified. More on that later.
While the filling mixture is chilling, you’ll want to prepare your chocolate coating, and this is where it gets a touch more complicated. But never fear! As I mentioned above, you can make the process a lot quicker by simply buying vegan chocolate from the store and melting it in a double boiler, or a make-shift version.**
(If actual chocolate-making isn’t your idea of fun, you can skip this section altogether and go straight to rolling up your filling.)
As I mentioned above, it’s possible to substitute additional coconut butter in place of the cacao butter, and if you omit the cacao butter altogether, you can basically combine all the chocolate ingredients in a bowl and skip the step of heating them on the stove. However, you might need to heat the finished product slightly so that the consistency is sufficiently liquid to pour over your truffles.
If you’re using cacao butter (highly recommended), you’ll need to use a small saucepan to melt the ingredients, since cacao butter is completely solid at room temperature. What you’ll end up with is a very thin, liquid mixture that requires some thickening before it will mix together thoroughly. (The oils rise to the top, and the solids fall to the bottom.) I believe this is why candy makers have special thermometers, but I didn’t find it necessary. Luckily there’s a way to thicken up your melted chocolate until it’s just liquid enough to pour over the balled truffles.
We’re not quite ready for that stage though. In the meantime, you’ll want to set the melted chocolate mixture aside (off the burner) and let it sit until we’re ready to work with it again.
** To melt chocolate, use a double boiler. If you do not have one, boil water in a large sauce pan. Place chocolate in a smaller one and place this saucepan into the boiling water. Warm chocolate on medium heat until melted. Alternatively, place chocolate in a small saucepan on very low heat. Stir until melted.
Remove your filling mixture from the freezer. It should have chilled enough by now to be a little bit firm, making it easier to work with without getting it all over your hands.
As I said above, if you don’t have time to fuss around with rolling out the truffles, you can also simply flatten the mixture into the bottom of a tupperware, pour the melted chocolate over the top, and freeze until everything is solidified. At that stage, you can turn it out of the container onto a flat tray, and simply cut it into pieces. The end result is equally tasty, but with only about half the work required.
But if you have your heart set on truffles, simply roll the mixture into balls of whatever size suits you best, laying each finished piece either on a flat tray or (preferably) on a cooling rack placed over a tray.
Basically, we want to coat these balls in melted chocolate, so the cooling rack allows the excess to fall through and not ‘clump up’ around the bottoms of the truffles. If you don’t have a cooling rack, you can do without, but the finished product won’t be quite so beautiful. You can also lay the truffles right into a tupperware, where the melted chocolate will pool on the bottom, but will allow for easy storage once the recipe is complete.
Once you have the balls set out on the cooling rack or tray, it’s time to turn your attention back to the melted chocolate that you put aside.
Presumably, your chocolate mixture is still far too thin to work with, and would simply run off the truffles if you tried to pour it on at this stage, not to mention the fact that it’s not well-mixed enough to even taste good.
This is where we use an ingenious method that will solve all our problems. But you want to make sure that your truffle filling balls are ready to be coated, because your chocolate coating will only stay at ‘optimum pouring consistency’ for a short while. (You can always re-melt it slightly, so it’s not a big deal either way.)
Take a bowl that is large enough to fit your pan, but still rather shallow. Add about an inch or two of water, then add ice cubes to the water. Place your sauce pan into the bowl of ice water, making sure the water isn’t high enough to spill into the pan.
Leaving the pan in the water, gently stir the mixture until you start to feel it thickening up. The chocolate is at the right consistency when you’re able to pour it over the truffles, but when it still sticks to the surface of the filling.
If it thickens up too much (this can happen very suddenly, but don’t fret!), simply place it back on the stove with a low heat, and carefully stir it as it softens. As long as you don’t allow it to heat up too much and turn back to liquid, you’ll be able to melt it back to the right consistency quickly and easily.
Once the truffles are all covered with delicious chocolatey goodness, you’ll probably want to put the entire tray back in the fridge (or freezer) until they’re completely firm. Once they are easy to handle, you can remove them from the wire rack and place them into a container or decorate them in some other delightful fashion.
Be creative! Have fun! And above all, enjoy the results of your hard work with someone you love…