A bittersweet chocolate truffle with a healthy profile? It sounds too good to be true.
But it isn’t. Here’s how it all began.
Over a one-month period last summer, I (willingly) slipped into an ice cream-making mania. If you’re wondering why I don’t weigh 500 pounds as a result of my frozen adventures, it’s because I limited the fun to lighter ice cream, sherbet and sorbet recipes (many from Cooking Light’s recipe database) as well as from one amazing little cookbook: Vice Cream--Over 70 Sinfully Delicious Dairy-Free Delights, by Jeff Rogers.
The key to Mr. Rogers’s delights is a “cream” made from an ingenious emulsion of raw cashews and water. With the right proportion of nuts and liquid, and a blending time of several minutes, the mixture emerges as a satiny “cream”, a neutral backdrop for mixing up (v)ice creams every bit as tempting as their dairy cream cousins. Moreover, the cashew cream makes the desserts friendly to vegan and lactose intolerant friends, as well as everybody else open to replacing a bit of high cholesterol butterfat with heart-healthy cashew cream.
After my third or fourth batch of cashew pulverization, a light bulb lit: why not use the cashew cream to replace heavy cream in other dessert recipes? Having spent the year previous arm-deep in dark chocolate for my Enlightened Chocolate book, it wasn’t long before I put two and two together and developed Enlightened Chocolate Truffles. They are pure chocolate decadence.
The best chocolate truffles have two primary ingredients: good-quality chocolate and heavy whipping cream. The former is melted and the latter is added to make what is called a ganache. The flavor can be varied with vanilla, liqueurs and spices. The ganache is chilled, scooped and rolled into small balls, then dusted with cocoa powder.
My enlightened truffles follow the same formula. The cashew cream works without a hitch because it functions in the same way as the heavy cream, contributing a velvety dimension (it isn’t grainy) to the chocolate without marring it in any way. You won’t think nuts, vegan, diet, or substitution when you take a bite, just chocolate truffle perfection.
Am I being nutty for suggesting these truffles are “healthy”?
I would argue a definitive “no”, and here’s why: the two main ingredients for the recipe, dark chocolate and cashews, have significant nutritional value.
Clinical research over the past decade increasingly indicates that consumption of antioxidant-rich chocolate and cocoa is associated with health benefits from improved cardiovascular function to reduced bad cholesterol levels to increased alertness.
Cashews have nothing to slouch about either. They have a lower fat content than most other nuts, and approximately 3/4 of their fat is unsaturated fatty acids (a particularly beneficial kind, too-- oleic acid, which is the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil). Cashews are also a very good source of copper (important in a wide range of physiological processes), and a good source of magnesium.
So while I’m not (necessarily) endorsing a chocolate truffle feeding frenzy, I do feel confident in saying that one (or two, or three) of these truffles makes a healthful, beautiful, and very delicious addition to a well-balanced eating plan.
I hope you’ll give these a try for Valentine’s Day—you deserve it!
Enlightened Chocolate Truffles
(a.k.a. vegan chocolate truffles / lactose-free chocolate truffles / better-for-you chocolate truffles)
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup cold water
10 ounces good-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt (preferably fleur de sel)
1/2 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
Place the nuts and cold water in a blender and blend at high speed for 2 minutes. Stop the blender and scrape down the sides. Blend at least 1-2 minutes longer until the mixture is smooth (mixture will be very thick; add 1-2 additional tablespoons water, if needed, to blend until smooth).
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and cool slightly. Stir in cashew cream, vanilla and salt until well-blended. Refrigerate truffle base (uncovered) until firm enough to roll, about 2-3 hours.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper. Place the cocoa powder in a small shallow bowl.
Scoop out 1 tablespoon of truffle base and roll between fingertips or palms into a ball. Drop each freshly made truffle into bowl of cocoa powder and turn to coat. Transfer to prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining truffle base and cocoa powder. Chill until firm, about 1 hour. Makes about 28 truffles.
Nutrition per Serving (1 truffle): Calories 57; Fat 5.7g (poly 0.3g, mono 2.0g, sat 3.1g); Protein 1.5g; Cholesterol 0mg; Carbohydrate 3.4g; Sodium 46.1mg.
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)
(1) Use a cookie scoop: A 1-tablespoon size cookie scoop (such as the OXO small cookie scoop) makes scooping even portions of ganache SO much easier.
(2) Be prepared to have chocolate hands: Wear an old shirt and an apron for the rolling; things will get a bit messy. But that’s part of the fun!
(3) Irregular balls: (how's that for a heading!) It's fine if the truffles are not perfectly round; they are called truffles becasue they resemble the fungi truffles, which are very much irregular in their shape. Odd shapes add character.
(4) Doubling the recipe: This recipe doubles without a hitch.
(5) Finding raw cashews: Your local health food store is the best place to look. They tend to have them in bulk, for good prices, too. Or you can order online: Raw Cashews by Mail
(6) Chilling ganache for more than 2-3 hours: If you chill the ganache for a very long time (say, overnight), you will need to let it warm up on the counter for 15-30 minutes to make it pliable enough to roll into balls.
Espresso Truffles: Prepare Enlightened Truffles as directed above but delete the vanilla and add 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur (e.g., Kahlua), to the truffle base along with the salt. Roll in cocoa nibs (see Scharffen Berger ) or the cocoa powder.
Almond Truffles: Prepare Enlightened Truffles as directed above but replace 1 teaspoon of the vanilla with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Roll in finely chopped toasted almonds.
Tokyo Truffles: Prepare Enlightened Truffles as directed above but add 1/4 teaspoon wasabi powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger along with the vanilla and salt. Roll in toasted white sesame seeds instead of cocoa powder.
Cardamom Rose Truffles: Prepare Enlightened Truffles as directed above but add 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom to the truffle base and replace 1 teaspoon of the vanilla with 1 teaspoon rose water.
Fire & Smoke Chile Truffles: Prepare Enlightened Truffles as directed above but decrease vanilla to 1 teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder, 2 teaspoons lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest.
Vanilla-Mint Truffles: Prepare Enlightened Truffles as directed above but add 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract to the truffle base along with the vanilla and roll in crushed red & white-striped peppermint candies.