Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Salted almond butter and orange truffles (gluten free)

I once decided, in what was clearly a mahoosive fit of self-delusion and naivety about my willpower, that I should give up chocolate for a while. My abstention lasted all of about eight hours.

The problem is, quite simply, when it comes to chocolate, I am weak - who am I kidding, when it comes to pretty much all food I am weak, but with chocolate I am particularly susceptible and so, since my failed abstinence, I have come to terms with the fact that it is likely to feature in my life on a more or less daily basis. And it does.

Recently I went on a chocolate tour. In case you're wondering what the ecky-peck a chocolate tour is, in a nutshell it involved visiting some of the highest-quality chocolate shops in London and sampling their delights (whilst also learning about the history of chocolate). The hardship!

I'll admit that I was already familiar with every single one of the shops we visited, but that didn't matter a fig, I was more than happy to return as part of the tour, tasting a variety of cocoa-based goodies, from chocolate made with 100% cocoa (bitter, but very good for you!), to violet creams (think melty Parma Violets enrobed in dark chocolate) to a wondrous, Willy Wonka-esque blood orange, basil and honey truffle.

Upon reflection, I realised that during my tour I'd made my way through about 30 bonkersly delicious truffles, pralines and ganache-filled chocolates in the space of about three hours (umm... and also a hot chocolate!) If you're thinking that after that, I must surely have had my fill for at least a day or two, oh how you underestimate me! I was ready for more by that evening. 

Having been on the chocolate tour, I felt inspired to make some of my own chocolates. Truffles, generally speaking, are a doddle to make (equal amounts of cream and chocolate heated and mixed together, then rolled into balls) and you can really have fun, playing around with flavours and fillings (as per my chocolate orange biscuit truffles).

In this instance, the truffles I made were a total experiment in terms of the flavour combination, but happily, the experiment was a success; the truffles were delicious, particularly straight from the fridge, after their chocolate coating had set to form a solid, thick, crispy shell (note, the ones in my photos have not fully set). Alternative nut butters could be used if you're not a fan of almond. Similarly, I think lemon or lime would work a treat in place of the orange zest.

Loosely based on Daylesford Farm's Salted Almond Butter truffles
  • 200g pitted dates
  • Zest of a large orange
  • Jar of almond butter (I used Pip and Nut)
  • 300g chocolate (I used 45-50% but you can go darker or lighter depending on personal preference)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • Maldon salt
Line a tray (which will fit into your freezer) with greaseproof paper.

Place the dates and orange zest in a food processor and blitz until it all comes together in one big ball.

Take a teaspoonful of the date mixture and roll it together in the palm of your hands to form a round ball.

Use your little finger or ring finger to press into the centre of the ball to make a well (the end of a wooden spoon might work too). Fill the well with about half a teaspoon of almond butter, then place the ball on the lined tray (with the well of almond butter facing upwards, otherwise it will slowly ooze out!) Beware, this is all a rather sticky, messy process and you will end up with date mixture and probably some almond butter all over your hands!

Repeat until all of your date mixture has been used up, then place the tray in the freezer for at least an hour.

When ready to coat the truffles, place the chocolate and butter in a large bowl and melt in a bain marie (place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring the water is not high enough to come in contact with the base of the bowl, otherwise your chocolate will split). Alternatively, melt in short bursts in the microwave.

Once the chocolate and butter have melted and combined into a delicious, glossy gloop, remove the balls from the freezer. Skewer each one with a toothpick or a thin wooden BBQ skewer and dunk it in the chocolate to coat.

On dunking: note that some of the almond butter may soften in the heat of the chocolate and ooze out a bit. This doesn't matter; in fact, I found it made the end truffles look even more enticing, as there were ribbons of salted almond running through the chocolate coating. Also, my chocolate was quite thick after melting, rather than runny, so each truffle got a generous coating of it, but if you feel your chocolate coating isn't thick enough, you can give the truffles a second dip after the first coat has set a little.

Place the truffle carefully back on the lined tray and sprinkle with a few flakes of Maldon salt before the chocolate hardens (if giving a second coat of chocolate, sprinkle the salt over once you've done the double dunk).

Repeat with all the balls, then place them in the fridge to allow the chocolate to set fully.

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