It was inevitable that the inaugural post would involve chocolate. I mean really, what better way to celebrate the birth of a blog?
One of my favourite things to do when baking or making sweets is to find ways to veganise the recipe. Sometimes this works out well, and it’s exciting to know it’s possible to make a recipe delicious and healthy at the same time – often without even betraying its alterations. Don’t get me wrong, I love butter just as much as the next person, and eggs will never cease to fascinate me. But I do think there is a time and a place, just like for anything. So why not try to experiment? It definitely doesn’t always work, but the best part about cooking is you can always try again (well, one of the best parts, at least). And for me, when I eat something that is not only delicious, but also good for my body and my whole well-being, it gives me whole different type of pleasure that I just can’t get from something that is solely good on my tongue but that my body isn’t as happy about.
If you’re skeptical, that’s ok, you have every reason to be. But bear with me, because I think you’ll find something along the way that you’ll really like. And if you really tune in to how your body responds to it when you eat it, you’ll feel the difference.
So! That’s my soapbox quota for the day. Onto the chocolate!
I made these vegan chocolate truffles with my friend Rachel back in October. She is one of the most lovely people I know. She’s gorgeous inside and out:
We work really well together in general, and she’s my go-to cooking partner for most projects, especially the more ambitious ones. I swear she’s good luck in the kitchen too – things come out well more often when she’s around. So it made perfect sense to try these together.
The truffle itself is not complicated: it is merely a ball of chocolate ganache dipped in tempered chocolate. The ingredients aren’t complicated either: chocolate, cream (or, in our case, a cream “substitute” like coconut or almond milk). The thing that makes a truffle special is the process. Set aside a good couple hours, because you’re going to want to do this right. The effort is great, but the rewards are even greater! (not to mention each of these truffles could go for at least a dollar at a retail chocolatier, while ours are only a few cents apiece.)
We used the same basic recipe, and made two types: one flavoured with lavender, and one with cardamom. I have this huge jar of dried lavender that I harvested back in the summer from the Yale Farm where I work – it was in bloom and we had way more than we knew what to do with, so I took full advantage of the surplus. The cardamom I bought whole from a great Middle Eastern food store back in Victoria. Chocolate goes ambrosially well with many things, but if you haven’t tried it with lavender and cardamom, you’re missing out. These may be more unlikely flavour combinations, but this unexpectedness only adds to their surprising, almost revelatory flavours on the tongue (I am not exaggerating).
With a recipe with simple ingredients like this one, the quality of the ingredients really makes a difference. So try to get the best chocolate and flavourings you can find!
Without further ado:
Lavender and Cardamom Vegan Chocolate Truffles (adapted from DarkREDCrema)
14 oz. of the best bittersweet (think 55-60%) chocolate you can get your hands on, chopped or shaved into small pieces (Valrhona would be awesome, but Ghirardelli works fine and is probably more realistic. That’s what we used. Hershey’s and its ilk are definitely out of the question. Don’t do it.)
2/3 cup organic whole coconut milk (coconut milk will give the richest flavour, and most importantly, the silkiest, smoothest texture to the ganache – but you can use almond milk instead.)
a couple pinches of sea salt (fleur de sel is preferable because of its fluffy texture, but if you only have coarse sea salt give it a grind with a mortar and pestle and that will work. again, don’t use iodised or table salt if you can help it.)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (try to find whole cardamom and grind it yourself. if you can’t, pre-ground works fine, but you won’t get as much aromatic out of the spice.)
2 teaspoons whole dried lavender buds, crushed (use a mortar and pestle, or a small food pulser if you have one. if you have neither, try rolling it with a rolling pin, or crushing them with something hard and heavy.)
cocoa powder for dusting (go for organic and Dutch Process if you can, it’s such better quality)
Measure out 9 ounces of the chocolate and place in a heat-resistant bowl (we used our favourite metal semi-spherical bowls from IKEA). Add a pinch of sea salt, and either the cardamom or the lavender (if you want both, double the recipe! It’s worth it). Bring the coconut milk to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over the chocolate. Stir the mixture gently, slowly letting the hot coconut milk melt the chocolate. With patience, the chocolate and coconut milk will come together into a homogenous, silky chocolate ganache. Let the ganache sit at room temperature to thicken, or, if you’re in a rush, pop in the fridge until it thickens. We used the fridge, and the ganache was easier to work with when slightly cool.
The next part is messy and fun, so get excited. Use a spoon to scoop out small quantities of the ganache, and, using your hands, roll the ganache into a ball, as if it were a cookie. You want to expose the ganache to the heat of your hands for as little time as possible, so be deft. It helps a lot if the ganache is a little cool, as it will form firmer balls more easily and will be less likely to get goopy. You can decide how large you want your truffles to be – we made our balls about 3/4 inches in diameter.
When you’ve formed all the ganache into little balls and placed them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper, pop them back into he fridge to set. Take the remaining 5 ounces of chocolate, add a pinch of sea salt, and melt over a double boiler. If you’re not familiar with what a double boiler is, it’s a very simple process (similar to a Bain-marie). Take a small pot with a little water in it, and bring the water to a boil. When the water starts to boil, place the bowl with what you’d like to melt/heat on top of the pot, and the steam will indirectly and evenly heat the contents of the bowl. This is the best method to melt ingredients or warm them, because it heats the ingredients most evenly and gives you the most control. If you try to melt chocolate directly on the stove, it will almost certainly burn before it’s all melted, and the microwave heats very unevenly and will not give the chocolate a uniform consistency. Plus, microwaves are weird and I don’t like them.
So, melt the remaining 5 ounces of chocolate with a pinch of sea salt over the double boiler. When fully melted, pull out your set balls of ganache from the fridge, dip a spoon into the melted chocolate mixture, and, with great care, roll one ball of ganache all around in the spoon to coat it evenly with the melted chocolate. Once the ball is fully covered, place it back on the parchment or wax paper. Repeat for all the balls. Rachel and I dusted the lavender ones with a few lavender buds, and the cardamom ones with a little cocoa powder, so we could differentiate them. Place the truffles back in the fridge to set.
Once the outer shell has set, you’re done! Package them up as little gifts, bring them to a dinner party, or enjoy them with your friends. Rachel and I packaged them up in little boxes for some of the Alley Cats, and left the rest in the fridge for my housies. But not before trying them ourselves of course! The ganache was just as smooth and silky as that in a “regular” truffle, and the flavours of lavender and cardamom were perfect pairings for the dark chocolate. The floral notes of the lavender lifted the chocolate to an airier place, and transported me back to the summertime when I harvested, dried, and destemmed the lavender buds. The exotic, heady, almost citrusy aroma of the cardamom permeated the ganache in the most alluring way. The cardamom blends in with the chocolate so well that they almost become one flavour. They were definitely made for each other.
Good luck! Let me know how your truffle-making adventures go, and if you come up with any tips or ways to improve the process. This was our first truffle-making attempt, so by no means is it perfect! No matter what, I’m sure you will be happy with your truffles. They may not be the most healthy, but as far as decadence goes, they are definitely something to feel good about. I know Rachel and I did.