Monday 24 March 2014

Chocolate Pecan Fudge and Cocoa Dusted Truffles

Not quite what you might be expecting...

But if you've never tried anything like this, you may find yourself very pleasantly surprised!

No heating or cooking involved, just combining some raw and natural ingredients to give a delicious and rich result that can make a healthier adult alternative to traditional fudge or truffles, or a tasty treat for the kids! I'm a complete chocoholic, and I could (and may!) happily by-pass conventional chocolate for the cocoa dusted chocolate pecan truffles - I won't be buying any chocolate this week, that's for sure!! And these turned out so well, I can see me experimenting with a few different flavours too...

All you need to make them, is a decent food processor or blender and a tray or dish to put the mix in to chill. (I made mine in my beloved Thermomix and have included speed/timing instructions for Thermomix owners in brackets).

You can choose to cut the 'fudge' into squares or bars and leave it as it is (it's a relatively soft fudge, so needs to be well chilled and left to 'set' before cutting - 24 hours is best, overnight is fine). Or for a more intense, adult chocolate-y experience you can cut it up then roll it into balls and dip in cocoa powder. The recipe contains a little coffee, to intensify the chocolate flavour and bring out the pecan nuts, but if you're not a fan, then just leave it out (but if you're a huge coffee fan, you could double or triple the amount for more of a hit!).

I've put a calorie count, just in case you want have a treat on a day when you're being 'good' and need to know! [Calories in square brackets]. The total quantity of chocolate and pecan fudge comes to 3,731 calories. However, I cut mine into 44 mini-bars (4 lengthways, 11 widthways), which comes out at 85 calories per mini bar. I cut these in half for truffle-sized pieces to roll up, which makes them 42.5 calories per truffle, plus a little cocoa to dust each one brings it out at around 45 calories each. Not 'diet food', but healthy oils, and completely natural sugars so less of a guilty indulgence, and something a bit different from a box of [insert generic brand of mass-produced chocolates]... so four cocoa dusted truffles will set you back 180 calories (and four is plenty, even for me!!).

  • 100g (raw) pecan nuts (whole or pieces is fine) [700]
  • 400g Medjool dates (which will be 390g after removing stones - check the packaging of your dates if they're not Medjool, as they may have added glucose syrup etc.) [1088]
  • 285g (raw) cashew nuts [1653]
  • 20g extra virgin coconut oil (the solid stuff, you don't need to melt it - and you could happily leave this out if you don't have any, as the nuts have plenty of oil) [180]
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt (optional, but really brings out the flavour)
  • 4 tbsp good quality cacao powder, or cocoa powder, plus extra to dust truffles, if desired (I recommend Green & Blacks Organic Cocoa Powder if you're not using cacao powder) [110]
  • 1 tsp good quality instant coffee, dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water

Firstly cut the dates in half, and remove the stones, then in half again, so they are cut into quarters and set aside.

Note: If you're not using a Thermomix (TMX) or similar (e.g. Vitamix), please ignore the following timings in brackets, as normal food processors/blenders may take longer to complete the same action.

Roughly chop pecans briefly in your food processor with a few pulses (TMX Speed 4 / 2-3 seconds at a time, 2-3 times) until they're in pieces roughly the size of peppercorns-sweetcorn kernels (or to your preference). Set aside (you don't need to worry about washing out, afterwards, as you're about to add more nuts).

Add the cashew nuts to the processor, and blend until a fine crumb texture (TMX Speed 10 / 5 seconds)
, then add the salt and coconut oil (if using) and blend again (TMX Speed 8 / 15-20 seconds - listen!) , until it has become a 'nut butter' (think similar to smooth peanut butter, but more textured). Be careful not to overwork your food processor!

Add the dates, coffee and cocoa powder, and process until thoroughly mixed into a paste-like consistency (TMX Speed 4 / 30 seconds, then Speed 8 / 30-40 seconds). Have a little taste, and at this point, if you want more of a cocoa or coffee flavour, you can add more and process until it's mixed in (TMX Speed 8 / 20-30 seconds) - I initially added a smaller quantity of cocoa powder to err on the side of caution, but felt it wasn't enough, and it's fine to process it again.

Scrape the mixture out of the processor and into a bowl and add about 2/3 of the chopped pecans (take a handful out first and reserve for scattering on top - unless you're making only chocolate truffles, in which case stir them all in). Using a wooden spoon and a strong arm (the mixture will be quite stiff) stir the pecans in, until evenly distributed.

Line a small rectangular or square tin (or dish) with clingfilm (mine was approximately 17cm x 24cm / 6.5 inches x 9.5 inches). Put spoonfuls of the mixture into the tin and gently press into the tin until it is in an even layer - I find a (non-stick) silicone spatula is good for starting this off, finishing with a piece of clingfilm wrapped around all four fingers of one hand (and held in place with your thumb at the side!), using your knuckles to spread it out, then the other side of your fingers to smooth the last bits out (less complicated than it sounds!).

Scatter the reserved chopped pecans over the top, and lightly press into the 'fudge' (clingfilm wrapped fingers, still?!), cover with clingfilm, and put into the fridge to 'set' overnight, or for 24 hours if possible.

The next day, turn the 'fudge' out, and cut into portions, as desired. I cut into four lengthways (from left to right on the photo), then into strips about 2cm wide widthways, giving me 44 pieces. Store in the fridge in an airtight container, on non-stick (i.e. silicone-coated) baking parchment / greaseproof paper. For truffles, you want pieces half this size, so you'd cut into eight lengthways instead of four etc., then roll each piece into a ball between your palms (get small helpers?!) and then dip/roll into cocoa powder, quickly rolling in your palm again to get rid of the excess (if you just roll around on a plate, too much cocoa will stick to them, and they won't be as nice - wear food-preparation gloves if you prefer). You could also roll in more chopped. crushed or ground nuts, if you don't want more cocoa, or even toasted dessicated coconut, or roll in chocolate vermicelli or similar for children. Store in the fridge, will keep for several days, and enjoy! WARNING: The cocoa dusted truffles are VERY more-ish!

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