Andreae Prozesky brings the mirth, the cheer, and the truffles.
No matter how crooked someone might be about the lights and the decorations and the horrible tinned Christmas songs and the throngs of shoppers, that person’s anger will mollify when holiday treats come out. Even the brutal manglings of favourite carols by desperate pop singers seem inconsequential when one realises that there are truffles in the house.
Chocolate truffles are special fare—nouveau-munchery—for most of us here in Newfoundland. They’re not an essential part of the holiday the way sugar cookies and shortbreads and fruitcake are. They’re a little more European, a little more frou-frou. But they’re no more difficult to make. Easier, actually, because you don’t need to bake them, they don’t need you to chop anything sticky, and they only have four ingredients. And they don’t cost that much to make, considering that one recipe makes a bunch of them. They look so pretty, and they’re so small and decadent and lovely that you can make up a bunch of little boxes of them as gifts and keep them in your backpack or your glove compartment while you scoot about town, bringing mirth and cheer to friends and loved ones.
Truffles are basically a chocolate mixture called ganache, which has been cooled to the point of being almost solid, rolled into little balls, and dusted with cocoa or some other adornment like powdered nuts. Sometimes they’re dipped in tempered chocolate, but I think that’s overkill—a messy, skip-able step and an unnecessary expense. Besides, the reason they’re called truffles is because they look like that other kind of truffle, the French fungus that people pay a fortune for, all dirt-encrusted and funny-shaped. The chocolate-dippery takes the truffle-ness right out of them as far as I’m concerned. (It is yummy, though, so if you’re someone who enjoys dipping things in chocolate, go right ahead.)
Usually, ganache is a combination of chocolate and cream; this year, though, I’ve experimented with a non-dairy version for all the non-dairy readers, or for readers wondering what to bring to a vegan potluck when three other people are already bringing hummus.
When I was trying to think of a non-dairy equivalent of cream, I first thought of soy milk and silken tofu, but neither of those would be quite right, I don’t think. At least not without the addition of other ingredients. Also, both soy milk and silken tofu go off fairly quickly, and have to be refrigerated. When tofu goes bad, it’s a tragic affair.
Then I remembered a vegan restaurant in Montréal where the coffees—lattes, cappuccinos, and the like—are made with a combination of soy milk and coconut milk. They were so decadent, sumptuous even, and subtly fragrant that no-one even missed the dairy-ness.
Coconut cream is the perfect substitute for dairy cream in truffles.
To get coconut cream the right consistency to replace dairy cream, buy a tin of coconut milk but tap it, wobble it around a little, and listen: you want it to sound as if the cream and the watery part have separated. All coconut milk does this, it’s normal. Take it home from the store without jostling it about too much. Open the tin and scoop off the thick, creamy stuff on top (it’ll be about one half of the tin) and then discard the rest, or use it for something else (I’m saving mine to throw it in a curry or a soup).
And there you go: coconut cream.
One other usual component of truffles is alcohol. Since you’re using coconut milk, you want some kind of coconut-compatible booze in there—Irish whiskey is usually what I have in the house, but you can use rum, Malibu for maximum coconutty goodness, maybe something orangey like Grand Marnier, or something nutty like Frangelico. Just make sure that, if dairy is a concern, to stay away from creamy booze like Bailey’s, where the creaminess comes from, of all things, cream. And if you want to be able to give your truffles to children or non-drinkers, try substituting the alcohol for very strong brewed espresso, or perhaps some reduced (boiled in a pot until it’s thick like a syrup) orange juice. For my alcohol-free batch, I used the thick, sweet packing liquid from a tin of Bing cherries.
Decadent? Oh yes.
Coconut Cream Chocolate Truffles
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips*, roughly chopped
1/2 cup coconut cream (from a can of separated coconut milk)
1 tablespoon flavouring: rum, espresso, or other beverage
Cocoa or ground, toasted nuts, or a blend of cocoa and powdered instant coffee, for rolling
In a pot over medium heat, bring coconut cream to a boil. Pour boiling coconut cream over chocolate bits in a medium-sized bowl. Stir to melt all lumps. Add flavouring and stir through. Place bowl in the fridge until ganache is cooled, about two hours, or leave it on the counter overnight to solidify. Roll into wee 1-inch balls and place on a waxed-paper lined cookie sheet. Move rolled truffles to the fridge to harden up (about fifteen minutes), then remove and roll in cocoa (or whatever you’ve chosen). Store in airtight containers, in a cool place, up to two weeks.
*When you buy your chocolate chips, check the ingredients. “Milk solids,” “milk ingredients,” and “whey powder” are all dairy products. “Cocoa butter” is not. President’s Choice The Decadent chocolate chips are an easy-to-find brand that is dairy-free.
Send your questions, comments, and coffee-dusted suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org