This past weekend I felt like a big “Christmas is coming!” light finally went on. Sure, the retail sector has been pushing Christmas for the past month, but I’ve managed to remain fairly oblivious. On Sunday, things conspired to remind me: it was the beginning of Advent, Trader Joe’s positioned a huge display of peppermint hot chocolate prominently by their front door, and both of my parents demanded that I provide them with flight information for our planned visit back East later this month.
Anyway. One thing I love to do each December is to make a few edible treats to gift to friends or just bring to parties as needed. For a long time, I stuck with my mother’s trusted ginger cutout recipe (which I think I’ll be trotting out again this year for a cookie exchange). There was also the year of the church window candy (cute, but a little ho-hum), the year my German teacher assigned me the task of making pfeffernusse and I turned our hand mixer into a hot smoky mess (never again), and the year of the custom hot cocoa mixes (which was a major hit).
This year, one of my projects is these little vegan “truffles”. Technically they aren’t really truffles, since they’re vegan and don’t involve a cream-based ganache, but they are rich and intensely chocolatey, which to me are two of the essential qualities of any chocolate truffle. Loaded with cocoa powder, spiked with hazelnut liquer, and of course, finished off with a chocolate shell coating. These are absolutely a treat to be savored. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to call them a health food, they’re fairly low in sugar compared to a lot of traditional holiday treats.
Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles
makes 24 small truffles
1 1/4 c. hazelnuts
1 tsp hazelnut extract or liqueur, such as Frangelico
1/2 tsp coffee extract, or strong espresso
2 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
For the chocolate coating
2 oz dark chocolate
2 tsp coconut oil
1. Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Place the hazelnuts in the pan and toast, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, until the skins have turned a very dark brown. Remove nuts from heat and transfer them to a clean cloth. Fold the cloth up to make a bag around the nuts and shake vigorously. This step should remove most of the skins from the hazelnuts. Set 12 hazelnuts aside (these will be used for decorating, so try to pick nice looking ones).
2. In a metal food processor fitted with the s-blade, grind the remaining hazelnuts into a rough butter. This step will likely take ~10 minutes.
3. Add the extracts, dates, and cocoa powder to the nut butter. Process until smooth, pausing once or twice to scrap down the sides of the processor.
4. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Roll the truffle mix into 24 balls. Each ball should be slightly over 1 tsp of the truffle mixture. Place in the fridge to cool for 20 minutes.
5. While the truffles are cooling, cut each of the 12 reserved hazelnuts in half. Then make the chocolate coating: place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave at 50% power for 1 minute. Stir and continue melting in 30 second increments if needed. When chocolate is melted, stir in the coconut oil.
6. Dip the truffles in chocolate. I used a small wooden skewer to spear each truffle and dip it, then let the chocolate coating drip off for a few seconds. Place each dipped truffle back on the parchment paper and top with a hazelnut half. When all truffles are dipped, return to the refrigerator and cool until chocolate has hardened.
Store in a cool location.