Monday, 21 January 2008

Heavenly Truffles and Mysteries

I have read a lot of detective novels over the past few months. I have made some great discoveries including a new series by a crime writer, Kerry Greenwood. I have previously enjoyed her series about a 1920s flapper detective (Phryne Fisher) and now started on the series about present day baker-cum-detective (Corinna Chapman). The most recent book I read was Heavenly Pleasures. The title is also the name of a chocolate shop and Corinna must find out who is poisoning the chocolate delicacies – although there are messianic complexes, bombs, murders and lost kittens along the way!

I love a novel that lingers lovingly over food and then gives you the recipes at the end. But I want to share with you my favourite lines from the book. Corinna spends a lot of time thinking and talking about chocolates and muses, ‘How had a paste made of crushed cocoa-beans become so important? How had a bitter bean come to mean comfort, reconciliation and kindness?’

It does make you wonder how something so bitter has come to represent such sweet decadence in our lives, something that tastes so good that we don’t demand nutritional benefits from it. But on the weekend I made chocolate truffles that were vegan, gluten free and sugar free! Yet, I am sure Corinna would have melted with gooey delight at the taste.

I got the recipe from Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs, and thought it might be kids party food. I didn’t count on the sophisticated adult depths of flavour. I had to make some minor changes to suit my tastes (wattleseed in preference to coffee) and pantry (I couldn’t find agave despite Ricki’s encouragement so I strayed from the vegan ingredients into the land of honey). The truffles are almost raw food which is also beneficial and easy. A recipe that requires no saucepans or ovens in summer is very welcome indeed!

In the end, despite all the talk of nutrients and health benefits, it is the taste the really matters and these truffles were chock full of it. They are soft, creamy, rich and oh so delicious! I didn’t put them in the fridge, although by the time I had given some to Yarrow and taken some to my parents, there was no danger of them hanging around too long. The feedback was all good, although E found them quite rich.

These truffles even had a mystery to be solved by the tasters. I would challenge anyone to guess they had soy sauce in them. And my problem of finding agave was solved over a coffee on the weekend – Yarrow has pointed me in the direction of the organic grocery on Lygon St in East Brunswick! Corinna Chapman would be pleased at all the detective work!

Wattleseed Cashew Truffles
(adapted from Diet Dessert and Dogs)

1 Tbsp wattleseed (or instant coffee)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. soy sauce (it adds depth of flavor)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp honey (or 3 tsp agave syrup)
1/2 cup cocoa (I used Dutch cocoa)
1/2 cup cashew nut butter
coconut, dried fruit or chopped nuts as desired to mix in or roll truffles in (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. It is a little stiff and you can do it in the food processor if you wish! Take teaspoons of mixture and roll into glossy balls. Roll truffles in coconut (or cocoa or chopped nuts etc). Store in airtight container. Ricki advises to keep in fridge for up to 10 days – if you can keep them that long! I left them out of fridge because I like them soft. Ricki made 15 balls, I made 23.

On the Stereo:
The Silent Breath of Emptiness: OrchestraMaxfieldParrish

11 comments:

  1. There's nothing better than chocolate and books. I haven't read anything by Kerry Greenwood - but after looking through her site, I'm sold! Thanks for the recommendation. (-:

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  2. Thanks for giving these a try, Johanna, and for posting about them. I'm glad they worked out for you (and I must say, I like your photo a lot better than mine!). I keep forgetting to ask what wattleseed is, though--must go look it up on Google when I finish this comment (the name alone is enough to intrigue me).

    The combination of baker and detective--is that perfect, or what? I used to devour mysteries in my younger years, but since my job requires so much reading, I don't often have time these days. Will look into Greenwood's stuff next time I go on holiday and have time to read for fun!

    Also glad to hear you found agave--look forward to your views on it.

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  3. thanks Monika - Kerry Greenwood is a little lighter than Jane Austen but still very enjoyable - although very local to Melbourne so I wonder how outsiders would find it. Am sure you would enjoy the foodie bits!

    Ricki - many thanks for this great recipe - I loved it - I don't like coffee and am experimenting with wattleseed as a replacement (well this is my second try - the other is a wattleseed mud cake you can find in the index) - I think it helped give depth to the flavour of the truffles. One of the best sources for Australian Indigenous spices is Vic Cherikoff - check out his wisdom on wattleseed at http://www.cherikoff.net/cherikoff/index.php?id=130. And hope you find time to relax with Greenwood some time - she is lots of fun.

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  4. I finally had time to look up the info on wattleseeds--they sound so intriguing! Thanks for the link. Of course now I'm dying to find some here in the Toronto area (possible, I think, but not probable!). I'll go hunting next time I'm in the downtown area and let you know. From the description of flavors in them (chocolate, coffee, etc.) they definitely sound like something I'd enjoy.

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  5. Thanks Ricki - if you can't find it in Toronto then I think you could order it from Vic Cherikoff.

    I have made another batch of these truffles with agave (which I found in a local health store) - it was a great treat to take to a friend's house who said she was trying to stay off sugar at the moment!

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  6. Hi Johanna,

    How did you like them with the agave? I find it quite sweet, even sweeter than honey. Is it outrageously expensive where you live?

    Thanks for the tip re: wattleseeds, too. I remembered there's an Aussie restaurant in Toronto, so maybe I can try them out before purchasing!

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  7. Ricki, I liked the truffles with Agave although am not sure how different to honey they tasted - I expected the agave would be less sweet than it was. So I was wondering if the health benefits of agave are much different than with honey - obviously for strict vegans there is a difference that is ethical but I am not sure about differences for myself!

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  8. And ricki - I forgot to say that I didn't think the agave ridiculously expensive - although it is more expensive - $7 for about 250ml I think

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  9. did you purchase your wattleseed from the website you linked to or is there somewhere around melbourne that you get them from? (i checked the organic shop on lygon street-- they don't have them but the girl was interested so maybe in the future they'll have them).

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  10. Hi Shawna - I think I got mine at the place that used to be called Flinders organics near the corner of degraves st but I don't think they have wattleseed any more. The last lot I bought I think was from the oxfam shop in bouverie st ??? It is hard to find but if you can't find it then you can always use coffee instead if you are able to have coffee, or I am sure they would taste great if you just left it out altogether as they are quite intense anyway! Good luck!

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  11. i'm really interested in trying wattleseed so í might have a look around for them (or just order them online).

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