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Karen and I go way back… um, let’s see now… 26 years. Yup, we met in high school. She was in year 7 and I was in year 8. We had a few things in common back then… for one; we were the children of missionaries… and sent to boarding school. We were also both Australian, a distinct minority amongst the largely American population of our high school classmates. Since graduating we lost touch, but thanks to the internet (hello, Facebook!) we have been able to reconnect and discover we share a great love of both food and photography.

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Whilst they have remained purely hobbies for me, Karen has taken those creative loves to the next level. Having had to cope with and cook for her own and her children’s food allergies over the years, Karen has learned a lot about catering for sensitive tummies and once her youngest was at school she started up a blog; Food, Glorious Friendly Food. With recipes ranging from cookies to pumpkin pie to a paleo version of Butter Chicken, her recipes aim to assist those who have trouble digesting gluten, dairy, additives, preservatives and the like.

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I’ve been following that blog for the past two years, and have watched as she has gathered a massive following, and recently, after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, produced her first ‘Friendly Food’ cookbook. I did have some warning about this book, because it turns out that the one area we completely diverge on is a love of grammar, i.e. I love grammar and she does not! I was very honoured to be asked to assist in the editing of the manuscript, a process I very much enjoyed, and which Karen was most happy to be relieved of!

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Just a few weeks ago, I received my very own hard copy of Friendly Food for Chocoholics in the mail, and I am very excited to share one of Karen’s recipes with you now. Healthy chocolate indulgence, these friendly truffles are free from gluten, dairy and refined sugars. You will find many similarly divine chocolate flavoured cakes, drinks and desserts in Karen’s new book. Grab a copy now for you and a friend, just in time for Christmas!

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Salted Caramel Truffles {gluten-free, dairy-free}
Soft Medjool dates, honey, almond butter and sea salt combine to create a decadent, healthy treat.

Makes at least 40 truffles

Ingredients
½ cup almond butter
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil (no need to melt)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons raw honey
300g (about 20) individual Medjool dates (the large, undried variety)
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa, dairy-free)
Sea salt flakes, extra, to decorate

Method
To make your own almond butter: Blend 130g raw almonds in a high speed food processor until they turn into a fine meal (TM 5 sec/speed 9). Scrape down sides of bowl; add 1 tablespoon coconut oil or nut oil. Blend again until blades cease to make contact with the nuts (TM speed 6). Scrape bowl and continue blending, scraping as necessary, until natural oils are released and a butter consistency forms. This takes 2-3 minutes in a Thermomix and up to 10 minutes in other processors.

In a food processor, along with the almond butter, place all the ingredients except the dates and chocolate. Blend on medium speed until completely mixed (TM 5 sec/speed 4).

Leaving the motor running at medium speed (TM speed 4), add one date at a time, discarding the seed of each date before adding, until they are completely blended. Do not stop the food processor during this process as mix may be too thick to re-start.

Remove the mixture from the food processor and place in a bowl or container in the freezer for up to one hour, until it is firm, but still soft enough to work with. Line two cookie sheets/baking trays with baking paper. Using a ½ teaspoon measure like an ice cream scoop, make small balls from the caramel mixture {you can make them larger, but just be aware that there will less truffles}. Finish rolling into a smooth ball shape in the palms of your hands.

Place balls onto baking trays and place in freezer for 30 minutes or the fridge overnight.

Break the chocolate into small pieces. Fill a small saucepan with about 1-inch of water and bring it to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Place the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and place it over the water in the saucepan to melt slowly. The base of the bowl must not touch the water. Leave it standing and stir the mixture occasionally until it is smooth.

Dip each truffle in the melted chocolate, covering completely, then remove with a fork and allow excess chocolate to drip off before returning the truffle to the lined baking tray.

*Sadly, my truffles were too soft to dip into hot chocolate successfully, so I used the ‘dip and roll’ method instead. Dip the balls into the melted chocolate; roll quickly and gently between palms to coat evenly before placing on lined baking tray. Once all balls are coated, place in fridge or freezer to set. {This will create a very thin coating, and will need to be repeated once or twice more to complete the process.}

Top each truffle with extra sea salt flakes to decorate and return to freezer (or fridge) to set before serving.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Adapted very slightly from ‘Friendly Food for Chocoholics‘ by Karen Stevenson

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