Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nutty Chocolate Balls

For those who may have noticed that I hadn't posted in nearly a week, I've just returned from New Orleans, where I presented recipes from my cookbooks at the NOLA Veggie Fest--a small but well-attended two-day event celebrating the various aspects of plant-based living. I had a blast--New Orleans is one gorgeous, fun place, with some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet.

The second day's schedule was a little chaotic, and my time slot was bumped twice--which worked out very well for me, because by the time I went on, we had a full house. I demonstrated two recipes from Speed Vegan: "Green Curry Salad" (see recipe on this page) and "Nutty Chocolate Balls." Although the latter is a very easy treat to make, there is one step in the recipe that calls for "1 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts," which I admit, can be a bit confusing for anyone who hasn't roasted hazelnuts before. To keep things flowing in the demo, I had done this beforehand. So for those who were there (and anyone who might be interested), here's how it's done:

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. 

Place the pan in the oven and roast for 7 to 10 minutes, until the skins blister and the nuts are lightly browned.  You can also go for a darker roast, but be careful--they can go over the line and burn in less time than you might think. Also, note that the centers will be somewhat darker than the outer surface.

Immediately transfer the nuts to a towel.

Fold the towel over the nuts and wrap tightly.
Let the bundle sit for a few minutes, until just warm, and then rub and knead vigorously with both hands for a couple of minutes. This will dislodge most of the skins.

Open the towel and individually rub off any skins that may remain. Some may be stubborn and refuse to come off--so it goes, no big deal. Don't worry about it, just proceed. 

Lift and shake the nuts to leave the skins behind and place them in a bowl. I used to have a special strainer for this that I made out of chicken wire with a mesh just fine enough to keep the nuts and let the skins fall through. It was perfect, but I left it in Australia when I was working there as a pastry chef. I keep meaning to make a new one, but it's one of those things you don't think of until you need it (and when you do, you're too busy to stop and make one).

Chop the nuts coarsely and sift out the fine powder.

To make the nutty balls (for everyone who wasn't at the demo), combine equal parts roasted hazelnut butter, fine quality Dutch process cocoa powder, and maple syrup. Note that the recipe in the book calls for agave nectar, but as you may have read in another post, I no longer recommend agave as a sweetener.

Once the mixture is thoroughly blended, put it in the refrigerator for an hour or two to firm it up. To speed things up, you can also put it in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Once it's firm enough to handle, scoop out roughly 1-1/2 teaspoon gobs and roll them into balls. Roll them in the chopped nuts to coat.

That's it. See? I told you it was easy!


  1. I saw your talk Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  2. Thank you, anonymous! (I'm guessing it was too complicated to use your own name--I've tried to figure the system out myself, with mixed results)

    I enjoyed the very receptive crowds on both days, and I hope to be back next year.

  3. Thanks again for coming to Veggie Fest! It was great to see your demo, try your food, and chat with you more at Whole Foods! I hope you found good veg-friendly restaurants (which ones?) and enjoyed the rest of your stay in NOLA. I have already used your recipes three times in the last few days (Warm Wild Mushroom Salad twice, Mexisraeli salad, Green Curry Salad), and everything is delicious! I look forward to many more great Speed Vegan meals.