On a Friday afternoon, I set out to make truffles. My husband, parents, and I were planning to have the extended family over for dinner so that we could break the wonderful news of my pregnancy, and I wanted to prepare a special dessert that was nourishing enough (and free enough of artificial junk) that I would feel comfortable indulging in a bite or two. I made my mind up to make truffles. The first two attempts were total flops. Version 1.0 – cherry vanilla truffles made with fresh cherries – was so runny that even after a few hours in the freezer it would not set up. (But I do have a fairly tasty recipe for choc-cherry fruit dip, if anybody is interested.) Version 2.0 – almond butter – was only marginally more successful. My chocolate coating had an awful texture, was terribly dull instead of shiny as one would hope from a visually appealing confection, and refused to coat evenly. Although this version did set up, and was relatively tasty, according to Nick, the truffles looked more like the cow pies I would find out in the pasture than an appealing dessert. By the time I arrived at version 3.0 I had nearly given up. I followed almost exactly a recipe from one of my favorite foodie bloggers for chocolate orange truffles. In the process of following this recipe I managed to incorrectly attach some of the pieces of my blender, and when I turned it on high, the blender top went flying across the kitchen counter. The truffles turned out to be delicious, however, and visually appealing, and the correct consistency. I was only disappointed not to have developed my own original recipe. As Nick and I sat talking later that evening we developed the brilliant plan of using dehydrated cherries in another batch of truffles. With renewed enthusiasm, I popped the very last of our cherries into the food dehydrator. I left them overnight and then Saturday morning set about making version 4.0. They turned out fantastically, and that is the recipe I present to you here. Learn from my mistakes!
Cherry Vanilla Truffles
1 cup dehydrated cherries*
1 T vanilla extract
¼ cup honey
¾ cup chocolate chips**
Coconut flakes or flour for coating
* I prefer to dehydrate my own cherries, rather than purchase dried cherries at the grocery store, as the vast majority of dried tart cherries come with added sugar. I dehydrated my fruit in a home dehydrator overnight, and the end result was fruit that had a bit more water in it than most store-bought dried fruit. If you are going to opt for buying your fruit from the store, I would suggest that you add a tablespoon of cherry juice (or pomegranate, or cranberry – get creative – to your blender) in order to give the finished truffles the proper moist consistency.
** I would suggest baking chips with a very high cocoa content (70-85%). You could also use a high-quality chocolate bar broken into pieces. The higher the cocoa content the healthier your chocolate, and the lower the sugar content. With this recipe, since it contains naturally sweet fruit and honey, you can sneak in a much higher cocoa content, even for those eaters who prefer a sweeter, less bitter chocolate. These even received a seal of approval (and a reach for a second helping) from my mother, who normally turns up her nose at anything involving dark chocolate, and rarely indulges in any dessert at all.
To begin, toss your dehydrated cherries, vanilla, and honey into a blender and process until they are smooth. Then melt your chocolate of choice until it is free of lumps. You can either do this in a double-boiler (probably the safest option, and least likely to burn your chocolate), in a pan over very low heat stirring constantly, or in the microwave on medium heat, stirring every twenty to thirty seconds. Once you chocolate is free of lumps, add it to your blender and process again until it is totally incorporated. Allow your mixture to cool and harden in the fridge for several hours. Once it is sufficiently hardened, remove from the fridge, roll by hand into small truffles (it really helps if you first coat your hands with cooking spray or oil), and then roll in your coating of choice. I opted for coconut flour. Coconut flakes (no sugar added) would also work well, as would cocoa powder, or even crushed almonds. Again, be creative! You could even substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract and then roll in crushed almonds for a super-nutty taste.