Welcome to my Sweets Blog!

Welcome to my Sweets Blog!
I've been looking for a way to share my sweet creations with everyone, and I think I have found it--here is my sweets blog! As I experiment with delicious desserts & sweet treats, I will post pictures, recipes, and how-to tips & tricks. Hope you enjoy reading about my sweets as much I enjoy eating them!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dark Chocolate Balsamic Truffles (No Sugar Added!)

The % shown on the packaging literally means
 how much of this chocolate bar is actually cocoa.
These are great snacks for anyone watching intake
 of refined carbs, since less than 10-15% of a small
bite of these bars is sugar! To put into perspective,
 a milk chocolate bar is usually only 30% cocoa,
which means a whopping 70% is sugar,
milk solids, & who knows what else.
Lately I've been curbing my daily chocolate cravings with Lindt Excellence Extra Dark (85%) or Supreme Dark (90%) chocolate bars. There is very little sugar or anything else but cocoa in these bars, and the flavor is so rich that you really don't need more than a small square to get a good chocolate fix. But there is something so much more satisfying about eating a homemade dessert! 
I have made chocolate truffles before, with milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate. And sugar. So I know that basic technique of truffle-making. It goes something like this: Chop the chocolate, melt with butter. Simmer some heavy cream and sugar, and mix with the chocolate and butter. Refrigerate. Scoop into balls. Refrigerate again. Coat in more melted chocolate, nuts, cocoa, or more sugar. Eat! It's the type of recipe that is very easy to substitute different types of chocolate, add in different flavors, and coat with different toppings. Kind of like making your favorite chicken dish with salmon instead, or switching up the vegetables in a stir-fry to use the ones you have in the house. So I knew I could adapt a recipe for no-sugar dark chocolate truffles that would be similar to the Lindt dark chocolate bars, and would give me that tingly feeling I get when I eat my own delicious creations.  

The Recipe
This Dark Chocolate Balsamic Truffle is velvety and rich with a surprising fullness in flavor that comes from the balsamic vinegar. The pinch of salt enhances the chocolate-ness in your mouth without taking over. And did I mention there is no sugar added?  

Dark Chocolate Balsamic Truffles

10 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (also called sweet butter)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
pinch (1/8 teaspoon) salt
approx. 1/4 cup cocoa powder or chopped nuts for topping

1. Chop the chocolate into fine pieces. Cut the butter into small squares. Add chocolate and butter to large microwavable glass bowl. Melt in microwave for 30 seconds & stir. Repeat once & set aside. 
2. Heat heavy cream and agave nectar in small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Pour over chocolate and butter and let sit for 2 minutes. 
3. Gently stir with a rubber spatula until smooth and creamy. Add balsamic vinegar and gently stir. 
4. Spread mixture into a glass baking dish. Sprinkle pinch of salt over chocolate. Cover & refrigerate for 1 hour.
5. Use a melon baller or small scoop to make into small balls about the size of grapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Cover & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 
6. Place desired topping in shallow bowl or pie plate. Roll chocolate balls into the topping. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

Makes about 35 truffles. 

Tips & Tricks
  • Agave nectar is similar to honey, but it's works a lot better than honey in place of as a sugar or corn syrup when baking. It is a sugar substitute that tastes sweeter that granulated sugar, but has a very low glycemic index (meaning it won't cause a spike in blood sugar the way granulated sugar or corn syrup will, which in turn means it won't cause a craving for more sugar products later in the day).  
  • Try not to get any moisture into the melting chocolate mixture. Water or steam will cause melting chocolate to 'seize up' and you will not get the smooth consistency needed for the truffles.
  • Chocolate should be sealed tightly whenever placed in the refrigerator. Otherwise the chocolate will absorb flavors and odors from inside your refrigerator. Yuck. 
  • Step 6 above can get messy. It helps to wash your hands (and dry them thoroughly) after rolling about 8-10 truffles. If you let the chocolate build up on your hands, it will stick to itself more, and you will just end up with more and more chocolate on your hands. 
  • Serve the truffles in mini-baking cups (mini-cupcake liner). Or place 3 truffles in a standard size baking cup!
  • Try substituting different liquor flavors, such as Frangelico (hazelnut) or Chambord (black raspberry). Be aware that this may add sugar depending on what you decide to substitute.
  • I used cocoa powder to coat half of the truffles and chopped hazelnuts to coat half. When coating with the cocoa powder, make sure to shake off the excess cocoa after rolling each one. For the hazelnuts it is almost the opposite, try to press in many nuts as possible while rolling each one. 

Tools & Equipment

To make the truffles you will need:

  • sharp knife 
  • cutting board
  • large microwavable glass bowl
  • small saucepan
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • rubber spatula
  • glass baking dish (8"x8" works well)
  • saran wrap or cover for baking dish
  • melon baller or mini ice cream scoop
  • parchment paper
  • pie plate or shallow bowl
  • chopper or food processor (if coating with chopped nuts)  
  • mini or standard baking cups (for serving)

When I made this recipe, I 'halved' it to start out, just to make sure it was up to my standards. After tasting the chocolate mixture (before refrigerating it at step 4 above), I was officially in love, and decided to make the 2nd half right away. So if you want to try it in a smaller batch, cut each amount in half & the recipe will work exactly the same way. When making a half batch, watch the cream on the stovetop in step 2, since it will simmer up quickly! 

Pictures of the process:
Chop unsweetened chocolate with a sharp knife into small pieces.
It doesn't have to be uniform; the idea is to help speed up the melting
process without overheating or over working the chocolate. 
Microwave chopped chocolate and butter for 30 seconds.
Stir and repeat for another 30 seconds. 
Heat heavy cream and agave nectar until it simmers.
Watch it closely since there is not a lot of liquid over the flame. 
Pour cream mixture over the chocolate mixture and let sit for 2 minutes.
This step will also help the chocolate melt without being overworked. 
Gently stir until smooth. Add balsamic vinegar and gently stir.
Spread mixture into glass dish. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
Seal tightly and refrigerate for about an hour. 
Scoop small balls of chocolate onto baking dish lined with parchment
paper. Don't worry about shaping  the truffles into perfect spheres.
Make two layers of truffles if needed; separate each layer with more
parchment. Refrigerate again for about a half hour. 
Chop your favorite nuts to coat the truffles.  I used hazelnuts because
their flavor perfectly compliments the dark chocolate.
The chopper is from The Pampered Chef. I use it for everything!
Coat some of the truffles in cocoa powder. Since cocoa powder is
 unsweetened, shake off the excess powder after rolling or else
it will be way too bitter and chalky when you first bite into the truffle. 
Place a few truffles in a standard size baking cup for a lovely presentation.
Or place one truffle in a mini-baking cup. I only had standard size cups
this time. Store the truffles in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

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