This post should surprise exactly no one. That I would, inevitably, combine gin and dark chocolate at some point was in the cards as soon as I started this blog and set aside a special place to experiment with gin bottles and food. That these ingredients would actually come together in such a delicious way is a bit of a revelation, though.
Brooklyn Gin is a recent discovery, by the way. I first tried it at a cocktail bar over the summer and it has quickly become a favorite sipping gin. It also happens to have one of the most stunningly beautiful bottles I've ever seen. But feel free to use any gin or any other spirit you like -- a good bourbon or brandy would be a respectable second choice. For the less decadent and dissolute among you, leave out the alcohol and substitute fresh citrus juice, nut milk, or water.
Sure I believe in healthy, clean eating. But I also firmly believe in treating yourself to occasional indulgences -- a balanced lifestyle is a lot easier to sustain over the long run than an overly restrictive one. Treat yourself kindly is my philosophy.
And to be fair, aside from the (optional) chocolate coating and the inclusion of gin, these truffles are full of excellent, healthy ingredients as they primarily consist of dried fruit, nuts, and cacao powder.
Prunes are a bit of an unsung hero, in my opinion, and I am determined to rehabilitate them with these chocolates. Dates are universally revered for their sweetness -- and rightfully so -- but prunes are almost unequivocally disliked. Their unpopularity resulted in an official (and utterly ridiculous) name change -- to "dried plums." It's more than a little unfair. Prunes have this awesome sweet and sour flavor; they're sweet and chewy but not cloyingly so. And they balance the alcohol and gin here far better than dates alone. More importantly, they're awesome from a nutritional standpoint: extremely high in antioxidants, a great source of vitamins A and K, and packed with dietary fiber (which you probably already know). Basically, what I'm saying is, prunes deserve some love, too.
One final note before I set you free: these truffles are technically gluten free. The National Institutes of Health’s Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign has characterized distilled alcohol as safe for individuals on a gluten-free diet even though it may be derived from gluten-containing ingredients (the distillation process removes the gluten proteins). However, if you're extremely gluten intolerant, use your judgment.
That's it. Now go treat yourselves.
Chocolate Gin Truffles
Makes approx. 32 truffles
8-9 organic Medjool dates, pitted (approx 1. cup)
1 cup organic prunes (dried plums)
1/3 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/2 cup whole raw organic almonds
1/4 cup organic cacao powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp organic maple syrup
1 1/2 oz. gin (see Note)
1 tbsp water
For rolling: melted vegan dark chocolate or cacao powder
Toast the almonds by spreading them out on a sheet pan and roasting at 350 F for about 10 minutes. Or, toast the almonds in a large skillet over medium height until fragrant and lightly browned. Set them aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
Toast the coconut in a skillet over low heat and watch it carefully. The fine coconut shreds can go from a beautiful golden brown to burnt in a matter of seconds.
Add dates, prunes, almonds, and coconut to your food processor and pulse 10-15 times to break up the ingredients. Add in the cacao powder, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and pinch of sea salt, and process until the dough starts to come together. With the motor running, drizzle in 1 oz of gin and 1 tbsp water. Continue to process the mixture until the dough easily sticks together. (If it seems too crumbly, add in more water, a teaspoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency).
Move the mixture to a bowl and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to set. Roll teaspoon-sized chunks of dough into little balls. Dip them into melted chocolate, set them on wax paper, and then place in the fridge for about an hour while the chocolate hardens. Alternatively, roll them in cacao powder. (They're also very delicious plain).
Note: Again, I used Brooklyn Gin but you may substitute any other alcohol. For an alcohol-free truffle, use water, fresh orange juice, almond milk, coconut milk or coconut water. You can totally skip the roasting process above if you prefer to consume nuts/seeds in their raw state.
*Recipe quantities edited March 16, 2014.