One of my favorite all time Saturday Night Live skits is the one about Schweddy Balls. If you're familiar with that skit, I hope you're laughing at my title! Otherwise, you might just be scratching your head at my inappropriateness.
Anyway, I used to get a bunch of different food magazines, but now I've winnowed it down to just two: Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. These are the two magazines where I consistently find recipes that I want to try. To be honest, for all my "foodiness", I really try to avoid recipes that involve a gazillion ingredients or stuff that I don't regularly buy. I hate having my cupboards and fridge cluttered up with half-used bottles and jars of stuff (rosewater, chickpea flour, chili lime pickle, anchovy paste...just to name a few). Look for future blog posts that will utilize these ingredients. :-)
But I digress! Back to my balls. So in the latest edition of Bon Appetit, I found a recipe for Cocoa-Date Truffles where the only sweetener is the dates. I made them for the staff in the front office of our elementary school. I made them instead of, say, cupcakes, because our school is labeled a "healthy foods" school (or something like that) where we can't have sweet treats (unless it's fruit) for parties and the daily snacks that the kids bring can't have sugar of any kind in the first 3 ingredients. It's not that big of a deal, and I get why they're doing it, but at the same time, not all of the food choices the school offers in the cafeteria are exactly packed with nutrition, either. It would be nice if they were consistent, but I'll roll with it. Ha! I am just full of ball puns today...
So I made these date balls to show the front office that you can have a sweet but healthy (or at least healthier) treat and that just because something's sweet, doesn't mean it's unhealthy. (I'm angling to get low fat brownies allowed, but not sure how that will go over). The other great thing about this recipe is that it's dairy-free and doesn't have nuts (at least the original recipe), so it's safe to serve anyone who has a milk or nut allergy.
Now, I didn't have raw cacao powder and just used regular cocoa powder, so I'm not sure what the taste difference would be, but I wasn't about to go searching for raw cacao powder. I just didn't have it in me. So, here's the recipe from Bon Appetit, with my modifications noted after.
Cocoa-Date Truffles (from the June 2012 edition of Bon Appetit)
makes about 20
3 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
1 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted
3 Tbsp. (or more) unsweetened, shredded coconut or quick-cooking oats
pinch of sea salt
Flavoring Options (choose one)
1 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
Coating Options (mix and match)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup lightly toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup crushed, lightly toasted pistachios
1/2 cup crushed, lightly toasted hazelnuts
Puree cacao powder, dates, 3 Tbsp coconut, and salt in a food processor until almost smooth, adding water by teaspoonfuls if too dry and crumbly and coconut by teaspoonfuls if too wet and sticky (the original consistently will be determined by how moist your dates are). Add desired flavoring and pulse to combine.
Scoop date puree by the tablespoonful and roll into 1" balls. Can be made up to one week ahead. Cover and chill.
Roll truffles in desired coatings to cover.
From Bon Appetit: Raw cacao powder and unsweetened, shredded coconut can be found at natural food stores, specialty food stores and some supermarkets.
Marna's notes: Instead of the coconut or oats, I added 2 Tbsp of walnut butter plus 1/4 cup of finely chopped, toasted walnuts. Plus, as mentioned earlier, I didn't have raw cacao powder and just used regular unsweetened cocoa instead. I ended up having to add about 2 Tbsp of water to get things to a consistency where I could shape the mixture into balls. In terms of servings, I used a tablespoon scoop and only got about 12 balls, so you could make them smaller to get more, or just count on this making less than you originally thought (or double the recipe).