They say you shouldn’t mix water with chocolate. They are usually correct. But not always
Last week, I decided I would spend seven days … a whole week … abstaining from all things chocolate. No chocolate, no cacao, not even in my post-workout protein shake. I would not even work with chocolate in the kitchen. No melting, tempering, dipping, or coating of any kind. Just to see what would happen. You see, I can’t imagine a life without cacao. The stars would dim and die. The air would grow thin. My universe would implode. Totally. I love it that much.
But what does that mean? What is the source of this passion? Food cravings or a genuine love of the bean?
I’m currently eating and training to gain quite a lot of lean tissue, without gaining fat. Big ask. A seriously big ask for me. Honestly, it would be a lot easier if I just popped down to my local butcher and bought kilos of trimmed eye fillet steak and made a skirt to wear. Except that this would be insane. In a Lady Gaga kind of insanity I’m just not prepared for now 😀 So, I literally force feed myself because training is, by comparison, the easy part. I’ll always turn up for a workout unless I’m seriously incapacitated. Eat eat eat it is then. But I love to experiment with my diet. Going sugar-free isn’t so hard. Despite my love of baking, I don’t have the sweet tooth I once had, and limiting or eliminating refined sugars isn’t that big a deal for me. I feel great. Forget all the hyperbole about going sugar-free. The best part? You start to appreciate the natural sweetness in foods you may not initially think of as being sweet. But chocolate? If you follow this blog, you know I love the good stuff … and I like it really dark. It’s clear I’m not addicted to the sugar. So what am I addicted to? The magnesium? Maybe.
What did I discover during that week?
I’m not actually addicted to eating chocolate. I didn’t have any cravings to eat chocolate at all. In the first few days I found myself reaching for it, but thinking “I don’t actually want to eat it, I just need to know it’s there”.
Let me give you some context. I have over ten kilograms of chocolate and cacao in my house at any given time, spread across three rooms, often in full view. Yes, I really really really love my chocolate. Yet, I was able to abstain from consuming it, without a hitch. Yes. Even I’m impressed. But I missed it’s company. I felt like I’d betrayed my best friend. Like I was giving it the cold shoulder. I was despondent. We were such a good team. I even apologised to a bag of Valrhona couverture (the Araguani, my fave). Yes, that’s pathetic, and yes, I did do that. But I survived the week intact. With the knowledge that I’m more emotionally attached to cacao than is probably normal, and I do appreciate it’s aromas and flavours and subtlety, but it’s not a food craving of mine.
So now? I’m happy to have my chocolate and appreciate it even more, but I find I’m eating much less of it. Since getting back on the cacao choo-choo train, I’ve only had two squares of chocolate (the divine Michel Cluizel Vila Gracinda … it’s like warm buttered toast). But I feel good about being around it again and playing with it in the kitchen. The aroma of melted chocolate, of fresh cacao when you toss truffles into it, to coat them … I’m a happy camper again.
With a genuine, passionate love of the cacao bean. Validated. I don’t care if it’s weird. There are worse things one could do … like make clothing out of steak, for instance 😉
Truffles. That’s my mission this week. Because I’m on my health kick and need to cram in some more protein when my appetite isn’t looking, protein truffles sound like a damn fine idea. Low in saturated fat and low carb … almost no carb one might say. So I can scoff them any day.
I wanted them to be as creamy as possible without adding anything creamy to them. A blend of micellar casein and rice protein isolate gives you a sweet creaminess and soft texture. I love Amaretto so I added a little almond and natural almond extract. OK I added quite a bit of almond extract … and water. You can use almond milk or dairy milk if you like. But water works really well and doesn’t distract from the flavour. The casein adds a nice creamy flavour anyway. The addition of a little cacao butter doesn’t add a lot of fat but it does add a little depth to the chocolatey-ness, flavour, and texture. You can adapt these to any flavour you like using other nuts, adding pure peppermint oil instead of the almond extract, or a little coffee, spices, chilli, anything. You could also dip these in some dark chocolate but that would impact on the macros.
They’re very intensely chocolate and amaretto flavoured and, considering the lack of any sweetener, they are sweet enough. Delish. The sea salt is enough to intensify the chocolate and bring out the sweetness of the nuts and protein powders. If you are a slave to your sweet tooth and need more, add a little sweetener of your choice.
Proper truffles coming up soon.
Macros are provided at the end of the recipe. A serving of three truffles provides 113 kCals, 9.3g protein, 7.8g fat (1.2g sat), 1.8g carbs (0.6g sugars), and 2.4g dietary fibre.
Makes 24 standard truffles (or make large ones)
30 grams unsweetened cacao (raw or good quality)
30 grams unflavoured micellar casein* (I use Professional Whey Micellar Casein)
30 grams unflavoured brown rice protein* (I use SunWarrior)
40 grams almond meal
55 grams 100% almond butter
12 grams cacao butter**
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, bean paste, or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1/2 – 1 teaspoon natural almond extract/essence (I use two!)
a pinch of sea salt
water (or almond milk)
*If using a flavoured casein, I’d recommend chocolate or vanilla. The same is true for the brown rice protein.
** Cacao butter is the fat in the cacao bean. It is much more widely available now, particularly in health food and organic stores. Brands selling raw cacao and cacao beans and nibs usually sell the cacao butter too. If you really cannot find it (yes, you can!), then substitute a little coconut oil or organic butter.
Melt the cacao butter in a heatproof bowl in a microwave for about 1 minute, or set the bowl in a larger container of boiling water, until it melts.
Place all ingredients, except the water, into a mixing bowl. Mix on a low to medium speed until it starts to form clumps – a bit like dough before adding moisture. As you mix, add water (or milk) a little at a time, until the mixture forms a thick paste, like a set ganache. By a little, I really mean about a tablespoon or so at a time. Don’t overdo it or you’ll end up with batter
Refrigerate the mixture for about 15 minutes. Roll into truffle sized balls and toss in a little extra cacao.
Store the truffles in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They are at their best if you let them sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours or overnight before eating. Sometimes it’s just too hard to wait that long though 😀
Macros for protein powders are based on the ones I have used. There might be slight variations between brands, but if using unflavoured casein and rice protein isolate, the differences will be very slight.
If you use milk instead of water, or add any sweetener, you will have to factor that into the macronutrient count.