While some may ask, “Why make chocolate when it’s so much easier to buy it?”

I ask, “Where’s the fun in that?” Plus I really love gourmet dark chocolate bars, the ones made with exotic flavors and textures. But, they can cost five dollars a bar, sometimes more.

I set out to see if it was even possible to make chocolate from scratch. Now, because the chocolate used for candy-making sometimes requires heat tempering, (a special process which preserves the shiny, dark appearance), I figured that making it was going to be complicated and time-consuming. Wrong! No kidding – you can easily whip up a batch in under 30 minutes. Mind. Blown.

And, creating chocolate from scratch allows you to tailor ingredients to satisfy your own personal tastes, and you can modify it in so many ways!

For instance, I’ve been reducing my intake of refined sugar lately. It has really worked wonders for me, in eliminating cravings, and keeping post-treat crashes at bay. I’ve found that honey and maple syrup work really well as sugar replacements. So I’ve used them in this recipe.

As for the rest of the ingredients, there are only 3 basic elements in chocolate: cacao/cocoa powder, cacao/cocoa butter and sweetener.

Cacao butter

What’s the difference between cocoa and cacao? Put simply, cocoa and cacao butters are both vegetable fats derived from the cacao bean. Cacao powder differs from cocoa powder in that it’s less processed, considered more pure, and is also processed under lower heat, therefore is considered a “raw” food. There is a barely-noticeable difference in taste and texture, and cocoa does cost a bit less. Also, some say that cacao is more nutritious. They use words like flavonoids and phytic acid… but… snore… I went to sleep after reading about those. If you’re interested, check out this site.

From there, any flavors or extras are what make your chocolates your signature. Do you like peanuts better than almonds? Add some! Or add raisins or craisins. Swap out the vanilla with mint, orange or rum flavorings. You can even add spices or powdered flavors: instant espresso, cinnamon, red chili powder, etc.

However, this is IMPORTANT:

Do not let even one drop of water get in your chocolate mixture. If you do, it will seize and become a gritty, nasty, mess. Also, don’t add things like brewed coffee, non-alcohol-based liquid flavorings, etc.

Now let’s make some chocolate!

Gourmet Salted Almond Dark Chocolates – makes 20 to 30 pieces

(Click here for printable recipe)

1 cup cacao butter (100 grams)

1 cup cacao powder  (70 grams)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup honey or maple syrup

½ cup chopped almonds, toasted

½ tsp. flaky salt

Chop almonds, and toast in a sheet pan in the oven, 350° for 8 to 10 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Melt cacao butter in a glass bowl (or double boiler) over a barely simmering pot of water. When most of the solids are melted, remove the bowl from heat. Place on a dishtowel on the counter to cool for a few minutes.

If using honey, heat in microwave for 15 seconds. This helps with incorporating the honey in the mixture, as they will have similar viscosities.

Add honey (or maple syrup, if using) to melted cacao butter, and mix well with a whisk. **It takes several minutes for the honey/syrup to combine with the cacao butter – longer than you might expect. Be sure to take the time to ensure the sweetener is well combined with the butter. If you skip this step, you will end up with unevenly sweet chocolate. You can see the honey is well mixed when it goes from being a two-toned mixture to one with tiny bubbles, or “globs” of fat, to finally being slightly cloudy.

Once the sweetener is fully incorporated, add cacao powder and vanilla. Stir well.

 

Add almonds and mix to combine.

Scoop a tablespoon or so of mixture into candy cups or mini cupcake wrappers. Top with a few flakes of sea salt.

Refrigerate until set.

Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Gourmet Salted Chocolates Recipe

Single Truffle Spoon with Ribbon

Chocolate ganache is a magical kitchen concoction. It’s an elegant cake drizzle, a silky whipped-frosting topping, and a gorgeous truffle interior. It’s versatile, impressive and deceptively easy to make. Ganache is one of those things that everyone should have at the ready. (And now that Trader Joe’s carries SHELF STABLE whipping cream, at any time, you can be 5 minutes from a perfect ganache!!)

TJs Cream

These truffles can be easily adapted to fit your taste. Craving a little spice? Add ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon or cayenne pepper to the mixture. Need a kick? Add a teaspoon of instant espresso. For a more adult flavor, 2 or 3 Tbs. flavored liquor does nicely. For texture, mix in a couple tablespoons of finely chopped nuts, crispy rice, or toffee. The possibilities are limitless.

Display of Wrapped spoons

But the best thing about these little cuties is the presentation. I received these super cute wooden ice-cream spoons in my Christmas stocking from my sister. I wanted to make chocolate nib truffles for Valentine’s Day, so the elements all came together for this treat.

Wooden Spoons

About ingredients:

Better chocolate makes for better truffles. Considering there are only 2 or 3 ingredients in these truffles, know that your chocolate will be the star. I love Belgian Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate. It’s delish all alone. In a truffle, it’s magnificent.

Cacao nibs. You may have seen them in fancy chocolate bars. Basically, they are the ‘mother’ of chocolate products – Nibs are cacao beans that have been shelled, roasted and crushed. Eventually the nibs/beans get pulverized, pressed and mixed with sugar and other ingredients to become what we know as chocolate. The slightly bitter nibs add a rich, lovely, vaguely nutty element to the truffle.

Salt. It’s all the rage to add salt to sweets – the fact that Starbucks has a ‘salted caramel hot chocolate mix’ indicates that the fad may have hit its peak. But truth be told, the salty-sweet combo is legit. Let’s face it, we like it, and we’re gonna continue to like it. (See Toffee Pretzels) That said, instead of sea salt, I use a Brava coffee flavored salt (find it here. I’ll show you how to make your own in another blog.). It adds another layer of flavor that really makes these truffles special.

Here’s how you can make these amazing chocolate ganache truffle spoons.(Click here for a printable version of the Chocolate Nib Spoon Recipe.)

Packaged spoon

Chocolate Truffle Spoons with Cocoa Nibs

Truffle Ganache Filling

  • 1½ C semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 1-2 Tbs. cacao nibs, coarsely chopped

Chocolate Coating

  • 2 C chocolate
  • 2 Tbs. shortening
  • Coarse salt (optional)

If using bar or chunk chocolate, chop coarsely. Place chocolate in a glass bowl or pitcher. Add cream. Place in microwave, and heat for 30 seconds. Stir with a whisk. Return to microwave for another 15 to 30 seconds and stir again. Repeat heating and stirring until chocolate thoroughly melts, is fully combined and glossy. Voila, ganache.

cream choc

choc in micro

stirring

Mid Stir

Note: Be careful not to overheat, as the chocolate can easily burn. Depending on your microwave, the melting process should only take about one to two minutes.

Add Cocoa Nibs

Allow to cool. To speed up the process, place in a shallow dish and refrigerate.

In order to pipe the ganache onto spoons, the mixture needs to be thick, but not so firm that it won’t pass through the pastry bag. The desired consistency is like that of frosting.

Piping bag

Place the ganache/truffle mixture into a piping bag, and pipe onto spoons. If you find the ganache is not thick enough, pop into the fridge for a few minutes. If it’s too thick, knead with warm hands for a few minutes, and it will loosen up.

pipe onto spoons

Place the piped spoons onto a parchment or waxed paper-lined tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the spoons are chilling, in a small saucepan, place 2 cups of chocolate, and 2 Tbs. vegetable shortening. Warm on low, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Piped spoons

Remove truffle spoons from fridge, and quickly dip into the melted chocolate to coat, allow to cool on waxed paper or parchment. Do this step quickly, as the warm chocolate can cause the ganache truffle to melt and fall off the spoon! (Learned that one the hard way.) Sprinkle lightly with salt and refrigerate another 5 minutes.

Dip Spoon

Fresh Salt

Delish finished spoon

Serve immediately or wrap and give as gifts. Makes 30 to 40 small spoon-sized truffles.

Variations:

Truffles on metal spoons

Use larger spoons for a larger ‘bite.’

These truffles can also be made without the spoons. Simply scoop with a spoon and roll with your hands, cool and dip in melted chocolate, or roll in cocoa powder or finely chopped nuts.

Truffle spoon on rose

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Wooden spoon truffle with ribbon

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Three Spoons on a Tray

 

 

Click here for the printable Chocolate Nib Spoon Recipe.

Enjoy!