Made Ya Look! 😉
Valentine’s Day is a favorite of mine, whether I’m in a relationship or single. I absolutely and completely love all things heart-shaped. Especially chocolate! The minute those Russell Stover chocolate-covered marshmallow hearts came out for Valentine’s Day (nowadays sometime around New Years Eve) I would buy up way too many, and devour them like I was about to develop an allergy to chocolate.
And then, of course, I developed an allergy to chocolate. (Hey, don’t feel bad for me, it just means there’s more for you!)
I’ve lived with various food allergies all of my life, so I’m accustomed to adjusting to changes. It’s probably why I think of myself as a Food Puzzler, because as new ones pop up, I look for ways to reproduce the textures and flavors with foods I can eat.
Then came a trip to Lititz, PA and a visit to the wonderful Wilbur Chocolates. (What harm could here be in my getting ‘souvenirs’ for family, right?) There is a museum within the store:
Among all of the artifacts and historic pieces, the museum shows short videos outlining chocolate’s origins as well as the journey from cacao bean to edible treat. Suddenly, watching the process, I realized that my allergy might be for cocoa butter, the protein. If that was right, unsweetened cocoa was still an option for me.
So began my developing love affair with dates, my food processor, vanilla and unsweetened cocoa. It turns out that the creamy caramel-iness of dates, combined with vanilla, salt and cocoa, have a texture and flavor incredibly similar to chocolate ganache. Perfect for truffles, brigadiero* and homemade Larabars.
But why stop at dates? There are plenty of dried fruits that offer myriad color, nutrients and flavors. In this case, I used 1/2 cup of leftover dried cranberries as the center of Larabar-inspired Valentine treats, but feel free to use your favorites–apricots, pineapple, mango, raisins, dried plums… There’s plenty of ways to play and ENJOY! More on that in a later post 😊
A Valentine Threesome
Copyright 2016 Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)
Prep time: 1 hour
Inactive time: 1 hour
Servings: approximately 15*
~ 1 cup dried cranberries
~ Three 10 ounce containers of dates, pitted and de-stemmed. (If purchasing pitted dates, cut each in half to ensure that there are no remaining pits or stems. In each 10 ounce container of pitted dates, I usually get 10 stems and 1-2 pits.)
~ 3 tablespoons vanilla
~ Pinch salt
~ 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
small (1-1 1/2″ sized) heart-shaped cookie cutout
cookie sheet pan
1. In a food processor, pulse the dried cranberries until the mixture balls up like a dough, place between two pieces of parchment paper and roll to 1/4″ thickness. With the small heart-shaped cookie cutout, cut out heart shapes, re-roll the scraps and keep making hearts until the mixture is used up, then set aside.
2. In a food processor, place the remaining ingredients in three batches, pulsing until a ball forms. Place each ball into one large bowl and knead for a minute to get everything blended together.
3. Place this second mixture between two pieces of parchment paper and roll to 1/4″ thickness. This mixture is denser than the one with dried cranberries, it will take a little more time.
4. Use a sharp knife to make a rectangle from the date mixture, and set the scraps aside to make brigadero (see step 8 below).
5. Use the same knife to mark the rectangle into 9 separate pieces, then cut the pieces completely. Place a heart-shaped cutout in the center of each rectangle and cut out the piece, placing it aside with the cranberry hearts.
6. In the place of the date hearts, place a cranberry heart inside each of the date rectangles and smooth out.
7. Next, coat each date heart and any remaining cranberry hearts in cocoa powder, dust off and set aside.
8. Lastly, divide the remaining date mixture into equal pieces and roll each piece into balls. Then, roll each ball in chocolate sprinkles.
9. Freeze the pieces for an hour, then place in air-tight containers. They’re ready to serve, and also hold up well in the fridge and freezer. Please note that you should only store these treats for 1-2 months if you refrigerate or freeze.
* I calculate the serving size based on each Larabar-style piece as one serving, two of the brigadero as one serving, and three of the heart-shaped truffles as one serving.