Friday, September 29, 2006

In Search of Vegan Truffles

A few times a year I make chocolate truffles to sell to friends and neighbors and coworkers. It's my little cottage industry that helps me pay for things like Zingerman's special dinners, or my upcoming trip to Chicago. I know a couple of people who are vegan or otherwise sensitive to dairy, and they asked if I'd thought about making vegan truffles. Not one to turn down a challenge, I started looking in to it.

For dark chocolate truffles like I make, the main non-vegan ingredient is the cream. Cream brings both a liquid component and fat to the truffle equation. There are lots of other liquids you could use for truffles, but most of them don't have enough fat. Even soy cream subsitutes are lower in fat than the real thing. But coconut milk is a high fat liquid that at least one vegan truffle maker uses, so I decided to give that a try.

But then I found out that not all sugar is vegan! So that added another wrinkle to the project, since most chocolate contains sugar, and ingredient lists don't often specify whether it is bone-char processed... So I needed to figure out what chocolates were safe. Fortunately, this was easy enough, using the power of the Internet.

I went off to my local natural foods store and picked up a bar of Green&Black 72% baking chocolate to experiment with. On its own, I'm sad to say the stuff tasted pretty nasty, with a lot of heavy green notes. A little bit of greenness can be nice in a chocolate, but this was over the top. It was slightly better when made into truffles, but I wasn't happy with the results.

So this week I grabbed a couple different bars and did a taste test.

Fortunately, both of these chocolates were better tasted plain than the first one I tried, so I was already off to a better start. Alone, I had a slight preference for the Endangered Species Supreme Dark Chocolate - it was a little rounder, a little sweeter, and had an interesting sort of nutty-coffee thing going on in the background. The Terra Nostra Organic 72% Intense Dark seemed darker and edgier and sharper, but with just a hint of what I hadn't liked in the first one. My fellow tasters were mixed in their preferences, so it was clear we needed to take it to the next step - an actual comparison of ganaches.

The most surprising thing in the ganache making was the color. The Terra Nostra, which tasted so much darker, was actually surprisingly light colored as a ganache. Odd. It was also far, far superior in taste. The nutty-coffee thing in the Endangered Species overpowered the coconut milk and coconut extract in the ganache, whereas the Terra Nostra ganache was nicely integrated. Ding-ding-ding! We have a winner.


Kate said...

Tammy Hi!

I've just been looking for vegan chocolate truffle recipes and came across your blog. I'm thinking of making truffles for christmas presents but my boyfriend is lactose intolerant, bit harsh to give them to everyone but him... have found a chocolate that's quite good (fortunately the sugar isn't a problem) but do you think you could send me your recipe to or post it here as i'd much rather use the coconut milk/cream alternative than the tofu options...

that would be so great!

Tammy said...

I'm still perfecting the recipe, but this simple recipe will certainly meet your needs. Basically the ratio of chocolate to coconut milk is 1:1.5, just like for a standard truffle ganache. To that, you can add other flavorings to taste.

Here a sample recipe, but you can make it as small as you need - it's the ratio that's important. This recipe makes about 50-60 small truffles.
12 oz chocolate (60%-70% cocoa)
8 oz coconut milk
up to 4 tbsp liqueur or other flavoring*

*Note: if you're using an extract, you'll probably only need a tsp at the most. Start small and taste till it's right. Some liquids may benefit from being reduced first, so you get more flavor without making your ganache too soft and hard to work with - I do this with the raspberry wine I use, and it works really well.

As for mixing, I've been using the method where I chop the chocolate and pour the hot cream overtop, but I seem to be getting lots of unmelted bits lately, so I think I'm going to switch to melting the butter and heating the cream and combining them in their liquid states. Add the flavoring after the ganache is fully emulsified.

Let the ganache set up, form into balls, and do whatever you're planning to do with them - dip in tempered chocolate for a shiny coat, or, if you don't like to temper, just dip in plain melted chocolate then roll in shredded coconut or cocoa or whatever, depending the flavor you're making.

Hope that helps! Please report back with your results!

Anonymous said...

I realize this post is really old, but I wanted to chime in regarding issues melting chocolate with the coconut milk. I've noticed the more additives/emulsifiers a chocolate has, the more issues with melting. also, the temperature a chocolate was "tempered" at can change the thickness and made it harder, so it will not melt as well.