Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
My relationship with Valentines Day is complicated. I am always ambivalent about this “Hallmark holiday,” waffling between protesting the naked commercialism it’s based on and embracing an opportunity to treat the people I love with a little something special. Valentine’s Day also lands firmly in my New Year’s “get back on track” time frame, so the temptation of a bowlful of chocolate mousse or a pile of pink-frosted sugar cookies while I’m trying to shed some holiday weight has contributed to my decidedly mixed feelings about the occasion.
Some years, Valentine’s Day means I cry uncle and eat steak and lobster with wild abandon. Other years, I’m virtuous and disciplined, asking my loved ones to gift me with dried fruit as a special treat. Please note: there are few things sadder than eating dried apricots as a Valentine’s Day treat, good health notwithstanding.
This year, I may have cracked the code and found a way to eat something healthy and still do something festive and fun. Of all the treats I might want Cupid to provide, chocolate truffles are at the top of my list. There’s just something so decadent and wonderful about a perfect truffle.
In my quest for healthful eating, I’ve made several variations on candy and treats, including truffles, that start with dates as a base. Dates are sweet and provide something of a candy-like texture, but after awhile, all the treats start to taste the same; the date flavor simply overpowers whatever it’s paired with. Ditto for banana-based healthy goodies. So, for this treat, I started with an apple. Apple flavor is much more subtle, and when it’s paired with a strong flavor like cocoa, it fades into the background. The result is a treat that’s much less sweet and much more chocolaty than its date- and banana-based cousins.
On my first try, I made these truffles without any topping, and while they more than satisfied my ever-present craving for chocolate, they were pretty hard core, and I decided that I wanted them to be a little sweeter. So, I concocted a peanut butter drizzle and found that the addition gave just the right amount of sweetness and contrast to the cocoa powder. Topped with chopped nuts and it was pure palate perfection! If I were giving these to a friend with a strong sweet tooth, I would probably opt to press the cocoa mixture into a pan, top it with a triple (or even quadruple) batch of the topping, and cut it into squares of fudge rather than making traditional truffles. They wouldn’t be quite as healthy that way, but they’d be pretty delicious.
This year, I’ll whip up a batch of these for my Valentine, and smile knowing I’m giving him a treat that’s good for both his taste buds and his health. It’s the perfect way to show my love, no matter what day it is.
Healthy apple cocoa truffles
For the truffles:
1 medium-sized apple, peeled, cored and chopped (use a sweet variety like Honey Crisp or Braeburn)
½ cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons peanut butter
For the topping:
2 tablespoons white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon peanut butter
¼ cup chopped peanuts
In a microwave safe, covered container microwave the apples for about 60 seconds. Mash the apple with a fork until it’s a smooth, uniform consistency with no large lumps, microwaving for additional time in 15 second increments if needed. Stir in the remaining truffle ingredients until smooth and well combined. Chill for one hour.
After chilling, roll truffles into balls, using roughly a teaspoon and a half of the mixture for each truffle. (The mixture is a little sticky, so your hands will likely get a bit messy in this process.) Chill the truffles. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate chips and peanut butter together in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth. Dip truffles in peanut butter mixture, then dip in chopped peanuts. Chill the truffles for one hour before serving. Store truffles in the refrigerator.