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Nondairy chocolate desserts

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Unlikely as it may seem, it is possible to give up dairy products and still enjoy rich, even creamy, chocolate desserts. The secret is the source of the fat.

These recipes use tofu and nuts to replicate the buttery fullness so important to chocolate dishes and that typically is provided by cream, butter or eggs.

Quality of chocolate also is key, and there are some excellent dairy-free brands available. When in doubt, use dark chocolate; most of these are naturally dairy free.

If dairy allergies are a concern, read the labels carefully. Many chocolate makers use the same machines to make milk and dark chocolates and warn that their dairy-free versions can contain trace amounts of dairy products.

For the mousse, cashew nut butter is best. It has a mellow flavor but probably is the creamiest of all nut butters. If using peanut butter, it is best to add it slowly and taste as you go. The strong flavor can easily overpower the chocolate.

As for the truffles, the colder the mixture (prior to scooping out and rolling into balls) the better. In fact, after chilling it helps to put the mixture in a freezer for 15 minutes immediately before making the truffle balls.

Either way, expect to make a mess; the chocolate will get all over you.


CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

(Preparation 5 minutes, chilling time 2 to 3 hours)

12-ounce package of silken tofu (soft variety)

2 cups dairy-free chocolate chips

1/2 cup cashew nut butter (other nut butters can be substituted)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Fresh mint, raspberries or strawberries, for garnish

In a food processor, combine the tofu, cashew nut butter, vanilla and cocoa powder and puree until smooth. The mixture should have the consistency of a thick batter.

Bring a double boiler to a gentle simmer and slowly melt the chocolate chips. Add the chocolate to the mixture in the food processor and puree until smooth. The mixture should be thick, like pudding.

Pour the mixture into a bowl and chill for 2 to 3 hours. Before serving, put the mousse back in the food processor and pulse for about 1 minute until smooth. Serve garnished with fresh mint, raspberries or strawberries, as desired. Makes 4 servings.


CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

(Preparation 20 minutes, chilling time 4 hours)

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 cup almonds, dry-roasted

12-ounce package of silken tofu (soft variety)

2 cups dairy-free chocolate chips

1/2 cup cocoa powder, for garnish

1/2 cup crushed almonds, for garnish

In a saucepan, bring maple syrup to a gentle boil over a medium flame. Add the dry-roasted almonds and stir until syrup and nut mixture becomes very thick, about 12 to 14 minutes.

Spread the syrup-coated almonds on wax paper to cool. Once cool and hardened, pulverize in a food processor until the mixture resembles a coarse flour.

Set aside the nuts and use the food processor to cream the tofu. Bring a double boiler to a gentle simmer and slowly melt the chocolate chips. In a bowl, combine the chocolate and syrup and nut mixture. Fold in the tofu.

Spread the mixture in a lightly oiled shallow baking dish and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until firm. Using a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out mixture and form into small balls.

To garnish, roll each ball in either the crushed almonds or cocoa powder. Store in refrigerator. Makes 25 to 30 truffles.

Truffle recipe from The Chocolate Room at: www.veganfamily.co.uk/chocolate.html