I have to admit, as a natural food enthusiast, Halloween really puts me in quite a quandary. On one hand, I love the mild madness that ensues around this time of year. The costumes, the parties, the creativity, the (idea of) candyland-come-true . . . clearly there’s some serious residual little-kid excitement in full force here. The irony is that much of what Halloween is about (conventional candy . . . and lots of it) is basically my nemesis. It’s not a matter of fun-size package denial, it’s a matter of reality: hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, red #5, or any ingredient made in a labcoat for that matter, generally equates to things humans should not consume.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to pull a scrooge moment. I understand this isn’t the time of year to tout the benefits of things like toothbrushes, raisins, or a nice apple. But don’t you worry; I’ve got plans for us. Better plans. Plans like, ahem, chocolate hazelnut plans. And while these chocolate hazelnut plans may still totally reside in the treat category (aka – don’t eat the whole recipe in one serving . . . everyday), this dessert is billions of times more beneficial than traditional Halloween fare. Aside from using clean natural ingredients, it’s full of superfoods too. Raw cacao powder lends its copious antioxidant content and abundant minerals, and the chocolate coating utilizes the natural sweetness of mesquite powder (the milled mesquite pods from a low-lying South American shrub) making the exterior especially low in sugars. I’ve even snuck a little bit of optional adrenal-supporting maca powder into the filling of these candies, perhaps as a preemptive healthy strike against any conventional sugary “incidents.”
Needless to say, these candies are an all-around “yes.” The exterior chocolate coating will remain solid at room temperature, and the inside pocket is a soft, sweet blend of cacao and hazelnuts. You can use ice cube trays for as molds for these, or get fancified and use real-deal candy molds with deep vessels to properly contain the filling. If using candy molds, double the amount of chocolate coating that the recipe calls for (the filling will remain the same). Short on time? Simply melt down a dark chocolate bar and use as the exterior coating instead of the raw chocolate recipe below.
Double Chocolate Hazelnut Candies
For the filling:
½ cup hazelnuts
¾ cup medjool dates (about 6-7 large), pits removed
1/3 cup cacao powder
½ teaspoon maca powder (optional)
1 tablespoon melted cacao butter (use a double boiler to melt)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
For the chocolate:
½ cup melted cacao butter (use a double boiler to melt)
¼ cup cacao powder
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon mesquite powder
1 teaspoon agave nectar
To make the filling, use a small food processor to blend the filling ingredients into a smooth paste. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides, if needed, to ensure proper blending. This may take a few minutes to get as smooth as possible.
To make the chocolate, whisk the powders and agave into the cacao butter until thoroughly combined. Using ice cube trays or candy molds* pour a small amount of chocolate into each vessel, then gently rotate the tray on an angle and in a circle to coax the chocolate into covering the sides of the vessels in a thin layer (alternately, use a small brush to paint the sides with chocolate). Place in the freezer for 5 minutes to form a hard shell.
Remove the trays from the freezer and place a small ball of the filling into the center of each cavity. Gently flatten so that the filling remains below the level of the tray and does not stick out. Pour the remaining chocolate** on top of the filling to fill each vessel, and return the trays to the freezer for 10 more minutes, or until solid. Pop out of trays and serve.
*Recipe yields about 4 full candy trays or 1 ice cube tray… though exact number of candies depends entirely on size of tray used.
**If remaining chocolate has begun to solidify too soon (which can happen in colder climates), float the vessel holding the chocolate in a small bowl of boiling water to slowly re-melt it into a liquid.