Blonde Bliss Balls
Vegan/almost vegan; no gluten, dairy, soy; with options for cane sugar
Like coconut ice without all the sugar. Pretty white balls are flecked with the bright red of dried fruit. Make them in minutes – a good project for children, and a lovely hostess or festive gift in bags tied with red ribbons. Best stored in the refrigerator, but they won’t ooze if left out. They keep for weeks and are great to have on hand for surprise guests, lunch boxes, and soulful snacking.
Truffle-like Bliss Balls are very trendy: small, healthy nuggets of nuts and dried fruit. They are usually vegan and often raw. Nuts and dried fruit are great sources of blood sugar-balancing protein, brain-nourishing fats, weight-regulating soluble and insoluble fibre, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc and other micronutrients.
This recipe is a tweaked version of one given to me by my colleague Margot Watson, who created her version from a recipe by Libby Weaver.
85 ml (12 Tbsp) coconut oil*
4 Tbsp honey (not vegan so if preferred replace with maple syrup or agave syrup*)
2 cups shredded or desiccated coconut
1 cup almond flour* or almond meal
1½ tsp vanilla extract*
pinch of sea salt
½ cup dried cranberries (has cane sugar) or dried cherries (from health stores) or freeze dried raspberries (in speciality stores and good supermarkets)
Over low heat melt the coconut oil and stir in honey just to melt. In food processor place the coconut, almond flour, vanilla, salt and oil mixture. Process until well combined.
Add your choice of dried fruit and briefly process – you want flecks of bright red rather than a unified mush. Mixture will be moist and sticky. Roll into 3 cm (1”) balls. Store in a covered container. The balls will firm within 1 hour and firm further with more chilling. Keeps for weeks.
Shopping and Preparation Tips*
• Agave nectar: is also called agave syrup. It is obtained from a type of succulent and member of the yucca family. Juice is extracted from the core. The same plant when fermented produces tequila. Agave nectar is caramel in colour, taste and viscosity; available from health stores but fairly expensive. Look for organic agave that has been treated at low temperatures, otherwise it can be as processed and high in fructose as corn syrup. Agave is sweeter than sugar and low GI. But a diet high in fructose is associated with poor liver function, abdominal weight gain, high blood fats and uric acid.
• Almond flour: very finely ground from dried, blanched, skinless almonds will give the best result. This makes it act and bind more like flour than just ground nuts or almond meal (which gives a crumbly texture). Purchase from health stores or more economically online, such as www.nutsonline.co.nz
• Coconut oil: white, solid and available in jars from health stores and most supermarkets. Best quality is virgin or cold-pressed and organic, such as Ceres brand. Flavour and aroma should be mild. Less prone to oxidation and damage by heat than most other cooking oils. High in medium-chain fatty acids such as lauric acid, which can enhance immunity through antiviral and antibacterial benefits. Most oils and fats contain long chain fatty acids that are harder to break down and more readily stored as fat. Use to replace oil or butter in recipes.
• Vanilla and other Extracts: use top quality vanilla without artificial additives; it and other real flavours such as almond are often termed extract (as opposed to faux essence, often labelled ‘vanillin’). Good brands available locally and overseas are: Heilala Vanilla and Equagold. These are in most supermarkets and health stores.