Chocolate Nut Fudge
About 50 tiny pieces
Vegan; no gluten, dairy, soy, cane sugar – or cooking required
Really, really good. The results are gourmet while the skill level required is primary school. Two colleagues – Linda Outhwaite and Jamie Smith – inspired me with their versions of this super simple and luscious confection. The high cocoa density adds a caffeinated thrill – as well as ample magnesium, calcium, iron and antioxidants. Among the latter are phenols linked with lowering high blood pressure. Some studies show this effect is negated if the chocolate includes milk, which seems to impede absorption. One type of phenol is flavonoids including (yes, another sub-category) epicatechins. These score impressively on the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score. This is used to assess how much power an antioxidant has for preventing destruction from free radicals. In excess free radicals are involved with premature ageing and disease.
Most people’s biggest serve of free radicals comes from smoking, sun damage and eating damaged fats. People with high blood levels of flavonoids have less risk of heart disease (especially oxidised – or damaged – arterial plaques), lung cancer, prostate cancer, asthma, and Type 2 diabetes. For the finest quality cocoa powder try raw cacao powder. Different spelling (the latter uses the original Spanish), same cocoa bean plant, but less processed and not roasted. It is more expensive and has an ultra rich taste. Ground beans are cold-pressed to release their oil (cocoa/cacao butter). The dry remains are pulverised and sieved. Purchase from gourmet and health stores. The mixture can be prepared in minutes without cooking and is a good recipe for children to make. Keep the fudge refrigerated where it can last for weeks. At room temperature the fudge holds its shape but is very soft. It will ooze under hot conditions. This would probably make a fabulous ganache-style filling or icing for cakes. The peanut butter taste is surprisingly subtle.
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup coconut oil*
½ cup crunchy peanut butter*
¼ cup agave syrup or maple syrup – or mild honey, but this is not vegan
1 tsp vanilla extract*
If the kitchen is warm simply bring all ingredients to room temperature to soften. Combine with a fork. Under cold conditions the coconut oil can be briefly and gently liquefied over very low heat (add the honey if this is hard too). Remove from the stove and stir in the remaining ingredients until there are no lumps. If you are using a nut butter without salt, add ½ tsp sea salt to the mixture. Saltiness helps lower the need for a sweetener such as honey. Using crunchy nut butter is important for contrasting texture and visual appeal.
Pour into a small square or rectangular plastic tub about 10 x 15 cm (6” x 4”). Whatever size container, the mixture should be about 1½ cm deep (1/2”). Cover.
To speed the firming process, this can be put in the freezer for two hours. Then store in the refrigerator. Slicing is best done once it has softened slightly in the fridge. Slice into 10 rows by 5. This will yield 50 tiny squares 1½ cm wide and high. Or slice as preferred. If sliced directly from the freezer, pieces can break. (Sorry, you are required to eat what crumbles.) Without refrigeration, pieces will hold their shape but be very soft. This is fine for transport to work or school, but the taste and texture are better with chilling.
When entertaining, immediately before serving, place the fudge on a chilled platter with small pieces of fresh fruit such as berries, melon, pawpaw or grapes. Or scatter the fudge with freeze-dried whole raspberries. These are in gourmet stores and many supermarkets; expensive, but crunchy and intensely flavoured so very few are needed.
Shopping and Preparation Tips*
• 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.
• Nut butter: peanut butter is the well known example, but also in most supermarkets are almond butter and cashew butter. Ceres’ brand is organic and has no sugar, artificial additives or highly processed fats unlike most other brands. Health stores also offer hazelnut, macadamia, sunflower, brazil and walnut butters – some are stiff (eg walnut) and some are runny (eg macadamia).
• 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.