Updated: Oct 9, 2018
Quick to whip up, these little nibbles are ideal for satisfying that mid-afternoon sweet craving.
A while ago, we were given a bag of hazelnuts in their shells. Since then, I've been slowly working my way through them, shelling as I go. I have used them in mueslis and other cereals, made some dukkah, and even made my own version of a certain popular chocolate hazelnut spread (you know the one!). For the last of the bag, I wanted to try a take on this spread, but in "bliss ball" form.
Now I know that there are a lot of recipes out there that say "refined sugar free", but that doesn't mean they are sugar free - it just means that there are no processed sugars (such as white table sugar, brown sugar, that kind of thing) in the recipe. Many of these recipes use other forms of sugar to sweeten - maple syrup, rice malt syrup, and dates for example. Make no mistake these are still sugars, and your body digests and absorbs them the same way, but they can impart a different flavour to a recipe, and also help to bind little bites like these together.
I have used dates in this recipe, the softer Medjool kind, and their stickiness helps to make these balls stay in one piece. I have tried to make the recipe a bit less date-y in flavour though! Dates can dominate sometimes, but I found the addition of some nut butter, enough cocoa powder and a little salt toned this down nicely. The addition of the ground chia seeds also helps to bind the mixture, and adds some fibre, protein and omega 3 fats.
A food processor is the easiest way to chop the hazelnuts, but you could chop them by hand, using a cook's knife and maybe also a rolling pin to crush them finer. I have used a mild-flavoured nut butter in this recipe - Forty Thieves Salted Macadamia - but any cashew or almond butter (or similar) would be fine. I haven't used peanut butter for two reasons; I can't eat it (sob), and I find the flavour is too strong and it would likely overwhelm the hazelnuts anyway. Before making this recipe, be sure to toast the shelled hazelnuts in the oven at around 170℃ for approximately 10 minutes, watching carefully for the last few minutes to ensure they don't burn. Allow them to cool a bit, then rub off the skins, either in your hands, or with a tea towel.
(makes 14 bites)
1/2 cup chopped Medjool dates
3 tablespoons boiling water
1 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
3 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons nut butter
3 tablespoons ground chia seeds
a good pinch of salt
Put the dates into a small bowl and cover with the boiling water. Put your toasted hazelnuts into the food processor and whizz until you get a good mix of slightly chunkier bits and finer crumbs. Mash the dates with a fork, mixing into a paste. Measure out 3/4 of a cup of the hazelnuts and add to the date mixture, along with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well until combined. Roll the mixture into balls and roll in the remaining 1/4 cup of chopped hazelnuts. Keep these little bites in the fridge and enjoy!