Reap the Health Benefits of Cacao with Herbal Dark Chocolate Truffles
These herbal chocolate truffles are dark, rich, coated with herbs and so delicious. If you choose the best chocolate, your truffles will also be organic, vegan, fair trade, gluten-free and loaded with the health benefits of cacao! The herbal coating on these dark chocolate truffles gives them an extra boost! How’s that for a guilt-free indulgence?
Health Benefits of Cacao
Used for millennia as food, medicine, and even currency, chocolate comes from the seed of a tropical evergreen tree known as Theobroma cacao. Theo or theo means “god” and broma means “food.” Chocolate, the common name of this “food of the gods,” comes from the Aztec name, chócolatl. Scientific analysis of ancient pottery shows that chocolate or cacao beverages were being consumed in the Americas before 1000 B.C. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs combined chili peppers and other spices with cacao to make a beverage to improve stamina on long journeys. They also considered this dark rich food a “love tonic.” When cacao was introduced to Europe in the 1500’s sugar and vanilla were added to create what is more often referred to today, as chocolate. Those ancient peoples were on to something; today we have a better understanding of the health benefits of cacao.
Before I say more, keep in mind that to optimize the health benefits of cacao your chocolate should be dark, ideally with a cacao content of 80% or more and low in sugar. Cacao is an antioxidant, heart and cardiovascular tonic and nervous system stimulant. It is also rich in vitamins (B complex and E), trace elements and beneficial amino acids.
As for its effects on the cardiovascular system and heart health, clinical trials and epidemiological studies show that consuming dark chocolate may improve the health of the lining of blood vessels and heart, balance blood pressure, and have a beneficial effect on cholesterol and glucose/insulin. One recent study showed that dark chocolate consumption has a positive effect on brain function and cognition in elderly people with vascular risks.
Cacao’s stimulating effects on the nervous system and it’s mood-lifting effects are due in part to its caffeine content. However, it also contains other stimulants, including one very interesting compound called phenylethylamine or PEA. This compound is also found in the human brain where it acts as a neurotransmitter, releasing the feel-good hormone dopamine and endorphins to produce an anti-depressant effect. Often referred to as the “love-drug,” some scientists believe that PEA is responsible for the euphoric, intoxicated feeling we have when we fall in love. It seems our brains may be hard-wired for a love affair with chocolate!
Herbal Dark Chocolate Truffle Recipe
In this recipe for the optimum in dark chocolate goodness, I used Pascha’s Organic Dark Chocolate Chips, which are 85% cacao, vegan, kosher, paleo-certified, and Non-GMO project certified!
17 – 18 ounces dark chocolate chips
¾ cup + 1 tbsp full fat coconut milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
Dried rose petals, lavender flowers, dried raspberries, dried blueberries, and one of my favorite aromatic tea blends, White Tea Rose Mélange.
Place the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl and set aside. Gently heat the coconut milk in a small sauce pan until tiny bubbles form. Remove from the heat before it boils and pour over the chocolate chips. Cover the mixing bowl and allow the chocolate and coconut milk to sit undisturbed for approximately 5 minutes. The chocolate will soften and melt from the heat of the coconut milk. Stir gently until with a spoon until the chocolate is fully melted. If any small chunks of chocolate remain, set the mixing bowl in the microwave for short bursts, 15-20 seconds, and stir until the chocolate is smooth and creamy. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover the mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator for 1-1.5 hours. To test for readiness, a knife stuck in the middle of the bowl should go in easily but come out clean.
While the chocolate is firming up, prepare your coating. With the truffles you see here, I used three different coatings, dried rose petals crumbled with freeze-dried raspberries, dried lavender flowers crumbled with freeze-dried blueberries, and White Tea Rose Mélange crumbled into small pieces. Place each of your toppings in a small bowl.
Once the chocolate is reasonably firm, scoop out rounded mounds using a one tablespoon cookie scoop or a tablespoon. Dipping the spoon in hot water makes it easier to scoop the firm chocolate. Use your hands to roll the mounds into even balls and place each ball in one of the small bowls. Gently swirl the chocolate ball in the crumbled coating until it is fully covered. Admire your beautiful herbal chocolate truffle.
Store your truffles in an air-tight container in the fridge and remove 10 – 15 minutes before serving so they have time to soften slightly.
These herbal chocolate truffles are outrageously rich and delicious – and because of the health benefits of cacao, they’re good for you too. I highly recommend you share them with your besties and beloveds. Next time you whip up a batch, be sure to snap a picture, tag it #nectarherbandtea and post it to Instagram. We love seeing your herbaceous creations.