Monday, February 13, 2012

Black Forest Chocolate-Cherry Cobbler with Quick Vegan Chocolate Sauce

This is bit of a departure from all the candy recipes I've been posting. After wearing ourselves out making fancy treats all week, here's a nice easy dessert to serve on Valentine's Day itself.  It seems very rich and decadent, but it's actually very fast and easy, and not too bad for you either. It's a good dessert to make the day after making vegan chocolate covered cherries because you can use up the rest of your can of pie filling.
Both the cobbler and the sauce work very well sugar-free, by the way.

Black Forest Cobbler

Black Forest Chocolate-Cherry Cobbler

3/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar (or sweetener)
1/2 cup cocoa or carob powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup soymilk
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp instant coffee or coffee substitute (optional)

1 can cherry pie filling (I used low sugar)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa or carob powder, instant coffee, baking powder and salt. Mix together soy milk, oil and vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Try not to over-mix.

Pour pie filling into 8 inch square baking pan. Dollop chocolate batter over pie filling, trying to distribute evenly.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until topping looks firm and dry and filling is thick and bubbly. Serve warm with a spoonful of chocolate sauce.

Makes 9 servings (and the leftovers are even better!)

Quick Chocolate Sauce:

Quick Vegan Chocolate Sauce

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar or sweetener
3 Tbsp cocoa or carob powder
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp oil (optional)
1 Tbsp chocolate or carob chips (optional)
a dash of cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp instant coffee or coffee substitute (optional)

Cook first four ingredients together in microwave or on the stovetop until thickened. This takes about a minute in the microwave.

Stir in vanilla, and rest of ingredients if using. The oil and chocolate chips add richness; leave them out for a fat free sauce.

Use immediately.  If you have to make it ahead of time, decrease the cornstarch to 1/2 Tbsp because the sauce will continue to thicken as it sits.

Cobbler with a dollop of chocolate sauce

Homemade Vegan Chocolates--Techniques and Ideas

Well, I've spent all week posting about homemade vegan chocolates, so I thought I'd do a summary post of how and why homemade chocolates can be a fun project, as well as list some general ideas of different directions you can go in.

Valentine's Day can can a tough day for singles, but it's even tougher when you can't even find comfort in the overflowing candy isles.  Being surrounded by a constant barrage of advertisements and enticements for treats you can't eat can be fairly torturous in a "water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink" kind of way.

So what's a hungry vegan to do when none of those huge cardboard hearts fit the bill? Make their own, of course.  Luckily you don't have to be a pastry chef or a master chocolatier to make something really good.

The best thing about making your own treats is you can customize them as much as you want. Need them to be low sugar? No problem, just substitute whatever sweetener you like. Got to have carob instead of chocolate? That's fine too. Gluten-free, nut free, and dairy-free (implied with the vegan of course) are all doable. And even better, you can customize them to your personal taste as well as your dietary needs. If you only make the kinds you like, there's no squinting into the box trying to figure out where the dreaded coconut is lurking. And you can make flavor combinations that aren't commercially available at all, such as raspberry hazelnut or perhaps mocha-cherry "cheesecake".

The sky's the limit, or rather, your patience is. You can make really simple or amazingly complex and impressive efforts, depending on how energetic you are. Or how deep in the doghouse you are. Homemade chocolates make a great gift/apology too. : )

Here are some options for homemade vegan valentine chocolates:

1.  Dipping various things in chocolate
The simplest form of homemade chocolate candy is probably just a basic chocolate covered fill-in-the-blank, made by melting chocolate, dipping whatever you want into it and letting it harden. There's really not much more to it. Some people like to add a little vegetable oil or shortening (or even wax!) to the chocolate to help make it shiny, or go to the trouble of tempering, but it's not totally necessary.

Chocolate Dipped Pretzels and Graham Crackers

Things that can be dipped in chocolate:
  •      fresh fruit (has to be stored in the fridge and eaten promptly)
  •     dried fruit or candied fruit (as well as candied citrus peel or ginger-yum!)
  •     candy (toffee, marshmallows, fondant, marzipan, sponge candy, brittle)
  •     cookies--ginger snaps, shortbread, basic tollhouse etc.
  •    nuts (regular, toasted, candied or spiced can be a nice touch)
  •    salty snacks (pretzels, crackers, potato chips)   

2. Clusters/Haystacks/Bark
This is even easier than dipping things, and works better for smaller items such as raisins. You just melt some chocolate and stir in some nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, cereal, coconut, or even some types of noodles. Then scoop up little clumps of the mixture and drop them on wax or parchment paper to dry.
If you just pour out your mixture onto a lined pan and cut it after it hardens, you can call it "bark" instead of haystacks.
White chocolate works just as well, and so does carob. I even have a peanut butter version with no chocolate at all.

3. Truffles--little vaguely round candies that are shaped like...well, fungus.  That probably isn't the best way to sell them. : )  There are a lot of different variations but one thing that is always true is that they are always very rich, with intense flavor and a soft, luscious texture. They veganize pretty well, too, as the chocolate is very much the dominant ingredient; if you've got a good vegan chocolate (or carob, even), you're pretty much set for truffles.

  • The most common form of truffle is based on ganache, a thick frosting-like spread. Traditional non-vegan ganache is a mixture of melted chocolate and heavy cream that can be shaped into balls after it cools and firms up. The balls can then be dipped in melted chocolate for a hard shell or, more commonly, rolled in cocoa powder (powdered sugar, sprinkles, nuts or coconut are also covering options).The main question for vegan ganache is what to replace the cream with. Coconut milk would be a very close (and rich) approximation, but just plain soy milk works better than you'd think. Homemade cashew creams and similar concoctions work fine too, and can add their own flavor. Whatever cream analog you choose can be enhanced with spices or extracts or even infused with coffee or tea if you like before it is mixed with the chocolate.   
  •  Sometimes instead of ganache, the center of a truffle may be filled with other things, such as cake or cookie crumbs mixed with frosting or vegan cream cheese. This type of truffle is usually dipped in chocolate rather than rolled in cocoa for reasons of structural integrity. Truffles may be filled with cookie dough as well.
Vegan Ganache based truffles

4. Filled chocolates- Little shells of chocolate encasing various sweet and creamy things. These are the ones most associated with the big cardboard hearts. When it comes to the homemade version, you've got two basic options: making the filling a bit on the firm and dry side and simply dipping pieces of it in chocolate, or making the filling more soft and liquid and pouring it into shells of chocolate and sealing it off. Both methods have merit, with some ingredients working better with one or the other. If you don't have chocolate molds to use for the second method, you can get the came effect with paper mini muffin liners.

Types of fillings:   

  •  Cream--Actually most "cream" fillings are made with fondant (see below). Some homemade chocolates however do involve things like cream cheese and other dairy or faux dairy products to make white fillings. These are usually pretty simple to substitute. Both these fillings and fondant ones can achieve a variety of flavors through extracts and add-ins, such as vanilla, mint, coconut, citrus or other fruit flavors.
  •  Fondant (cooked or uncooked)--Fondant is form of white candy that is almost entirely sugar, and is actually the "cream" in most cream filled chocolates. Most of the time it is cooked with a candy thermometer and kneaded laboriously. There are a number of recipes that veganize very well. They don't modify at all well for low sugar cooking though. There are also a few uncooked fondant recipes that involve kneading small amounts of liquid into a large amount of powdered sugar.
  • Jam or fruit filled--There's something terribly gourmet about a tiny cup made of dark chocolate, filled with raspberry jam. Other fruit-and chocolate combinations can be equally fancy. Sometimes the fruit works well straight, sometimes a cream-type filling is added as well, as in chocolate covered cherries.
    Vegan Chocolate Covered Cherries
  •  Nut butter filled--Peanut butter is probably the most common. There are quite a few vegan Reese's peanut butter cup recipes on the net.
  •  Caramel- The combination of caramel and chocolate if the basis for several of the most popular commercial candy bars. There's something about the flavors and textures that just work together.
    Various Caramels
  • Ganache--This would a truffle-like effect in a different form

5. Fudge--Like any recipe that is 90% sugar, traditional fudge recipes veganize just fine.  Non-traditional recipes that get their texture from specific un-vegan ingredients such as sweetened condensed milk rather than old style sugar-cooking techniques may not. I've tried some that did work, however. You can make fudge look extra good for Valentine's Day by sprinkling red or pink sprinkles or crushed starlight mints over the top before it hardens. Pink tinted coconut would be pretty too.

Uncooked Carob Peanut Butter Fudge
6. Shaped chocolate--Plain chocolate can be formed into interesting and festive shapes in a variety of ways.
  • Molded--Chocolate can be pour into special molds in all kinds of shapes: hearts, eggs butterflies, pi.
  • Piped--It takes a certain amount of skill (more than I have!) but melted chocolate can actually be squeezed through a piping bag and used to draw simple or elaborate designs.
  • Scraped--Various techniques can be used to scrape hardened chocolate into curls or shavings. There's a particular method that creates long tubes that used to be called "chocolate cigarettes." I think maybe chocolate telescopes or something would probably be a better name in this day and age if you're serving them to kids.

7. Candy bar imitations--If you're missing a particular commercial treat, there's no reason not to try to replicate it specifically. For example, if you poured a layer of caramel over a shortbread cookie and dipped it in chocolate, you'd get something very like a Twix bar. Caramel with nuts covered in chocolate would be like a Baby Ruth. Chocolate with crispy rice cereal mixed in would resemble a  Nestle Crunch.
You just have to try and deconstruct the particular elements and figure which ones you can replicate. It could be a fun challenge.

Well, that's about all I have to say on the subject of chocolate!

Here's the week's chocolate recipe roundup, if you missed any:

Vegan Rocky Road
Vegan chocolate Covered Cherries
Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles
Vegan Chocolate Covered Caramels, and Chocolate Covered Caramels with Peanut Butter Fudge
Chocolate Dipped Pretzels and other miscellaneous things


Vegan Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Ginger, Nuts, and even Potato Chips

Easy Chocolate Coated Snacks

A very simple but fun Valentine's treat is an assortment of chocolate dipped snacks. It's insanely easy, and it's fun to experiment with.

How to dip things in chocolate:

First gather everything you're going to be dipping and lay them out within reach. Next line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper for drying the finished candies and place it nearby.
Pretzels, vegan marshmallows, dried apricots, graham crackers, walnuts, cashews, candied ginger and potato chips, all ready for dipping

Then melt your chocolate, using whatever method you are comfortable with.

Have everything close by so that you can get an efficient assembly line going. Chocolate dries very fast, so you don't want to waste time running after ingredients once it's melted and ready to go.

Ready for dipping

Now start dipping. Plunge each item into the melted chocolate and use a fork or spatula to help scrape off excess chocolate and get an even coat.  Place dipped items on your paper-lined cookie sheet. I like to leave a little bit of each item bare, both because it's easier to dip that way--you can hold it by that spot, Achilles-style--and because that way you can tell what each item is. If you've got a wide assortment, that's helpful. However, if you want a complete coat you can drop the item in the chocolate, roll it around, and then fish it out with a fork. Or if the item is soft, you could skewer it on a toothpick and dip it that way.

You may have to reheat the chocolate at some point.  As for amounts, I used about 2/3 cup of chocolate/carob chips to coat an entire cookie sheet's worth of treats. It's not a bad idea to melt a little extra though.

Laying out to dry

I will digress here for a moment to discuss two chocolate melting issues: tempering and seizing. Tempering chocolate is a process of heating and cooling chocolate to specific temperatures in order to affect its crystalline structure. When done perfectly, it makes chocolate that is shiny and hard and very professional looking. It can be a complex and arduous process, however, and isn't always necessary.  If your chocolate is pre-tempered at the factory (as many chocolate chips and bars are) all you need to do to make sure it stays tempered is keep the melting temperatures prettty low. Also, if you use carob chips or anything else that contains no cocoa butter, tempering is completely irrelevant. I would not bother tempering for a basic dipping project like this one in any case because it would make a fun easy project into a long and aggravating one. And the crystalline structure of chocolate isn't nearly as important in this application as it would be in something like an elaborate chocolate sculpture (where structural integrity comes into play).

As for seizing, well, that is worth avoiding. Seizing is when water get into your melted chocolate at the wrong moment and makes it essentially curdle--separate into hard chunks and oozy liquid. The way to avoid it is simply to be very careful to keep extraneous moisture out of your melting chocolate.  If it happens anyway (and sometimes it will despite your best efforts) you can either stir in a substantial amount more liquid, which will only work if your recipe allows for fairly runny chocolate, or you can make seized chocolate truffles by pouring off the oozy liquid, remelting the chocolate and rolling it into balls.  It ends up with a unique lumpy, bubbly texture that you can claim to have achieved on purpose.

That's the thing about chocolate--even when it goes wrong it's still pretty good. : )

Chocolate covered potato chips and pretzel sticks

 By the way, my favorites today were the chocolate covered walnuts and the candied ginger. The assertive flavors held up well to the chocolate. The potato chips, which I did on a lark, were better than I expected, too.

Vegan Chocolate Covered Caramels

Valentine's Post #4. This recipe turned out pretty nice. It's the first recipe I've posted that has involved the whole candy thermometer/boiling hot sugar rigamarole.  I'd recommend you shoo the kids and pets out of the kitchen for the caramel making.  Cooking sugar can be dangerous--not only does sugar boil at a much higher temperature than water, it's sticky, which means that if hot liquid sugar does get on you, it will stick to your skin and keep burning you until you can scrape it off. That means you can get a much worse burn than with something like water. So be careful and stay focused during the dangerous parts.

All that said, I didn't find this recipe too difficult. I believe the agave-based caramel may be less prone to crystallization than sugar-based caramels.

A chocolate covered caramel, A chocolate caramel with a layer of peanut butter fudge, and a wrapped vegan caramel.

Chocolate Covered Caramels


1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup soy milk
1/4 tsp lemon juice
a dash or two of cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp margarine (I used smart balance light)
1/4 tsp vanilla

a pinch of salt (optional--Iforgot this time)
Nuts (optional)

Mix lemon juice and soymilk and let sit for a minute. Pour into a saucepan with the agave nectar and cinnamon; stir.  Bring to a boil, stirring intermittently. Cook to the firm ball stage, 245-250 degrees F. I went to about 248. Stir continually (and watch like a hawk) for the last several degrees, scraping the bottom to prevent burning.

Cooking the Caramel

When you reach temperature, pull the pan off the heat and stir in the margarine, vanilla and salt. Pour into a pan that is oiled, lined with wax paper, or both (caramel is the very definition of sticky). Spread it out a little if necessary. Let cool. You can score it before it cools completely if you want.

Nuts can be sprinkled on top before it cools, or stirred in before it's poured.

Cooling caramel, half covered with nuts

Chocolate coating:
3/4 cup vegan chocolate or carob chips
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp soymilk

Melt chocolate and peanut butter and stir in soy milk. Pour out 1/3 to 1/2 of the chocolate mixture into a rectangle slightly larger than your caramel. Lay your cooled caramel on top. Pour the rest of the chocolate over the caramel. Cut when cool.

Alternatively, you could cut the caramel into squares and dip them individually into melted chocolate.

That would be a bit more labor intensive, though.

This recipe double or triples fine, by the way.

Here's a fun variation that's a little fancier--it has an additional peanut buttery layer.

Chocolate Covered Caramels with a layer of Fudgy Peanut Butter Filling:

Make one batch of Caramel recipe above
Make one batch of Chocolate coating recipe

Make Fudgy Peanut butter Filling:

2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp agave nectar (or other syrup)
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup carob powder*

Mix together wet ingredients. Work in powdered sugar and carob. Knead like bread dough for while. If it refuses to come together, add a little more water. Press into a wax paper lined loaf pan. Chill.

*If using cocoa, for this recipe you might want to decrease by a few tablespoons and increase powdered sugar the same amount.

Fudgy Peanut Butter Filling

To Assemble:
Pour a layer of chocolate mixture into a wax paper lined loaf pan. Lift fudge filling out of its pan and place on chocolate layer. Place a layer of caramel on top of that. Pour rest of chocolate mixture over top and sides. Chill and cut into bite-sized pieces.

You can also choose to make a half recipe of the chocolate coating and just pour it over the top and sides of the stacked peanut butter filling and caramel without bothering with the bottom foundation of chocolate coating. I found there was a certain tendency for the bottom to flake off anyway.

The fudge filling can also be eaten straight, or covered in chocolate without the caramel.

This one went over pretty well.  I liked that the fudge filling didn't need to be cooked and came together pretty fast.

Chocolate covered peanut butter caramels

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

Valentine post number three! Here's my version of a simple classic, chocolate truffles. I really like the addition of hazelnut butter, because it adds a real depth of flavor and creamy texture. Nutella fans are sure to approve. : )

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles
Makes a small batch, a dozen or so depending on size

1/2 cup chocolate or carob chips
2 1/2 Tablespoons hazelnut butter
2 to 4 Tbsp vanilla soymilk (see note)

optional: 1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla, a dash of cinnamon, other spices/extracts, 1/4-1/2 tsp instant coffee, additional sweetener)

Coatings: Dry coatings may include include cocoa or carob powder, powdered sugar, shredded coconut, finely chopped nuts, sprinkles or colored sugar, or some combination thereof.  Another option: more melted chocolate for dipping, either the same kind or a contrasting color.


Melt the chocolate/carob chips according to your preferred method (microwave, double boiler, etc.). Heat the hazelnut butter as well to make it softer and more cooperative.  Mix together the melted chocolate, warm hazelnut butter, and soymilk until smooth.

Taste it at this point and decide if you would like to add anything, such as a little sweetener if it is too strong for you. I added a little cinnamon and vanilla.

Chill your chocolate mixture (which at this point is called ganache) until it is firm enough to scoop and roll.

The ganache with toppings

Prepare your dry coatings by placing them in small shallow dishes that will work well for rolling.When it is firm, scoop up a few teaspoons worth of ganache with a spoon. Use a second spoon to scrape it off in one solid blob into one of your dishes of dry coating. Roll the blob in the coating until well covered.  Gently adjust shape (should be mostly round) if necessary. Place finished truffles on wax paper or in little muffin cups. Store in fridge.

Rolling the truffles

If you would like to dip the truffles in melted chocolate instead of rolling, form the ganache into balls and then chill again. Make sure your truffles have chilled plenty hard so that the chocolate doesn't melt them--you may even want to freeze them.  Melt your dipping chocolate (use more than you think you'll need or dipping will be difficult). Holding a truffle on a spoon, gently lower it into the melted chocolate. Use another spoon to help scoop more chocolate onto the top and sides. Pull the truffle out and shake or scrape off excess chocolate. Move somewhat quickly to prevent the center melting. Place dipped truffles on wax paper to harden.

You could also combine the two methods, by dipping the truffles in melted chocolate and then also rolling them in the dry coating while they're still wet. It's pretty messy though.

Incidentally, if you wait a long time between rolling the truffles and serving them, the more powdery coatings may dissolve and become invisible.  You might want to allow some time to re-roll them.  Don't worry, it'll go faster than the first time and be a little less sticky.

Note: The amount of soymilk depends on how soft you want the truffles. I used the higher amount this time, and they were very melt-in-the-mouth (and just a little bit melt-in the-hand, too ; ).  However the lower amount will yield a firmer truffle that does holds its shape well and would probably travel better.


Other nuts:  Any other nut butter may be substituted for the hazelnut. Strong flavored nuts would be high impact; mild ones such as cashews would impart mainly creaminess and let other ingredients shine.

German Chocolate Truffles:  Inspired by the cake.  Mix a generous amount of shredded coconut and chopped pecans or walnuts into ganache before chilling for the first time.

Various things, such as nuts, crumbs, cereal or dried fruit may be mixed into the ganache for flavor and texture. 

You can also add very finely chopped nuts or crisped rice cereal to the melted chocolate outer coating for a nice crunch. This is especially nice if you leave the inner filling smooth for contrast.

Truffles with their different coatings

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Vegan chocolate covered cherries (two ways)

Here's the second Valentine's post!  These chocolate covered cherries can be made two ways: with a vegan cream cheese base and with a nut butter base.  I've included both because I know not everyone has a local source for commercial vegan cream cheese.   The general opinion among those who tasted both was that the cream cheese version was closer to the original, although both tasted good.

Vegan chocolate covered cherries (two ways)

Makes 12-15 chocolate covered cherries

Cream cheese version:
3-4 Tbsp vegan cream cheese
3-4 Tbsp powdered sugar or equivalent sweetener
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp almond extract (imitation is fine)
1/2 tsp maple syrup (optional)
A dash of cinnamon or other flavors if you like

1 can low-sugar cherry pie filling (you will not use the whole thing)
About 1 cup chocolate or carob chips
1 tsp oil or shortening (optional)

Stir together first five ingredients (cream cheese through syrup); set aside. Open the can of pie filling and set it nearby. Melt chocolate chips using microwave or double boiler according to your preference, and add oil or shortenening if using. Line a (12 muffin) mini muffin pan with paper liners.
Empty chocolate shells waiting to be filled

Using your finger or a spoon, smooth a layer of melted chocolate along the insides of the paper liners. The the layer should not be very thick but it should be even with no holes. You should have between a third and half of the chocolate left over at the end.

By the time you're done, the first ones should be hardened and you can start filling. Place 1/2 - 1 tsp cream cheese filling in each chocolate cup. Scoop a cherry out of the pie filling along with some the surrounding cherry liquid and place one in each chocolate cup on top of the cream cheese filling.

Shells with cream filling
Shells with cream filling and cherry layer

When you're done filling all the cups evaluate your remaining melted chocolate and decide if it needs re-heated. Do so if necessary.

Now comes the tricky part. Now you cover the tops with the remaining melted chocolate. It's not easy because the filling is so liquid; you'll see what I mean when you try it. You can either just try and spread it on or you can pipe it on. I piped it on this time using a long narrow ribbon/petal tip. If you choose to pipe you have to work fast with no breaks--chocolate hardens a lot faster than frosting and you'll have a mess if it hardens in the bag. Cover all the tops with no holes, making swirly patterns if you want.

If you like you can decorate the tops with sprinkles or chocolate shavings while the chocolate is still wet. Move fast--it dries quickly.
Chill until completely solid.

Enjoy! Store leftovers in the fridge.

For those who can't get a hold of or prefer not to use vegan cream cheese:

Vegan chocolate covered cherries (with nut butter instead of vegan cream cheese)

Nut butter version:
3-4 tbsp nut butter (I used hazelnut)
3-4 Tbsp powdered sugar or equivalent sweetener
1-3 tsbp soymilk or other nondairy milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp maple extract or mapelline
1/2 tsp maple syrup (optional)
A dash of cinnamon or other flavors if you like

1 can low-sugar cherry pie filling (you will not use the whoe thing)
About 1 cup chocolate or carob chips
1 tsp oil or shortening (optional)

Heat the nut butter in the microwave so that it incorporates better. Mix in other filling ingredients (sweetener through syrup), adding as much soy milk as is necessary for a smooth spreadable consistency.

Follow the directions for the cream cheese version, using the nut butter filling exactly the same way as the cream cheese filling.


Jam: In place of the cherry pie filling, you could add a layer of jam or similar preserves.  Raspberry would be particularly nice. You could also just stir the jam into the filling instead of layering for a pink-tinted cream filling.

Coconut: You could mix shredded coconut into the cream filling.

Sugar Free/Low Sugar: These candies were actually designed to work well sugar-free. Stevia or splenda will work fine in the cream cheese or nut butter filling.  To make sure the whole candy is as low in sugar as possible, you can use a low sugar chocolate and be sure to use sugar free pie filling (or jam like the variation above). Either omit maple syrup or use sugar free pancake syrup.

Cherryless: To make cream fillied chocolates without the cherries, omit pie filling and double or triple the cream cheese filling or nut butter filling. Various extracts, such as peppermint or fruit, could be added. This recipe makes a fairly liquid cream--you could stiffen it up with more powdered sugar if you like, or reduce the soymilk in the nut butter version.

Fully assembled and ready to chill

Vegan Rocky Road Candy for Valentine's Day

This year I've decided to to put up a few posts about vegan chocolate and candy making in honor of Valentine's Day. So you'll see multiple posts on the subject, all hopefully completed a few days early so you can try them in time for the holiday if you wish. : )

Candy making can be a little intimidating, sometimes justifiably so. The recipes that involve candy thermometers and boiling hot sugar are, in fact, difficult and dangerous if you're inexperienced (or even if you're not). I myself have gotten at least one serious burn that way. But like everything, there's something of a sliding scale in terms of difficulty, and there are quite a lot of very good candy recipes that aren't too hard and don't involve anything hotter than melted chocolate (which is only about 100 degrees, hardly more than body temperature). A certain amount of caution is still wise--particularly with microwaves, which can create hot spots.  But you might be surprised how good your results can be with simple homemade candy recipes.

This particular recipe was designed to a accommodate a package of vegan marshmallows I had that had been sat on or left in the car or something and had consequently become One Giant Marshmallow.  There was no way they were going to just mix in to a standard rocky road recipe where the chocolate is melted and every else is stirred together. So the layering started out as a very pragmatic solution, but I've kept doing it because the result is so nice. The layers are pretty and the ingredients are well distributed--you really get something of everything in each bite. Adding peanut butter and soy milk to the melted chocolate gives you a soft, almost fudge-y texture and helps the candy hold together better instead of flaking apart.

Rocky Road Candy

Vegan Rocky Road

1 1/2 to 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate or carob chips
1/2 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1/4 cup soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)

1 10 oz package vegan marshmallows (or vegan marshmallow cream)
slivered almonds or other nuts
shredded coconut
raisins or similar dried fruit (optional, I usually leave out)

Line a 13 by 9 inch pan with wax paper.

Put chocolate, peanut butter and soy milk in microwave together until melted (or use stovetop if you prefer). Stir thoroughly; at this point the mixture should be smooth, shiny, and thick--pourable but not overly runny. Adjust with more chocolate or soymilk if too thick or thin.

Pour slightly less than half of the chocolate mixture on the wax paper.  Spread it out thinly with a spatula.  It should end up covering most of the bottom of the pan, but don't worry about reaching all the corners or anything--a rough rectangle is fine.

Lay marshmallows on top of the chocolate layer, covering it as completely as you can (on their sides works best)

Sprinkle almonds and coconut, and dried fruit (if using) over the marshmallow layer.

Pour rest of the chocolate mixture on top and spread with the spatula, making sure the two layers of chocolate meet on the sides.

Chill until solidified.  Cut into 1 by1 inch pieces.

In the pan

S'mores Rocky Road:  Add coarsely crumbled graham crackers in place of or in addition to the nuts.

Nut Free:  Either substitute soy nut butter or sunflower seed butter for the peanut butter in the chocolate mixture or omit it; you can just use straight melted chocolate if you move quickly (it'll harden faster). Leave out almonds--they can be replaced with anything crunchy, from sunflower seeds to pretzel pieces.

Add ins:  You could add a tsp or so of instant coffee or coffee substitute for a mocha effect, or some cinnamon and cayenne pepper for a Mexican Hot Chocolate effect.  If you've got a killer caramel recipe you could add a layer of that on top of the marshmallow layer for an almost snickers-like effect.