Monday, November 27, 2017

Vegan Mint Meltaways

I’m always looking for more recipes in my holiday lineup that are naturally gluten free so that my uncle-in-law doesn’t feel left out (especially since he loves sweets). I knew I had to try it when I found this “faux-rango” recipe. My great-aunt Florence, a Washington native, used to send my family the Frango gift packs every year and we loved her for it. We sometimes buy a box around the holidays but we often have so much sweet stuff around it’s really not worth the extra trip to Macy’s. But I’ve always loved the mint chocolate combination.
The best thing about these candies is the ease with which they come together, easier than a non-vegan recipe for sure. I had never enrobed chocolates before and I did find that my 72% chocolate was not quite as fluid as I would have liked and I probably needed another ounce or two of it to really get smooth coatings on each candy, but it was still pretty simple and the results were lovely. I think the centers are so luscious because of the coconut oil. I used Trader Joe’s brand and I think it is not refined, however, I didn’t notice any coconut flavor in the end result.
I converted the measurements to weight rather than volume for my own convenience and I also added a scan 1/4 tsp of table salt to the filling; I feel the slight saltiness is what makes a Frango center really stand out. I haven’t tried them out on my uncle-in-law yet, but my 10 year old gave me an entire paragraph extolling the virtues of them and my 5 year old summed it up by saying “they’re gooder than delicious”. I’ll take that and make these a yearly tradition!
Note that, though the recipe is super simple, it does take time. You need to pre-soak the cashews and then there are three different chilling periods. Perfect for a lazy weekend to make you feel accomplished. I bet they’d be really great alongside a cup of cocoa.

INGREDIENTS
46g cashews, soaked in cold water for at least 2 hours, then rinsed
105g (1/2 c) solid coconut oil (you really don’t want it melted)
40g (1/2 c) cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
3/8 c maple syrup
1 tsp peppermint extract (or to taste)
Scant 1/4 tsp table salt
8 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate (I use 72% cocoa which is a nice contrast to the sweet centers; the original recipe called for 6 ounces but I increased it. If you have leftover just re-melt and mix with milk for drinking chocolate)
Crushed candy canes for garnish, optional

DIRECTIONS

  1. Make sure you’ve soaked and rinsed your cashews. Prepare a loaf pan by lining it with parchment or plastic wrap. Use whatever size pan will give you the shape and thickness of candies you like
  2. Put all the ingredients up to (but not including) the bittersweet chocolate into the bowl of a food processor. The original recipe specifies a small one so I used my small bowl but a regular size bowl might also work
  3. Pulse to combine then process until mixture is completely smooth, stopping to scrape once or twice. I probably processed for 2-3 minutes
  4. Scrape the mixture into your prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours until it is completely solid
  5. Lift the candy center out of the pan using the parchment/plastic wrap as a sling to help you. Then cut into your desired number of squares and place on a lined baking tray. I cut mine into 24 pieces and used Silpat instead of parchment. 
  6. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and freeze at least 8 hours
  7. When you are ready to coat your candy, break up your chocolate into small pieces and place into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power for 1.5 minutes then stir. Put it in for up to another 1.5 minutes in 30 second increments at 50% power, stirring between each interval. You want the chocolate to be completely melted
  8. Crunch up some candy canes and have in a little bowl ready to sprinkle on the coated candy
  9. The original recipe says to take out the melt-away centers one at a time for enrobing but that is not practical for me. Instead I set my baking tray on top of another baking tray that I had covered in ice cubes, which kept them plenty cold. Instead of using a separate lined plate, I just put the coated chocolates back on my Silpat-lined and nicely chillled baking tray
  10. Using a fork (or whatever you find easiest), take a center and swirl it in the chocolate to get it thoroughly coated. Remove and let the excess drip away as best you can, then place on your tray and sprinkle with crushed candy cane. Repeat. Note that I had to re-heat my chocolate a few times to keep it as liquid as I wanted it. You may or may not need to do this
  11. One final time, refrigerate the candies for at least an hour before serving. You can eat them cold or at room temperature, though they’ll melt much faster at room temp