Who would have thought that vegan date truffles would be the perfect confluence of D. Brandon Walker’s roles as chef and dad? At the time he created the recipe, Walker was working as personal chef for music producer Russell Simmons, who is co-founder of Def Jam Recordings – and also a vegan. While upping his vegan game, Walker was also looking for a treat for his daughters, who are now 8, 9 and 13.
“I was looking for a healthy snack for them, and also something that would be fun for us to make together,” says Walker, who is now executive chef at The Mar Vista.
Fun is definitely part of this recipe. “They’re squishy,” Walker says of the date-dough balls that form the truffles, adding that they really don’t require much skill to make. “My 8-year-old kills it.”
Key to making these turn out right is properly hydrating the dates, so don’t skimp on the soak time. If you want to add a fancy twist, you can dip the rolled date balls into natural peanut butter (thinned with a little water if needed) and freeze for an hour or so before dunking them in the ganache.
Walker recommends rolling the date balls smaller than you think you should, because dipping will make them larger. Start with something like a medium-size marble. Make sure your ganache has cooled to about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so it will be the right consistency for dipping.
If you want, you can trim off that little rim of chocolate that forms at the bottom after the truffles are set, then re-dunk to perfect them, but there’s really no need. “I wouldn’t obsess on making them look perfect, because they’re going to be delicious,” Walker says. “My 13-year-old tries to perfect them, but the 8-year-old is completely goofing off.” The result is great either way.
Chef D’s Vegan Date Truffles
2 cups of Medjool dates, pitted, soaked overnight in room-temperature water
2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups almond milk
¼ cup cocoa powder
For almond milk ganache:
Bring almond milk to a boil. Melt the chocolate chips over simmering water in a double boiler. Add the hot almond milk to the melted chocolate chips. Whisk until creamy and smooth.
Drain the water from the soaked dates. Place the dates in a food processor and pulse until the dates form a ball. Remove the dates from the processor and place in a bowl. Using your hands, form the date paste into one-inch diameter balls.
When all of the date paste has been formed into balls, cover a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Dip each ball into the ganache, coating completely, and place on the pan. After all of the balls are dipped, sprinkle them with cocoa powder. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Once set, the truffles can be placed into individual bags or containers for storage. Keep for up to a week in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer.