dairy and sugar free salted caramel chocolates – practically a health food

sugar and dairy free salted caramel ballsI love salted caramels. I’m all about balancing flavours and the combination of sea salt and caramel with bitter dark chocolate is perfection in my eyes. But I don’t feel great when I eat too much dairy or sugar so they are an occasional treat.

So when I saw a version of this sugar and dairy-free salted caramel recipe in the fabulous Hemsley and Hemsley book The Art of Eating Well, my taste buds sprang into action and I was intrigued to see if they could match my beloved salted caramels.

Here, dried apricots are blended with coconut oil or grass-fed butter and a little vanilla and sea salt to magically turn into a caramel-esque paste. Then the chewy paste is covered in melted dark chocolate to give you little bites of eye rolling goodness.

I served these at the launch party for a new The Dailey Method studio near me a couple of weeks ago. At first all those healthy exercisers said they’d pass, thinking the chocolates were off-limits to their dairy and sugar-free diets. I loved their faces when they realized they could have one and tasted how good they were. Eyes were rolled in pleasure and f-bombs were dropped.

perfectly sticky in the middle

perfectly sticky in the middle

Set aside an hour to make these the first time. You can split the recipe into two stages and split it over a couple of days if you prefer. The second time you make them you’ll be on a roll and will be able to bang them out in about 40 minutes.

Make ahead and freeze

The other great things about this recipe is that the balls can be made ahead and frozen. So you can get ahead of yourself if you’re making them for a party.

Or you can grab one at a time for a treat with your coffee or after dinner when you want something a little sweet.

Be sure to buy the right kind of apricots

Be sure to buy dark brown, organic un-sulphured dried apricots. Not the soft bright orange ones that have sulphur added. They are widely available so you shouldn’t have a problem finding them. The un-sulphured have a much deeper flavor and a better texture, this recipe won’t work with the orange ones.

Apologies for the constant use of the word ‘balls’ in this recipe. I hope it makes you snigger as much as it did me.

Ingredients to make 40-50 small balls (feel free to make half the recipe)

250g (8 ounces) dried un-sulphured organic apricots (see note above)

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

80g (3oz) soft grass-fed butter or virgin coconut oil

2 tablespoons hot water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

200g (7oz) dark chocolate (I use one that is around 85% cocoa solids)

optional – Maldon sea salt flakes to sprinkle on top

equipment needed (click to buy)

To make:

  1. Put 4 dinner plates in your freezer; or use a large cookie sheet if your freezer is big enough to hold one flat.
  2. Put your apricots on a cutting board and roughly chop them into quarters. I pull all of mine into a big pile then chop the pile rather than doing them individually which would take ages.
  3. Put a third of the chopped apricots and the hot water in the food processor and pulse until they are blended to a paste. If you put them all in at once your processor will possible get stuck (mine did). Once the first third are blended, leave them in and drop the remaining apricots down the funnel while the food processor is running. Do it gradually to stop the processor getting stuck.
  4. Add the soft butter or coconut oil, the salt and the vanilla to apricots in the food processor and mix again until completely smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides with your spatula to get everything incorporated.
  5. Get one of your plates or the tray out of your freezer and line it with baking parchment or a Silpat.
  6. Then use a teaspoon to get a small amount of the paste (one tightly packed un-heaped teaspoon is enough mixture). Use a finger and thumb to take the paste off the spoon and quickly roll it in your hands to get a smooth ball. Then drop it onto your cold tray or plate. Alternatively, spoon the paste directly onto the lined tray or plate then use your fingers to pat it into a ball shape (see photo below)
  7. Keep going until you have used all the mixture. Scrape the processor with a spatula to get every last bit. This takes me about 10 minutes and I usually use 3 plates to hold the balls and leave one plate in the freezer for later in the recipe to hold the chocolate dipped balls. If the mixture gets sticky and hard to work with, put it in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.

8. Once you’ve made all your balls and they are on the plates or tray, put them in the freezer for 20 minutes or until needed. If you are leaving them for longer, loosely cover them with foil.

9. While the balls freeze, break the chocolate. I find it easiest to leave the chocolate in the wrapper then whack the wrapper on the counter to break it up. Then I open the wrapper and my smashed chocolate can be poured into a bowl.

smashed chocolate10. Put the bowl of chocolate in the microwave. My microwave will melt this quantity of chocolate in just over a minute. Yours may be slower or faster. Check the bowl every 30 seconds and give it a shake until the chocolate is melted.

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11. Leave the chocolate to cool for a couple of minutes while you get set up for rolling your balls in the chocolate. Grab 2 forks, a spatula and one of your ball covered plates and your empty plate out of the freezer.

ready to roll salted chocolate caramel balls12. Line your empty plate with parchment or a Silpat.

13. Take a quick look at my video to see how you can cover them in chocolate.

14. Grab one ball off the plate, drop it into the chocolate then use the two forks to quickly roll it so that it is covered. Then use one fork to push it onto the other fork and allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. The cold of the apricot will make the chocolate start to set straight away. Drop your ball on to your empty, lined, cold plate and move onto the next one until you have done them all. I like to sprinkle some sea salt flakes on top of the covered balls for decoration and an extra salty hit.

15. By the time you’ve done the first few you’ll be able to start dropping 3-4 balls into the chocolate and covering them together which speeds everything up. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the chocolate down the sides of the bowl to make sure you can use every last bit. Then once you’ve emptied your first plate of chocolate-less balls (!) use that empty plate to hold your next round of chocolate covered balls.DSC_0020

15. Place the chocolate covered balls into the fridge until needed. Once they are set they can be transferred to an airtight container and will last around a week in the fridge, or longer in the freezer. Balls balls balls balls balls balls balls….

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