Dessert, Food From Friends

1/2 cup raw natural almonds (with skin)
1 1/4 cups unsweetened dried dates, chopped (they should be soft)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder, preferably not Dutch process
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Optional add-ins (choose one or two): 6 fresh mint leaves, chopped; 1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili flakes; 1 Tbsp chopped candied ginger; 1 Tbsp raw cacao nibs; 2 tsp freshly grated orange zest; 1/2 tsp cinnamon; 1 to 2 tsp instant coffee substitute or instant coffee

In the bowl of a food processor, process the almonds, dates and cocoa until you have what looks like a fine meal (there should be no large pieces of almond visible). Sprinkle with the vanilla and any optional add-ins, if using, and continue to process until the mixture comes together in a ball that rolls around the walls of the processor bowl (this may take a while—5 to 10 minutes or so; stop occasionally to scrape the sides of the processor and push the mixture toward the blades).

The “dough” is ready when, if you pinch some and press it between your thumb and fingers, it sticks together readily and appears a bit shiny. (Sometimes, if the dates are too dry, this doesn’t happen easily. In that case, sprinkle up to 2 tsp of water along with the vanilla, and proceed as above). The
mixture should not be as soft as cookie dough, but more like clay in texture.

Place a clean piece of plastic wrap on the counter and turn the mixture onto it. Using your hands, form the mixture into a log about 8 inches long. Try to compress the mixture as much as possible so you have a very dense log. Wrap with plastic and roll the log one or two times, compressing it more with your hands, to squeeze out any air pockets. (Alternately, pat the mixture into an 8-inch loaf pan; press down as hard as you can to remove any air pockets, then cover with plastic.)

If you have a pressing need for chocolate, you can slice and eat the nibbles immediately. However, these are much better if they’ve been refrigerated first for at least 2 hours or overnight, as they firm up considerably and will attain an almost fudge-like texture when cold.