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Chocolate-coconut bliss bombs

Katherine is a brilliant test case for new dishes, especially those that smack of health, fashionability or hippy weirdiness. Her natural resistance is so high, her prejudices so entrenched, that only the strongest contenders can survive. And so it was with bliss balls, which I'd been bleating to her about for some time. 

I make a batch of these every few weeks for myself and dole them out, one precious ball at a time, to fill that little round hole that somehow develops at about 9 o'clock every evening. I prefer the denser, more complex experience they offer over the sweet rush of a biscuit or a piece of chocolate - the fact that they pack a decent nutritional punch of protein, fibre and slow-release energy is a bonus. 

They remind me of the rum balls and apricot/coconut balls I used to make with my Nannan but, instead of being sweetened with condensed milk (hmm, where has that ingredient gone as a recipe staple?) and crushed biscuits, these ones are sweetened with dates. This particular version uses sunflower and chia seeds rather than nuts so that kids can take them to nut-free schools but I've often used blanched almonds, cashews or, for a more adult taste, toasted walnuts. Toasted, skinned hazelnuts will give the balls a Nutella/Ferrero Rocher-ish spin - you could dust them in cocoa powder rather than rolling in coconut if you liked. I happen to love chia seeds and quite enjoy the peculiar pleasure they provide of finding them, like slippery, crunchy little frogs' spawn, stuck on your teeth for hours after eating but can quite see that that's a personal thing. Up the sunflower seeds or nuts if they're not for you.

So I made these for the sceptical Katherine, forced one into her suspicious little gob and, predictably (well, I predicted it), she has become a complete convert and demanded that they go on the Dinner Ladies menu immediately. They're available this week for home delivery but, if you live outside our catchment or just feel like giving them a whirl yourself sometime, here is our recipe. 

Chocolate-coconut bliss bombs

Makes 16. These can be stored in a container in the fridge for weeks.


Ingredients

5 tablespoons desiccated coconut

350g pitted dates

100g sunflower seeds

50g chia seeds

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder (cacao if preferred)

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Divide the desiccated coconut into two amounts, one with 2 tablespoons, one with 3.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, pulse chop the dates, sunflower seeds, first coconut amount and chia seeds till quite fine, scraping the sides of the blender down from time to time. Add the coconut oil, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla extract and continue to pulse till well combined. The mixture will still be a bit crumbly at this stage - you don't want it pasty or it will be too sticky to roll.

Have ready a plate, covered with the remaining desiccated coconut, and a plastic tub to store the finished balls and keep a jug or bowl of water nearby for dipping your hands every so often - it'll make the job easier.

Take a good, heaped tablespoonful of the mixture and squeeze it in your hand so that it comes together into a golf-ball sized lump. Roughly roll into a ball but don't be too fussed about it - the more rustic they are, the more homemade they look. The squeezing is more important than the rolling for these balls. Roll each ball in the coconut and place them in the tub; the coconut will stop them from sticking together.

Refrigerate the balls for an hour or two when you've finished to allow them to firm up, and you're done.