The theme of my February retreat was self-love. A rather fitting topic for valentines month! I decided that the Saturday afternoon creative activity would be to get the ladies making their own raw chocolate. Free of dairy, made with natural sweeteners and packed with antioxidants. Sound good? Read on!
Raw chocolate is not only THE richest and tasty chocolate you will have ever tried, it is also PACKED with health-giving properties. No wonder the Incas called cacao drink, the drink of the gods. It is that reference that is thought to have given rise to the name of the cocoa tree Theobroma cacao, from the Greek words theo (god) and broma (drink).
What is the difference between cacao and cocoa?
The key difference between cacao and cocoa is that the former is normally processed at lower temperatures than the commercial alternative. It normally comes from smaller plantations, tastes more bitter than cocoa powder but offers more nutritional content and is considered more natural.
It is thought that cacao has nearly four times the antioxidant value of processed dark chocolate, 20 times more than blueberries, and 119 times more than bananas. It is high in antioxidant flavonoids, and minerals; copper, potassium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, and magnesium, and is also reputed to send signals to the brain that make us feel good.
The taste, smell and texture of chocolate stimulates feel-good areas of the brain. Chocolate also contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that stimulates the production of serotonin, the brain’s natural anti-depressant. Experts equate the feelings it induces to those we experience when we fall in love.
What’s not to love about that?!
Making Raw chocolate.
This type of chocolate is so easy to make – honestly! – that you really don’t have an excuse to not have a go. Once tried, you can finish your relationship with manufactured/processed chocolate and start a whole more rewarding and loving one with this!
The other great thing is that this recipe can be divided into thirds – so it is very easy to make smaller or larger amounts.
All you need is:
Cacao butter is the fat from the cacao fruit and makes up the outer lining of the inside of a single cacao bean. It is cold pressed to produce a cream coloured solid block, which smells like the chocolatiest chocolate thing you have ever smelled. You can buy it online easily and it comes in at around £16.00 for a kilo.
Raw Cacao powder
Raw cacao powder is produced by cold-pressing the un-roasted beans. The fatty buttery part is separated (cacao butter) and what is left is made into a powder. This is now widely available in supermarkets or online.
Natural, unrefined sweetener
Raw cacao is incredibly bitter, so if you have a sweet tooth it is advisable to add a little unrefined sweetener. For the record: I class an unrefined sweetener as one that is made from the fruit or sap of plants or produced as a result of insects harvesting plants.
The ones have used for making chocolate are:
- Agave Syrup – Super sweet and mixes well
- Maple Syrup – Slightly more vanilla and mixes well
- Honey – (The runny variety), slightly less sweet than Agave and thicker so you have to stir super quickly!
I am quite sure that you could also use something like ‘Sweet Freedom’ that is also widely available in supermarkets.
That is all you need!
The Recipe and Method:
60 g Raw cacao butter, grated – you can buy this online
60g Cacao powder
3 Tbsp of Agave Syrup or Honey or Maple
Absolutely key to this recipe is to not allow your chocolate to get too warm. Why?
- Over-heating kills the nutritional value
- Your mixture is likely to seize – which is the chef term for turning grainy
Place a clean bowl over a saucepan of hot water (bain-marie). Bring the water almost to the boil but not quite. Ensure no water touches the bowl or goes inside the bowl. Grate the cacao butter, add to the bowl & allow to melt slowly. Just enjoy moving the butter around slowly in the bowl until it melts. Don’t let the water boil, turn the heat off and just give it a quick blast every so often if necessary.
Once melted, place the cacao powder in a sieve and sift into the butter to avoid lumps. Stir in thoroughly with a balloon whisk or fork, until it starts to slightly thicken. You are going to need to be quick and sure with this. The chocolate should be shiny, runny & easy to pour.
Add you chosen sweetener & stir in very thoroughly. It will thicken as you add it. Taste it and if you prefer it sweeter, add more 1/2 tbsp at a time, mixing thoroughly and tasting after each.
Want to make different kinds of raw chocolate? You can add a little vanilla essence, cinnamon, crushed nuts, goji berries, salt etc etc. Go ahead and get creative!
So there it is! Happy, healthy chocolate – go on, give it a go!