There are times when only one type of food is going to appease the senses … and that is chocolate … and I mean good chocolate.
And there is nothing quite like making your own!
For me yesterday was “one of those days” … I haven’t made chocolate for some time, and when I do I am guided by a recipe from my dear friend Nikki Di Costa who used to run The Wholefood Hub here is Perth. Nikki has now relocated to Weipa in Far North Queensland and is running her Health Coaching business from there (love that technology allows this to happen so easily).
There are so many recipes around for making raw chocolate, but what I like about Nikki’s, and also Jo Whitton’s (who needs no introduction I am sure), is that they use three basic ingredients: cacao butter, maple syrup and raw cacao powder. To that you add your flavourings (vanilla, salt, essential oils, etc). But the main ingredients are just those three. It reminds me of what “real” ice-cream is made of: eggs, cream and sugar.
Some recipes lean towards using coconut oil which I feel does not hold up well in the heat, and can cause streaky marks (much like chocolate bloom) on the surface of the chocolate (and I don’t like that). And when using coconut oil it is more than likely the chocolate will need to be stored in the fridge or freezer, which is another thing I don’t like … sound fussy don’t I!!!!
But because I love my chocolate so much, if I am going to make it then I don’t want to have to worry about it melting in my hands (or anyone else’s) when eating it, so it is important to me that it will behave like regular chocolate which I don’t store in the fridge. Having said that however, if we are in the height of summer and you make this chocolate on a very hot day without anywhere cool in the house to keep it, then it may be that you will need to store it in the fridge (just like regular chocolate) … but right now I don’t think that is an issue with the cool days we are having. I have a little spot in the house (under the stairs) which stays cool, and I have never had problems storing all my chocolate there … but I know some people love cold chocolate so store it in the fridge if that is your preference.
To ensure the chocolate will “set” properly without any steaks on the surface, it is important that the cacao butter is completely melted before adding the maple syrup and raw cacao. I have also tested this recipe using Dutch cocoa powder in place of raw cacao (so it will no longer be “raw”) and that works very well too … a little lighter on the palate as some raw cacao can be a tad bitter which I actually like, but if you want something a touch smoother on the taste buds than you may wish to try that.
You can use chocolate moulds to make this into block chocolates, but I prefer to spread it out onto a lined metal tray then top it with whatever I choose at the time. Once it has set in the fridge for 10 minutes – you want it to be set so this timing will depend on how thick you have made your bark … don’t leave it in there more than it needs otherwise it could start to “sweat”, and the condensation (moisture) this will create may cause little marks on your chocolate. So when it is set remove the tray from the fridge and allow the bark to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before breaking into pieces. Again this will depend on how thick the bark is, but you want to be able to make precise breaks and for the chocolate to lift cleanly off the baking paper. Test a corner first and if it is not coming away cleanly leave it a little longer. Once broken into pieces it can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature.
I have topped the bark with toasted pepitas, sunflower seeds and buckwheat, along with Goji berries, freeze dried strawberries and sea salt flakes. Other suggestions are:
- coconut chips (these look so impressive compared to shredded or desiccated)
- any type of dried fruit
- any type of toasted nut
- crystallised ginger (one of my favourites!)
- cocoa nibs – toast them first for 5 to 6 minutes in the oven (180 degrees fan forced) … it will bring out the chocolate flavour and make them less bitter (I don’t mind the bitter taste, but some don’t like it)
- dried thinly sliced citrus zest (these can be incorporated into the chocolate once it has been blended … add to ™ bowl and mix on “reverse” for 2 to 3 seconds / speed 1)
- hemp seeds
- sea salt flakes
- chili flakes
- freshly milled pepper (goes well with lime zest)
- essential oils (peppermint, lime, orange and bergamot spring to mind … but add slowly after blending and taste as you go as a little goes a long way)
NOTE: before you start melting your cacao butter ensure that your ™ bowl is completely clean and dry, as moisture can cause the cacao butter to seize
- 170g raw cacao butter - chopped into small pieces
- 50g raw cacao powder, or 50g Dutch cocoa powder
- 100g pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
- 1 tsp sea salt flakes
- Roasted pepitas, sunflower seeds and buckwheat
- Freeze dried strawberries
- Goji berries
- Sea salt flakes
- Line a large metal baking tray with baking paper (put a dab of oil under the paper to keep it in place)
- Place cacao butter into TM bowl and chop 8 seconds / speed 8
- If there are any chunks left, repeat for 2 to 3 seconds / speed 8 until no lumps remain
- Melt 5 minutes / 50 / speed 2
- Scrape down sides and ensure that all the cacao butter is in the base of the bowl ... if there are any large lumps attached to the blades loosen them up so that they drift into the bowl making them easier to melt evenly
- Continue melting 5 minutes / 50 / speed 2
- Scrape around sides ... it should now be all liquid, but if not continue melting 2 minutes / 37 / speed 2 to ensure that all the cacao butter is now liquid
- Add raw cacao powder or Dutch cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla of choice and sea salt flakes and heat 5 minutes / 37 / speed 2
- Scrape around bowl and repeat 5 minutes / 37 / speed 2
- As soon as you do this last step, place your paper lined metal tray into the fridge to get slightly chilled - this will help the chocolate set a little quicker
- When the chocolate has finished heating blend 20 seconds / reverse / speed 4
- Scrape around bowl and blend again 10 seconds / reverse / speed 5
- Pour the chocolate onto the lightly chilled baking tray, tap the tray on the bench to allow the chocolate to spread to desired thickness (I prefer it to be relatively thin as displayed in the picture, but it can be as thick or thin as you like)
- Sprinkle with desired toppings and place tray back into the fridge for 10 minutes, or until chocolate is "set" and you can see no more "wet" patches
- Remove tray from fridge and allow chocolate to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or until crisp and easily lifted off the baking paper
- Break into desired pieces and store in a sealed container at room temperature (or in fridge if you prefer "cold" chocolate)