Leilah Devi, Purple Valley’s plant-based chef and dedicated Astanga practioner, shares her knowledge on raw chocolate. Keep reading for some history and benefits of raw cacao. You can also buy her e-book with lots of recipes and ideas for more raw treats. Details below or here.
By Leilah Devi.
“Raw cacao is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods known, and is much more nutrient-dense than its cooked counterpart. Most commercial chocolate has been heated at high temperatures multiple times during its processing, which can destroy vital enzymes and beneficial phytonutrients. In its raw state, cacao is a great source of magnesium, and contains natural seratonin-boosting compounds such as PEA, the chemical our brains produce when we fall in love, and anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word for bliss. It’s no misake that the Latin name for the chocolate plant is Theobroma Cacao, meaning literally, the Food of the Gods.
By keeping the cacao raw, that is, below 46*C/ 115*F, we preserve the health-giving properties in the chocolate, and by using low-glycemic, natural sweeteners or even avoiding sugar entirely, we can enjoy amazing, plant-based, decadent chocolate desserts without an ounce of guilt.
A SHORT HISTORY OF CACAO
The first known consumption of cacao was in South and Central America, around 1900 BCE, long before the Olmec, Incan, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations where it was variously hoarded by emperors, taken by armies of soldiers as a bitter drink blended with chilies, spices, and maize as a kind of stimulant for day-long marches, and used as an actual currency and medium of exchange. Cacao also has a long history of ritual, ceremonial, and medicinal use.
A Dutch explorer named Van Houten brought cacao to Europe and invented the alkalizing process of “dutching” (after which it was called cocoa powder), a method of refining the chocolate into something a bit less bitter, with a milder flavor. At this time sugar was also added to the cacao, and it quickly became a favorite snack in European society. In 1876 a Swiss chocolatier collaborated with his dairy-farmer neighbor, Nestle, to add powdered milk to the mix, and the milk chocolate that is so popular today was created. While the addition of sugar and milk solids may make chocolate creamy and delicious, these additives also detract from its overall nutritional value, and in fact can inhibit our bodies’ ability to absorb cacao’s valuable nutrients.
WHAT IS CACAO?
The small, evergreen Theobroma Cacao tree generally grows within 11* of the equator, and today is cultivated primarily in Africa, South and Central America, and Indonesia. There are 3 main varietals of cacao plant, namely Criollo, which is the most coveted and rare, Forastero, which is a lower quality but produces a high yield, comprising about 80% of our chocolate today, and Trinitario, a hybrid of the two.
Cacao trees produce a large fruit pods containing a white, foamy flesh that encases the coveted cacao beans, which are harvested and carefully fermented to remove the astringent tannins and add a rich body to the chocolate. These small, almond-sized beans are covered with a papery shell, and can be broken apart by hand into the tiny pieces we know as nibs. These nibs are mechanically ground into a paste or liquor, which is cacao mass. This liquor is further separated into cacao butter, which is the pure fat, and cacao powder, which are the solids, still about 18-22% fat. Since we are using only raw cacao for these recipes, all of this processing is done through mechanical cold-pressing to keep temperatures low.
Making tempered raw chocolate at home is a kind of alchemy, recombining the separated cacao butter and powder in a way that utilizes not only science, but intuition and art. This fragrant and satisfying process is stimulating to the senses of touch, smell, and of course, taste.
PERFECT 84% DARK RAW CHOCOLATE
The following recipe is for tempered chocolate. Chocolate forms in a crystalline structure, and there are six grades or types of crystals. High quality chocolate is made up primarily of grade V crystals, which give the chocolate a long shelf-life, a smooth sheen, a crisp snap, and a melting point of human body temperature- meaning it melts in your mouth. We can create these grade V crystals by manipulating the temperature of our mixture, driving out the lower grades of crystals such as II or III which would otherwise predominate and make the chocolate crumbly, dull, and dry.
To make your own raw chocolate, you’ll need a few things.
coffee or herb grinder, or high-speed blender
stainless steel or glass mixing bowls
double boiler or pot to serve as a bain-marie
large spoon and/or small pitcher with a spout
silicone or polycarbonate molds
RECIPE FOR 84% DARK CHOCOLATE
500 g raw cacao butter
300 g raw cacao powder
150 g coconut sugar
NOTE: You can halve this recipe for a smaller amount of chocolate!
-food-grade essential oil of peppermint, orange, or rose
-superfoods such as maca, spirulina, powdered reishi or ashwaganda
-nuts, dried coconut, or dried fruit
Begin by carefully shaving or chopping the the cacao butter into small slivers of about equal size. Place these pieces into a large, stainless steel mixing bowl, ensuring that the bowl is completely dry first. Throughout the entire process, avoid getting any water in your chocolate, as even a very small amount of moisture can cause the mixture to “seize” and can ruin the batch.
Place the bowl of cacao butter on top of a pot of water, or use an actual double-boiler. The bottom of the bowl need not touch the water. Heat the water slowly and stir the cacao butter with a spatula to ensure that the temperature is even throughout and does not rise above about 46* Celsius or 115* Fahrenheit. Use a candy thermometer to check the temperatures periodically.
While the cacao butter is melting, use a coffee grinder or strong blender to powder your coconut sugar. Grind the sugar as finely as possible, as it will not dissolve in the fat, but will only disperse. A coarse grind of sugar will result in chocolate with a gritty texture. It’s also important to be sure that the sugar is not moist; if it feels damp you may need to dehydrate it or place it for a short while in an oven at a low temperature, until the excess moisture has evaporated. Moisture in the sugar can cause the chocolate to fail to temper, or to “bloom,” producing a white, mottled appearance and crumbly texture.
When all the butter is melted, remove it from the heat and use a whisk to stir in the cacao powder and powdered coconut sugar. If needed, you can use the flat side of the spatula against the side of the bowl to press out any lumps. At this point you can also add in fresh vanilla, scraped from one or two dried vanilla beans, or up to a teaspoon if you have some pre-made vanilla bean powder. Avoid using alcohol extracts as it can cause the chocolate to seize.
Check the temperature of this mixture and if necessary use the bain-marie again to get the temperature up to 46*C/115*F. You may want to remove the mixture from the heat before it reaches 46*C/115*F, as the warm bowl can cause the temperature of the chocolate to continue to rise. Alternatively, you can transfer the chocolate to another, cool bowl, being sure first to wipe any moisture off the bottom of your bowl with a clean kitchen towel, to prevent any water from dripping in the chocolate.
If your kitchen is cool and dry it is ideal for making chocolate, and your mixture will begin to cool naturally. You can also help it along by using an ice water bath. Simply use a larger bowl, or even your kitchen sink, with some ice and a little cold water. To be sure that you don’t get any water in the chocolate, it’s best to keep this bath quite shallow! Use your spatula to continually scrape the cooling chocolate off the edges of the bowl and back into the mix. Keep stirring and avoid letting any clumps form as the chocolate cools to 27* C/ 81*F. This stirring is distributing the grade V crystals throughout the chocolate. To eliminate any of the remaining lower grade crystals, you can then gently heat the mixture back up to 31*C/88*F. Your chocolate is now tempered. You are ready to pour the chocolate into molds.
Be sure that the bottom of your bowl is dry. You can transfer the mixture from the mixing bowl into a smaller pouring container, or use a large spoon to fill your molds, depending on your needs. To prevent spilling, hold your bowl or small pitcher directly over your molds. If using small silicon truffle molds, use a dessert spoon and scrape the bottom of the spoon against the rim of the bowl before pouring the liquid chocolate into the mold. This helps to spill as little as possible and keeps things neat. If you pour too much and the mold overflows, just use your spatula to scoop the liquid into another empty mold. Work as quickly as possible, especially if you are in a cool place, as the chocolate can begin to solidify fairly rapidly. If this happens, simply warm up the mixture in the bain-marie just enough so that it flows again.
If you have some chocolate extra mixture remaining, pour it into a bread pan or pie pan. You can tap it out later and use this tempered chocolate to “seed” your next batch with grade V crystals!
Once the chocolate is poured into the molds, allow it to sit undisturbed someplace cool and dry. It’s best not to use the refrigerator or freezer if you can avoid it, as drastic changes in temperature can affect the tempering process, and condensation can also ruin the texture and cause the chocolate to bloom. Once the chocolate is solid, it should be shiny and smooth. If you are using hard polycarbonate molds, perfectly tempered chocolate will pull away from the sides of the mold and will fall right out effortlessly. If, however, the chocolate is stuck to the sides of the mold, you know that it did not temper properly. In that case, the chocolate is perfect to eat right away, but in a few days it may become dull and grainy. Try again!
You can wrap your chocolates individually (perhaps in natural waxed paper or foil), or store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. The chocolates will also keep in the fridge or freezer, although that does run the risk of condensation accumulating. However, if your plan is to just pop them out and enjoy them that day, it can be a good idea to keep them in a container in the fridge.
Have fun playing around with different flavors and add-ins. You can stir herbs or food-grade essential oils into the tempered chocolate before you pour, or sprinkle nuts, seeds, or dried fruits on top of the chocolate once poured. Experiment, and enjoy! “
In Leilah’s Raw Chocolate E-book you’ll find several recipes for a variety of ways to prepare chocolate treats, including instructions on how to make perfectly tempered, professional quality chocolate bars.You can wrap these bars and give them as a special gift!
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get your copy!
Price is $10 USD
Also included are recipes for low-fat cacao smoothies, grain-free fudgey baked goods, and easy-to-make raw vegan truffles and blissballs.