A Beginners Guide to Raw Chocolate
There was a time when making that all-important chocolate purchase simply meant choosing Galaxy over Dairy Milk. Bars were one standard size and made to be shared, but like relinquishing that last Rollo it was so hard to do. There was a time when consumption of chocolate was considered so much a female concern, the advertising brigade tried to lure the men in by coming up with Yorkie, informing us that only a man can bite into a bar that thick.
Now we have a huge choice and a major cause of indecision not only over the myriad brands and multi-bar sizing, but of the cacao versus cocoa, dark versus dairy-free and vegan versus raw, until our brains resemble the inside of a creme egg. Add into the mix, the integrity of the cacao product and how it is farmed, and the decision-making process becomes even more convoluted. There is mucha politica involved in cacao harvesting, re the exploitation of farmers in poor countries as often happens, but I want to avoid getting into this here, as it’s a deep subject on its own.
For any 100% raw fooders reading this, I apologise for any liberties I may seem to be taking, but this topic is still being debated and so far it seems to come down to opinion. Some in the raw food world openly sell it, others avoid it. If you are a true chocolate aficionado you may well have already tasted raw chocolate, and be a fan. If you are more turned on by the high milk and sugar content of many brands, then you are possibly shuddering at the thought.
When my children were little and I was teaching them the rudiments of maths (they were home educated) I used chocolate buttons to demonstrate the concept of minus, and they got to eat as they subtracted. I laid out a row and said “OK eat 2, now how many are left, now eat 2 more”, and well, you get the idea. Bless their little faces – the first time each one started on this topic they looked at me askance, like, “really, this is maths? Give me more.” Similarly when fractions came along I used chocolate bars to demonstrate halves, quarters, eighths and so forth. Sadly, I was unable to extrapolate this into algebra or logarithms, so none of them maintained a desire to become a mathematician.
I present this background so that you understand I write as a complete and utter unashamed chocolate lover, so for me to switch to the raw type and ENJOY IT means anyone can. The challenge is set.
Healthwise, there is a chocolate hierarchy which I will attempt to clarify, from most beneficial to least. You will know that the types filled with sugar – first or second placing on the label – and many other bits and bobs like biscuit pieces and marshmallow are not wholesome. So in order to not insult your intelligence we are looking here at what are considered the ultimate healthy options. Just what is the difference between raw and a high percentage plain dark chocolate?
Chocolate as we know it is highly processed and in theory intended as a treat, not a daily staple.
Any nutritional qualities of cacao i.e. the minerals: iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and manganese, are degraded or damaged when the bean is put through high heat intense processing. With raw cacao there is a lighter form of processing and/or fermentation. Most raw cacao is fermented, if not fermented, the phytic acid contained within the bean will bind itself to the minerals and thereby prevent our bodies being able to absorb these.
The different use of the words cocoa and cacao can be misleading – generally cocoa seems to refer to the more highly processed forms, whereas cacao tends to be used as a way of characterising the healthy options. However, as always, read the labels when you buy, as the two terms are interchanged to some extent.
MAKING YOUR OWN
This can be simple or complex, it is up to you how much you delve enthusiastically in. It is certainly more cost-efficient to make your own. Raw chocolate kits are widely available but you can use ice cube moulds or anything else that takes your fancy.
There is a wondrous, magical chocolatier in London called Amy Levin whom I’ve known about for over 8 years now and really am rather lost for words about the amazing beautiful edibles she confects from basic and also unusual ingredients. If you are looking for a new hobby or skill then check out her online classes or dive into her free recipes based on old-time favourites. With Easter fast approaching you may fancy making your own raw chocolate eggs (if you would like a vegan – not raw – version of the creme egg, there is a new kid on the block MummyMeagz).
As some of Amy’s methods are time-consuming, for a quick easy version here are two of my own super fast makes.
SIMPLE RAW CHOCOLATE BAR
- 1 part raw coconut oil to 3 parts raw cacao paste
- 1 part coconut sugar or raw honey
- Melt the coconut oil and cacao paste in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Add some sweetener to taste. Go easy with this. Spread thinly over a flat tray and cool until set.
This will be shiny and snap like normal chocolate. You can throw in other ingredients like chopped fresh figs, raw coconut flakes, organic goji berries, nuts, cacao nibs. This is the healthiest ultimate version but you can scale it down if the ingredients are hard to find, or out of your budget, by using high % dark chocolate instead of cacao paste. In case you are not familiar with the paste, be warned, it is bitter. Another easy option is to melt cocoa butter and then add in raw cacao powder – you can experiment to your heart’s content, taste-testing as you go. What’s not to like?
RAW CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT BALLS
All of the below ingredients should be raw and organic for the optimum health benefits. Just a note – raw honey does not mean manuka – many get confused about this. Some manuka honeys are raw, some not, but they are all expensive. Local raw honey will not be as pricey, so check with the beekeeper and ask how the honey is extracted.
- 100 gm Cacao butter
- 100 gm Cacao powder
- 100 gm Creamed coconut
- 100 gm Coconut oil
- 50 gm Honey or coconut sugar
- Peppermint Essence
- 1-2 teaspoons hot water
- Melt the cacao butter and coconut oil gently in a bowl over a pan of hot water, grate the creamed coconut and add to the bowl, then carefully stir in the cacao powder. Add the hot water a spoonful at a time – one may be enough – and the peppermint essence to taste. Start with 1 teaspoonful. Allow to cool slightly then roll into balls or use a ball mould and freeze. If you prefer a white chocolate version, omit the cacao powder and simply roll the balls in it before freezing.
In addition, there are many raw chocolate desserts and bars you can make using a wonderful array of exotic flavourings such as Lucoma, Maca, Baobab and Purple Corn. Many raw recipes use almond and cashew butters, but you can or course grind your own. Raw chef Russell James has some awesome cake and dessert recipes on his website.
CAROB: CHOCOLATE FAKERY
A word about carob. It is not chocolate as anyone who has tasted it knows, it has a different vibe going on completely. I happen to like it but I want to know I am eating it and have the correct taste bud receptors at the ready, and not have it presented to me as chocolate, there have been occasions when people tried to do this, (naming no names, Mother). The harvesting of the pods is still very much a hands-on job, basically involving a long stick and whacking the trees – great for tension release and arm muscles – which makes the air hang heavy and heady with its sweetness.
It has health benefits of its own and being much sweeter than raw cacao, may be more palatable to some of you, but you could choose to use a cacao/carob mash-up. The two work well together as long as you watch the flavour of the carob doesn’t overpower the cacao.
In terms of the recommended daily dietary intake, 100 gm of raw carob powder will give you:
- 34% calcium
- 13% magnesium
- 16% iron
- 20% vit B6
- 23% potassium
- and a whopping 160% of fibre
Finally, the topic of raw cacao remains a hotbed of contention, some maintain it is sacred and can raise consciousness when consumed in a particular way, others will caution against its use as being too much of a stimulant. We all have our own individual biochemical makeup, therefore we will all react in different ways. The key is to not overindulge in raw chocolate, which is not difficult because as I mentioned before, a small amount will satisfy you. The last tip – eat in the daytime not evening, to avoid any overstimulation.
Helen is a nutritional therapist and freelance natural health writer, interested in metaphysics, Taoism, babies, cats and chocolate, though not necessarily in that order. Having searched over 2 decades for the best ways to eat to live long and strong, Helen switched 12 years ago to a highly raw, plant-based diet which she loves.” You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org