Raw (aka Clean) Chocolate

I’ve never really been a choc-a-holic, but strangely that changed when I learnt that dark chocolate was considered to be somewhat healthy (in small amounts, of course). Oh, and when I realised how easy it is to make at home.

My initial¬†love affair with Lindt 70% and 80% chocolate gave way to instant gratification in the comfort of my own home, as well as feeling uneasy about the other 20-30% of the Lindt ingredients (one of which I’m dismayed to discover is palm oil) ūüė¶

food fervourRaw chocolate recipes weren’t as prolific a few years ago, but I found one on Lee Holmes’ site ‘Supercharged Food’ (link here)¬†and was super surprised at how easy it seemed to be. Luckily a friend had presented me with a packet of organic cacao powder, so I could instantly ditch the more processed-therefore-less-clean cocoa powder in favour of extra nutritional benefit in my ‘treat’.

My very first attempt at raw chocolate comprised cacao powder, coconut oil and dextrose (back in the day, I was seriously anti-fructose‚Ķ I’ve eased off that a bit now‚Ķ opting for less processed ingredients over fructose content.) In fact it was scary how quickly you could make it: almost less time than it takes to get in the car and drive to the shop for the mass-produced,¬†sugar- (and god knows what else-)¬†laden crap.¬†I was so bloody excited about how easy it was to make that I posted a recipe on my first (other) blog,¬†A Life in Words.¬†Here’s¬†the direct link to that if you’d like to take a squizz…

I finally looked into the cacao butter Lee uses only a little of in her recipe: I’d previously thought it was just a body moisturiser. Well, it is the BOMB. Being cacao fat, it tastes like ‚Ķchocolate. Not coconut, surprise-surprise! And unlike coconut oil, cacao butter won’t liquify at 20 degrees, so you won’t have to drink the chocolate from your hands in summer.

It is seriously as easy as this: one part cacao butter to one part cacao powder. Then add your choice of sweetener to taste. In fact, I have found that if making “fruit’n’nut” chocolate, I don’t need any sweetener at all thanks to the natural sugar (& fibre) content of the sultanas.

Let’s start with ¬Ĺ cup of cacao butter and ¬Ĺ cup cacao powder (so if anything goes wrong, you don’t end up wasting too much of these quite costly ingredients). I now prefer to use maple syrup for a sweetener, finding honey¬†too viscous and coconut¬†sugar takes too long to dissolve.

food fervourHow do you know you have half a cup of cacao butter when it comes in ‘chunks’? I kind of solve this in the choice of equipment I use for the first part of the recipe method: Place a small saucepan of hot water (only about 2-3cms deep) on the stove over the lowest heat possible. Place the cacao chunks in a (tempered) glass measuring jug (I use ‘Pyrex’ brand) and sit the jug in¬†the saucepan. Wait for the butter to liquify.

Simply add the equivalent amount of cacao powder and your choice of sweetener, to taste, mixing well (I use a small spatula, to press out any lumps of cacao powder). If you want to add any flavours (spices like vanilla, or essential peppermint oil) you’d do that now as well. A lot of recipes ask you to whisk the ingredients‚Ķ I’ve been too lazy to try that!

The final step for ‘plain’ chocolate is to decide how you’d like to set it.¬†I sometimes use silicone ice cube tray moulds for individual chocolates or, if very lazy, I’ll lay baking paper down on a plate and just pour out the chocolate onto it so that it it will form one big block (that you can break into pieces once set). Once you’ve made your decision, pop the chocolate in the freezer for about half an hour, or the refrigerator if you¬†don’t’ need¬†it for a few hours‚Ķ.

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fruit’n’nut sticks and blueberry hearts

You can experiment to your heart’s content with this: here are some of my ¬†favourite¬†variations:

Blueberry Hearts: I pop some frozen organic blueberries into silicone heart moulds before pouring in the chocolate… same goes for whole Macadamias

Fruit’n’Nut: I put sultanas & peanuts in moulds before I add the chocolate mixture…

Chocolate Bark: I pour the chocolate onto baking paper on a plate, or into a dish ‘oiled’ with coconut oil then sprinkle anything and everything into it, like: chopped nuts, seeds, goji berries, shredded coconut, amaranth puffs‚Ķ go nuts!

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Chocolate ‘Bark’

Milk Chocolate: I recently decided to try adding (organic) milk powder to a chocolate mix and I thought it was so good that I¬†pretty much ate the whole test batch in one go! (This is not to say everyone will agree.)¬†Add approximately half the amount of milk powder to the fresh chocolate mix (so ¬ľ cup or two tablespoons per the measures I provided above, and mix VERY well (it will thicken quickly) to dissolve the powder as well as possible, then set or add stuff as you wish.

Please feel free to share any amazing combinations you concoct!

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Strawberries dipped in raw chocolate

Gluten Free Fruit & Seed Loaf

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Raisin toast is loaded with sugar so I need to create a GF version minus excessive added sugar…

I used to have a real weakness for fruit toast. But I knew before I went off gluten that fruit loaves are full of sugar so I¬†began¬†limiting my ‘splurges’ anyway.

But I do miss ‘raisin toast’ from time to time, so my¬†quest is to try to create a gluten free version that’s as similar to the ‘real thing’ as possible, minus the excess sugar of course. Trial and error is the only way, with the aid of heaps of research – Googling & others’ blogs! – and the courage to ‘alter’ (or ‘bastardise’ as I like to say) recipes. That kind of courage I definitely do not lack.

The loaf I just made was the result of an adaptation of Cyndi O’Meara’s gluten free bread recipe included a couple of Thermomix recipe books. I altered the dry ingredients a fair bit (due to both lack of some & preference for others), added a selection of spices, seeds, preservative-free dried fruits (these worked to sweeten the loaf more than the meagre amount of coconut sugar I opted for) and the kicker: I replaced xanthan gum & egg with soaked chia. I’d discovered this idea on a blog somewhere recently and then saw it used in a complimentary recipe on the Thermomix website.

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served up warm with my homemade butter

So… it turned out heavier than your typical commercial wheaten fruit loaf, but toasted up, I think it made the grade: particularly considering the vast majority of ingredients I used were unprocessed, which as far as I’m concerned is the most important thing.

If you don’t have a Thermomix the recipe should still work (you’ll have to buy your flours pre-milled) but will involve a lot more elbow grease in the mixing stages! Here’s what I used this time around:

2 tbspn chia seeds, 8 tbspn water, 280gm whole buckwheat, 100gm brown rice, 40gm dried chickpeas, 1 heaped tspn whole cloves, 35gm cornflour, 1 tspn cinnamon, 1 tspn nutmeg, 1 tspn garam masala, 10gm instant yeast, pinch (Himalayan) salt, 20gm coconut sugar, 400gm lukewarm water, 30 gm macadamia oil, 1 tspn vanilla essence, 1 tbspn apple cider vinegar, 80gm chopped dates, 80gm sun raisins, 45gm pumpkin seeds (pepitas), 40gm sunflower seeds.

Firstly¬†I put¬†the chia seeds and 8 tbspn water in a jar, shook it up and left it to ‘absorb’ while milling the buckwheat, brown rice, chickpeas & cloves in the Thermomix (1 minute, Speed 9). I added the remaining dry ingredients (cornflour, the powdered¬†spices, yeast, salt & coconut sugar) and mixed lightly (15-20 seconds, Speed 4-5) before adding the water, oil, vanilla, vinegar and chia seed gel for another¬†15-20 seconds on Speed 5-6. I finally added the dried fruit & seeds, mixing gently on Reverse, Speed 1-2 for 20-30 seconds (to be honest, I can’t recall how long).¬†Ready to¬†empty the ‘batter’ into my greased & lined¬†loaf tin, I placed it directly into the cold oven so it could ‘prove’ for the 15-20 minutes it takes to heat up to 180¬ļ. (The appliance in my rental home is ‘ancient’ & even though it is fan-forced, it’s pretty ‘slow’.) So from go to whoa, it should take about an hour: 20 minutes proving + 40 minutes cooking @ 180¬ļC.

Don’t expect a sweet cake-loaf: as I said earlier the meagre amount of coconut sugar is literally swamped by the other ingredients. So much so that the next time I cook this (or something similar) I’ll¬†leave¬†it out altogether and simply up the dried fruit content. Oh and nuts, I’ll definitely add chopped nuts. I’ve also read that the longer the dough (in this case ‘batter’) proves the better, so next time I might let it sit for longer before turning the oven on‚Ķ I’m not sure if this applies to heavy gluten-free-grain-and-seed-floured doughs but if someone out there knows, please speak up!