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Vie de Cacao

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Antioxidant-packed Berry Smoothie feat. Raw Cacao Powder 0

Serves 1

 

Ingredients


8 oz nondairy chocolate milk ( I prefer almond milk usually)
1-2 handfuls of baby spinach (the amount depends on your taste buds)
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon if you don’t mind the taste)
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
4 oz, by weight, frozen mixed berries
Protein powder (1 scoop, optional, if you’re looking for protein)
Cacao nibs for garnish (optional)

 

I’m always looking for ways to increase my daily servings of fruits and vegetables.  While ideally I eat them rather than blend and drink them, in the mornings, it’s easiest to blend them and pack in as much as possible in a glass.

 

There are several superstar ingredients in this smoothie.  In addition to being packed with antioxidants, the following ingredients are quality sources of nutrients, including:

  • Spinach: Vitamins such as A, B6, C, and K; folate; and fiber.

  • Flaxseeds: omega-3s and fiber.

  • Raw cacao powder: magnesium and iron. Cacao beans are treated at low temperatures to reduce damage to the nutrients and the cocoa butter is then removed to reveal raw cacao powder.  It can be purchased at most health-conscious stores.

  • Mixed berries: Vitamin C, iron, and fiber.

  • Turmeric: antioxidant properties greater than Vitamins C and E and is a good source of iron.

  • Cacao nibs, optional: read more about cacao nibs here

 

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Garnish with cacao nibs (optional).  Enjoy immediately!

Connecting through Chocolate 0

Chocolate—where does it come from; how is it made; what’s in chocolate; and what makes some chocolate better than others.  Chocolate should be taste smooth and creamy—your mouth shouldn’t have a waxy coating after eating it, and you should feel like you’ve actually consumed chocolate.  And how the chocolate is made and what’s in it determines how delicious (or not) it is.

 

A chocolate maker works with cacao farmers to ensure proper: (1) soil and tree care in order to cultivate trees that yield premium cacao beans, (2) fermentation after the cacao beans are harvested to develop the precursors to chocolate flavor; and (3) drying of the cacao beans to capture the appropriate flavors.  The chocolate maker then begins the exacting processes of making chocolate from the cacao beans, including blending a variety of cacao beans to achieve the right flavor, and roasting and grinding the beans.  When chocolate is lacking a full-bodied chocolate flavor, it means that the cacao beans that were used were of a lower grade.  It could also mean that what you are eating isn’t actually chocolate.

 

Cocoa butter, which is naturally found in the cacao bean, is responsible for the smooth mouth feel of chocolate.  Some of the factors that affect the taste of chocolate include the quality of the cacao beans used to make the chocolate, the amount of cocoa butter in the chocolate, and whether any of the cocoa butter has been replaced with vegetable oils.

 

How do you know if the “chocolate” you are consuming has oil?  Look at the ingredient list on the packaging.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires ingredients be listed on packaging.  If there isn’t an ingredient list, you should wonder why.  Ask the chocolatier or retailer for the ingredients.

For instance, premium dark chocolate should be made of cocoa mass and cocoa butter (both of which are naturally found in the cacao bean), sugar, vanilla (not vanillin, which is synthetic, and as a result, is cheaper), and soy lecithin, which is added in trace amounts to improve the fluidity of chocolate when it’s melted.  But some chocolate manufacturers replace a large portion of the cocoa butter with vegetable oil(s), such as coconut oil and palm oil, because cocoa butter, particularly high quality cocoa butter, costs significantly more than vegetable oil.

Even more problematic is that chocolate manufacturers who use palm oil have a negative impact on the environment.  Palm oil is an ingredient in many food products, including some chocolate, and to satisfy the demand for palm oil, rain forests have been destroyed to convert them to palm oil plantations, resulting in the loss of wild animals.  Some chocolate manufacturers may say they use vegetable oil(s), but may not specify whether the oil used is palm oil.

 

A food can’t meet the definition of chocolate according to the FDA if the cocoa butter has been removed, so there are chocolate manufacturers who have made subtle changes to packaging, perhaps labeling their products as “chocolate candy.”  Or we’ll call these products “imitation chocolate.”

 

The difference in taste between high quality chocolate and imitation chocolate is jaw-dropping.  Do your own taste test.  Imitation chocolate leaves your mouth feeling waxy, whereas premium chocolate has a creamy, smooth taste.  Imitation chocolate also doesn’t give you the satisfaction of having eaten chocolate. 

 

A person could easily eat a large amount of imitation chocolate without feeling sated; whereas, premium chocolate is so naturally rich that after a small amount, you feel sated.  The same can be said for chocolate made with low quality cacao beans—the contrast is remarkable.

 

In the end, it matters to us to team up with chocolate makers who take great care in producing high quality chocolate, not just because we are working with their chocolate to offer you premium confections, but because we’re eating those confections, too.

  • Puja Satiani

Cocoa Butter: Inside & Out 0

Cocoa butter is one of nature's best gifts.  Not only is it ideal for moisturizing your skin, but it plays a significant role in the chocolate we eat, and it's a critical tool for chocolatiers.

 

Cocoa Butter Basics

 

The cacao bean is about 45% cocoa solids (also called cocoa mass) and 55% cocoa butter.  Cocoa butter is the fat content of the cacao bean, and because it is a vegetable fat, cocoa butter has no cholesterol.  It’s pale yellow in appearance and has a chocolate aroma.  It is one of the most stable fats (having a shelf life of between two to five years) and provides good omega fatty acids as well as antioxidants.

 

Cocoa butter for beauty use usually comes in large hunks.

You can buy 100% natural or raw cocoa butter that has a lovely chocolate-ish aroma.  You can use it on its own to moisturize or melt it and blend it with other butters and oils to create a moisturizer.

 

Cocoa butter remains solid at room temperature but melts quickly at 90-93°F, just below body temperature. This is why, when applied topically, cocoa butter melts nicely on your skin and creates a barrier between your skin and the environment to retain your skin’s moisture.

 

 

 

When it comes to chocolate, cocoa butter is responsible for the creamy, smooth mouthfeel of chocolate.  The quality of chocolate depends on the amount of cocoa butter added during processing.  The reason a piece of premium chocolate melts immediately when you eat it is because the melting point of cocoa butter is slightly lower than our body temperature.  Because high quality cocoa butter is expensive, inferior chocolate relies on the use of vegetable shortening or oil instead of cocoa butter.  And not all cocoa butter is the same.  The quality of cocoa butter depends on the quality of the cacao bean.

 

Dark and milk chocolate have both cocoa solids and cocoa butter; whereas, white chocolate contains no cocoa solids.  White chocolate is made primarily of cocoa butter, a milk product, sugar, and vanilla.

 

Cocoa Butter From a Chocolatier’s Perspective

 

When chocolatiers speak of crystallizing chocolate (post about crystallization), it’s the cocoa butter in the chocolate that has to be crystallized.  Cocoa butter that’s used by chocolatiers is offered in small pieces and is deodorized (or the scent is removed) so that the natural scent of cocoa butter doesn’t affect the flavor of chocolate.

This cocoa butter comes crystallized.

And if I don’t crystallize it, but rather just let the melted cocoa butter cool, I'll get whitish spots – also called bloom.

There's nothing wrong with the cocoa butter, but it should be crystallized before use in chocolate work.

 

From a chocolatier’s perspective, there are a variety of uses for cocoa butter.  For instance, cocoa butter can be added to a ganache with other vegetable fats to make a dairy-free ganache.  Also, the colorful designs on chocolates and truffles are made largely with cocoa butter.  Cocoa butter can be added to chocolate during the crystallization phase to reduce the viscosity of the chocolate and make it fluid enough for dipping chocolates or using in molds.  When the cocoa butter sets or cools, it contracts slightly, and that allows the chocolate to easily release from the mold.

 

That's a quick cocoa butter overview for you.

  • Puja Satiani

Nibs: They Need Love, Too. 0

I've heard cacao nibs referred to as nature’s chocolate chips.  Ummm . . . chocolate chips they are not.  Anyone I’ve seen taste cacao nibs for the first time usually gets a confused look on their face.  They assume that because nibs come from the cacao tree, the nibs, like chocolate, should be sweet to some extent.  Cacao nibs do have an unexpectedly bitter taste, particularly if you're about to toss them back under the impression that they are similar to chocolate chips.

 

BUT, nibs are fabulous, and a necessary addition to every kitchen.

For starters, cacao nibs are pieces of the cacao bean before that bean gets completely processed and blended with other ingredients to make chocolate.  Cacao nibs start out as part of the cacao pods that grow on the Theobroma cacao tree (Greek for “food of the gods”).  Inside the cacao pods are seeds or cacao beans.  Cacao nibs are pieces of fermented, dried, roasted, and ground cacao beans.

 

Doesn't sound very sexy, hunh?  Hang on.

 

Cacao was worshipped by the Mayans, who believed the cacao tree to be a gift from the gods.  The nibs are said to be loaded with antioxidants, contain fiber, and are packed with minerals such as magnesium and iron.  Cacao also contains theobromine, which is a natural stimulant, along like lines of caffeine, but less powerful.  Cacao even has been known to be a mood-enhancer.  (No brainer.  Can you be sad while eating chocolate?  And if even you were sad when you started eating chocolate, you can’t stay sad for long, can you?)  So yes, of course you can understand why cacao was worshipped.  Unfortunately, cacao nibs don’t get as much credit as they're due, always taking the backseat to chocolate.

 

 

While cacao nibs do have a somewhat bitter taste, they also have an unmistakably intense and wonderful aroma (like that of chocolate), and, you will taste some chocolate notes.  Nibs are crunchy and slightly nutty.  You can find nibs in gourmet stores and health-food stores, and they are offered in broken up pieces, making them easy to use in any recipe.

 

There are oh-so-many ways to enjoy cacao nibs.  I almost always throw them in the food processor to grind them further before working them into anything else.  Here are a few ways I've used my ground cacao nibs:

 

  • Sprinkled with brown sugar onto a roasted banana

  • Tossed into a fruit salad

  • Blended into a smoothie

  • Stirred into hummus

  • Added to ground coffee for steeping in my French press

 

How do you use cacao nibs?

  • Puja Satiani