I am a self-professed chocoholic. I definitely cannot live without it. It is next in line to water as the elixir of life for me, for sure. I’m not talking about Cadbury, Mars or Snickers here….I’m talking about pure, dark chocolate. Some of the chocolate I eat is so bitter that I doubt my Grandmother would even bake with it! Don’t get me wrong I love sweet things, but when it comes to chocolate I need to taste the deep, dark flavor of the cacao in every glorious bite.
Since chocolate is sort of a staple in my diet, I realized early on that I better learn how to make it myself if I didn’t want to go completely broke buying organic, artisan chocolates at my local Whole Foods Market. But I got so busy with traveling and work that my desire to learn to make chocolate yet again got pushed to the back shelf of my mind….until last year that is.
So there I was, the day before my birthday in a beautiful beach town on the coast of Nicaragua, and for no apparent reason I decided to leave my new found friends (and soon to be boyfriend), jump on a bus alone and head to a little island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Why I do things like this sometimes I have no idea. A day later (my birthday) after the most gut-wrenching boat ride of my life, I arrived on Isla Ometepe just in time to catch a bus for the other side of the island. I had no idea where I was going, so going to the “other side” seemed like a logical enough idea. Well, about an hour into the ride, the bus broke down and I found myself walking along a very deserted and dusty road to an unknown destination.
Eventually another bus came by and so I hopped on it. It rattled down the potholed road making stops at all sorts of random little places, each as unknown as the next to me. So I continued to sit on the bus until eventually I was only one of three people left. When the driver called out the last stop, all three of us got off and were pointed in the direction of a hil,l on top of which we were told we would find a decent place to stay. So we began the hike up and chatted as we went. My new companions were two American girls who had just spent 6 months in the Galapagos Islands where, at one time, I had previously lived as well. Small world. Needless to say we turned out to be kindred spirits and became fast friends.
A few days later we found ourselves walking down yet another dusty road on our way back from a long trek to moderately spectacular waterfall. As we walked in the hot sun, we saw a sign at the end of a small laneway, literally in the middle of nowhere, which read “Raw Dark Chocolate”. Being typical chocolate obsessed girls and knowing that real chocolate was scarce in these parts (which is still beyond me in a country that grows so much cacao….but that’s another story), we quickly decided that despite our tired legs, a walk up this otherwise unmarked laneway would be a good idea. When we finally got to the top we found the most magical little place.
There were three little cob cottages, backed by a beautiful open-air main house and sitting area, all looking over the vastness of lake Cocibola below. We wandered up to the main house and introduced ourselves to the owners of the little oasis we had stumbled upon. The owners were a young couple from Colorado who had only recently completed construction of their little ecological retreat center. Good timing.
After making our cordial salutations, we got back to the matter at hand. Where were they hiding the chocolate? It didn’t take long before our gracious hosts brought us several different raw chocolates to try, and we happily savored each and every morsel. Several pieces of chocolate later, we weren’t completely satisfied with the prospect of ever leaving our new found haven, so we organized a plan to come back and stay at the farm (Finca Mystica) not only so we could eat more chocolate, but also to learn how to make it from scratch! Finally, the day had come.
So, as promised, a day later there we were peeling raw cacao, grinding the beans and making our very own incredibly delicious raw organic chocolates!
The method and recipe we used that day, as well as my new personal method and recipe are outlined below. Have fun creating your very own, delicious kryptonite!
What you’ll need
Cacao beans (dried) OR Raw Cacao Powder
Coconut oil (room temperature ~20C)
Sweetener (Liquid sweeteners work best, like coconut syrup, raw agave, tapa dulce, honey or maple syrup)
Goodies – Optional (crystallized ginger, cayenne pepper, coffee, coconut flakes, orange rind etc.)
Measurements are based on how much chocolate you want to make and how sweet you would like it to be. Since I don’t really use measurements in my baking I would go with this general ratio: 1.5-2-cacao powder : 1-coconut oil : 0.25 sweetener : 0.25 extra goodies
How to do it
***If you have Raw Cacao Powder and not beans start at Step 3.
Step 1 - Peel the skins off of your cacao beans (for an easier non-RAW version see note below)**
Step 2 – Put peeled beans in a coffee grinder and buzz for several seconds at a time. You can use a mortar and pestle as well to get it super fine. Or if you have a GreenStar Juicer you can run the cacao through and extract the powder that way. Whatever method you choose, make sure to try to get the powder at fine as possible -the finer the powder, the smoother the chocolate. If it starts to liquify into Cacao Liquor, that’s even better!
Step 3 – Put Cacao powder in a bowl and add coconut oil. Use a spatula to cream the powder into the oil. When all of the powder is absorbed into the oil, add your sweetener of choice and continue to cream the mixture together. If the mixture is at room temperature (~20C) the consistency should be a bit like whipped butter. If you are using coconut oil and it is warmer than room temperature the mixture will be almost totally liquefied. Taste the mixture to determine if it suits your taste. If not, add more sugar, cacao or oil to taste.
Step 4 – Once you have the mixture made to taste, you can fold in your favorite goodies if you like. Ones I like are crystallized ginger, espresso beans (finely chopped) or almond pieces.
Step 5 – Now put the mixture into molds of your choice. You can put them in ice cube trays or thinly coat the bottom of a cake pan or even just make little “kiss” drops onto a plate. Ikea makes silicone ice cube trays that sell for about $1 each and work great.
Step 6 – Put the molds into the fridge to set for at least 2 hours. Once they have hardened remove from the molds and enjoy! Leave the extras in the fridge for later, or they might start to melt.
**Note: Removing the skins from the cacao beans can be a difficult task. To make this easier you can put them in a pan for a few minutes to heat them slightly. This will make them “pop” right out of their skins when you go to peel them. Technically these may no longer be considered raw but it saves a lot of time and energy.