Factoids – monkeys are to thank for bringing us chocolate. They allegedly ate the fruit from wild cacao trees, spat the seeds (cacao beans) onto the ground, thus planting the first seeds!
Shock horror – Chocolate really is good for you. Sadly that doesn’t mean you can rush off to your nearest Spar and pick up a family size block, what we’re used to is not really chocolate, its confectionary, complete with cheap fillers, refined fats and sugar, dairy and flavourings.
The most natural form of chocolate is Raw Cacao which is now easily available in powdered form or already made into chocolates or bars. This is indeed a ‘superfood’ – one of the most complex food substances on earth containing Serotonin, Tryptophan, Anandamide, Dopamine, and many more identifiable chemical compounds all of which have a positive effect on brain chemistry.
For chocolate lovers everywhere the great news is you can now have your chocolate without the guilt and the market is growing rapidly, with masses of companies now selling excellent raw chocolate. How much better though to make your own and to that end I was lucky enough to attend a Raw chocolate making workshop with Raw culinary artist Amy Levin
I arrived stressed out after a long journey but immediately relaxed with a taste of a chocolate hazelnut praline and a Peppermint Paddy. There were 5 of us, all raw food or chocolate enthusiasts (or both) and Amy explained the tempering process, heating and cooling chocolate to prepare it for dipping and enrobing, but raw chocolate chefs use high speed blenders to melt the cacao butter, its important that raw chocolate is heated only to 42 degrees and then whisked, its ready for use at 31.5c. Once you have tempered chocolate you can add texture, fruits, nuts, dried fruit, essential oils and add it to moulds before allowing it to set in the fridge. In truth because I’m always in a rush I’ve often successfully missed out the tempering process and its still worked out fine.
We made Amy’s very own version of white chocolate, cashews, cacao butter, a vanilla pod, a tiny pinch of himalayan salt, and it can be sweetened maple sugar or mulberries.
Milk chocolate is of course not really milk, its dairy free and uses all the ingredients above apart from the vanilla pod but adds 50 grams cashew nuts and cacao powder.
For dark chocolate it’s just the cocao butter, powder, and the same sweeteners but you may choose to use agave syrup or Sweet freedom.
In an action packed day (where we were advised to wear old clothes cos working with chocolate is messy !) we learned how to make filled chocolates, including the aforementioned Peppermint Paddys, Truffles, Praline and Ganache.
We left laden with our own personal collection of gorgeous chocolates and a host of recipes to create them at home.
Amy Levin runs advanced level Passion for chocolate courses in East Sussex and London.
You can buy Raw Chocolate Powder and Cacao butter from http://www.gojiking.co.uk/shop/
Chocolate making kits are available from www.chocchick.com