Raw chocolates are easy to make. They are also said to be much better for you than regular chocolate; more of the beneficial active ingredients in raw cacao are retained. However, I find plain old raw chocolate on its own can be just a teeny bit boring. So I’ve come up with a few ways to make them a bit more interesting.
These sumptuous coconut bliss balls are a type of raw chocolate truffle. They don’t have the name bliss balls for nothing. Try one and you’ll wonder why you’ve ever bothered with conventional truffles. Well maybe I exaggerate a little, but only just.
It’s been a while since I did a round-up of Chocolate Treats. I’ve had a few sent to me over the last several months and now feels like a good time to let you know about them all.
Food of the Gods
Cornwall is starting to produce some fabulous and innovative chocolate. I’ve already highlighted some of our chocolate producers, but Food of the Gods has only recently come to my attention. Based down at the other end of Cornwall to me, in St Just, this is an exciting new enterprise. Owner and chocolate maker Dal Hall loves his chocolate, but didn’t like eating all the associated sugar and additives that comes with most mass produced bars. Initially running a few raw chocolate workshops for people with mental health problems and seeing the joy it brought them, he decided to start making his own raw chocolate whilst carrying on the day job. Ethics are important and Dal’s chocolate is made using organic and fairly traded ingredients. There are only three things in the base chocolate, cocoa solids, cocoa butter and unusually, date syrup. I was particularly interested in this latter ingredient as it appeals far more to me than agave syrup or Sweet Freedom – the only two sweeteners I’ve so far been aware of. Date syrup is a more natural ingredient, being less highly processed and containing fibre, potassium and antioxidants.
The chocolate is 96% cocoa, leaving only 4% to be sweetened by the date syrup. This makes it the healthiest raw chocolate I know as well as the darkest. I was sent three bars to try: one with cocoa nibs, one with mixed nuts and one with rose petals, goji berries and something chocolatey. The something chocolatey is a bit of a mystery as none of the bars had labels on them. However it tasted very nice. In fact both CT and I enjoyed this chocolate very much. Although it’s barely sweet and very rich and dark, it’s surprisingly easy to eat. It’s not at all bitter and you can really taste the chocolate. The texture is also much better than the raw chocolate I’ve made myself; it’s less soft and almost has a bit of a snap to it. It is, however, quite chewy, so better munched than left to gradually melt in the mouth. The nut bar was probably my favourite, even though I was quite taken by the rose which had a subtle flavour with burst of fruitiness from the berries.
This Food of the Gods is by far and away the most exciting raw chocolate I’ve yet come across and I wish Dal every success with his venture.
The chocolate is available online and at selected outlets in Cornwall, one of which is happily Trevallicks, the farm shop in my home village. Online it costs £2.75 for a 60g bar including P&P.
Italian food has to be one of the best in the world, it’s certainly one of my favourites. Finding authentic high quality Italian ingredients isn’t always easy. Vorrei are a new online Italian food shop selling products ethically sourced from small scale Italian suppliers and farms. I noticed many of their products are organic too – bene. I was glad to see they have a particularly pleasing chocolate selection.
Giuliette (Colavolpe) – dried oven-baked figs, walnuts, sugar, cocoa butter, Bronte pistachios, powdered milk, lactose and milk proteins, flavouring, soy lecithin, colouring E131.
The Colavolpe family have been making figgy confections now for three generations. Based in Calabria, one of their signature ingredients is the dottato fig, a small but tasty variety that grows particularly well in that region.
I adore figs and pistachios both, so these little parcels of sumptuousness all wrapped up in white chocolate are just the sort of thing likely to appeal to me. The dried figs are stuffed with a mixture of walnuts, pistachios and white chocolate, then enrobed in more white chocolate. Despite the minimal amount of pistachio in the filling, (only 5%), the flavour was still detectable. I would prefer a higher percentage of pistachio myself and for the food colouring to be omitted. That aside, I enjoyed these so much I really didn’t want to share; poor CT didn’t get much of a look in. The outer chocolate is a good foil for the richer chewy fig within. I found the packaging almost as appealing. Wrapped individually in pistachio coloured foil lined paper, the figs nestled in a similarly coloured box.
A box of 12, weighing 250g costs £10.50.
Betty and Walter
Inspired by the names of Betty and Walter bags and accessories, Creighton’s Chocolaterie have created a limited range of chocolate bars to complement them. I was sent one of their bars to try. When the box arrived I didn’t know which of the four flavours I was going to get. All of them sounded interesting, especially the fig and pink pepper dark chocolate. But secretly my heart yearned for rose. I’ve had an affinity with rose ever since I was a nipper and was dressed up as the Fry’s Turkish Delight girl for our village carnival one year. And as I’ve said before, this queen of flowers reminds me of my grandad who was passionate about his roses and won awards for them every year.
Beautifully packaged, the chocolate came with a personalised label which immediately endeared Betty and Walter to me and made me smile.
Almond and Rose Milk Chocolate – (33.6%) sugar, cocoa butter, while milk powder, cocoa mass, soya lecithin, vanilla, almonds, rose oil.
I was so enamoured by the anticipation of not knowing what I was going to get and later by the look, sound and scent of this bar, that I took it in stages. I made the whole seductive process of looking, smelling, touching and finally tasting, last as long as I could. In a nutshell: day one, I received it; day two I unwrapped the outer packaging ; day 3, I unwrapped the inner packaging and tasted the chocolate.
Wrapped in greaseproof paper emblazoned with Creighton’s chocolaterie interspersed with yum, I found this to be a classy way of wrapping the chocolate. As soon as the outer layer of plastic was taken off, the evocative scent of rose assailed my nostrils. But what of the chocolate? Thankfully, it tasted delightfully of rose too. The bar was sweet, but whilst I’m not generally a fan of very sweet chocolate, it somehow works with rose. The crunchy pieces of almond gave added texture and interest. Once started, CT got in on the act and the bar didn’t last very long at all.
At £3.50 for a 100g bar, this is well worth the money,for the pure anticipatory joy, if nothing else.
Seed and Bean
Seed and Bean is a company I approve of. I’ve reviewed some of their 85g chocolate bars before and here too; the chocolate is both tasty and of good quality. They also come in a range of interesting flavours. But more than that, they are organically certified by the Soil Association and the only UK chocolate company to receive 100% ethical accreditation from The Ethical Company Organisation. This means, in their own words “we give a really fair deal to cocoa farmers, whilst fully respecting the rural environment, both in the UK and overseas”.
Cornish Sea Salt – (70% dark chocolate) – cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, smoked sea salt, soya lecithin, vanilla extract.
With my patriotic Cornish hat on, I was very pleased to see that Seed and Bean were using Cornish sea salt in another of their bars. The chocolate is smooth and melts sumptuously in the mouth. It’s not in the least bit bitter, which is generally a sign of good quality dark chocolate. I’m unable to eat more than a square of some sea salted bars I’ve tried as they are just too salty, but here the salt takes a supporting role. There is a subtle note of smokiness that enriches the experience. This is a bar to savour and delight in.
Lavender – (72% dark chocolate) – cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla extract, lavender oil soya lecithin, .
Lavender is one of those flavours that you either like or dislike. Liking most things herbal, I’m rather partial to it as long as it’s not too overpowering. This one is quite strong, the scent emanates from the bar as soon as it is opened and you can certainly taste the lavender. Both CT and I felt it was a bit too much and thus better suited to baking into a chocolate lavender cake than savouring on its own. Lavender, I’ve found works very nicely in this form as demonstrated by this chocolate lavender cake.
Prices for these 85g bars are around £2.30.
Scotland’s first chilli farm has a name that immediately appeals to me. It’s no secret, I am a chilli head; next to our garlic, chillies are the most important crop we grow. Chillilicious not only has the distinction of being the most northerly chilli farm in Europe, but it is run by a team of women. Mother and daughter, Patricia and Stacey Galfskiy grow chillies in an environmentally sustainable way and make a variety of products from them. One such is a chocolate bar using the infamous naga – the world’s hottest chilli.
Heaven & Hell – (dark chocolate, 53.8% cocoa) cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, natural vanilla. (white chocolate, 28%) sugar, cocoa butter , whole milll powder, soya lecithin, natural vanilla. Naga chilli.
A mix of dark and white chocolate, this bar is topped by dried naga chilli and swirled artfully together, it looks very attractive. The dark chocolate contains the chilli as well as being topped by it. The idea is that the white chocolate soothes the mouth after eating the fiery dark part. Chilli fiend that I am, I was slightly concerned about trying this bar – I had heard stories. Well, it didn’t quite blow my head of, but it nearly did. My throat caught fire almost immediatly after the chocolate hit my mouth. But the sensation of hot chilli together with both dark and sweet white chocolate is quite exciting. Not something I’d want every day, but as an occasional wake up, it’s an experience worth having.
Available from the Chillilicious online shop at £4 for a 100g bar.
Raw chocolate is where it’s at. The interest in raw foods generally is growing and it’s no revelation now that chocolate can be good for you. It has a number of virtues including vitamins, minerals, omega 3 and 6. fatty acids, flavanoids and theobromine. So far, so good. However, this is mitigated against by the processing and additives such as sugar that go into “normal” chocolate. The darker the chocolate the better it will be for you. Raw chocolate does not go through the same heat processing and thus retains more of its beneficial effects. The jury is still out as to whether agave syrup is better or worse for us than sugar. It has a low glycaemic index but is high in fructose.
You’ll find the recipe for a rather delicious dairy-free tropical smoothie with coconut, mango & banana at the bottom of this post. But I’m starting off with a look at a few raw products that are currently available. Whilst I’m not quite at the forefront of raw food consumption, it does make up a part of my diet and I don’t just mean salad leaves. I’ve been a fan of raw chocolate since long before I started this blog; the concept of raw chocolate and other sweet treats that are actively good for you is one I find most appealing. Unlike cheap chocolate bars, I find these satisfy quite quickly and I’m unable to gorge myself on them.
The combination of avocado and chocolate is my no means a new one. It is seen as a fruit in many parts of the world and treated as such, with chocolate sauce often smothering it. However, it’s a completely new combination to me. I’ve been wanting to try it for a long time now, but was finally spurred on by Louise’s recipe for chocolate mousse that she posted earlier this month.
Coconut oil seems to be the new superfood that everyone is raving about. I have been using it now for many years, mostly as a skin moisturiser and eaten in its raw state spread on toast. Occasionally I’ve used it for making raw chocolates or cooking savoury dishes. However, it was not until The Groovy Food Company sent me some of their organic virgin coconut oil to try did I think about using it in baking. Ahh, now that got the brain cells firing. But as soon as the many possibilities started to emerge, I changed my mind; I decided I wanted keep it in its raw state. Something quick and delicious that was truly healthy and 100% organic was in order – not something I achieve very often.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so can easily be used as a spread or body butter. It melts very quickly and has a high heat threshold making it ideal for stir fries in particular. It contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are a healthy fat quickly transformed by the body into energy and are not stored as body fat. For maximum benefit, coconut oil is best used in its cold pressed state. It is said to help reduce abdominal obesity and protect against insulin resistance thus reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It is also said to benefit digestive disorders and boost the bodies immune system due to the high percentage of lauric acid contained. Used on the face and body, it acts as a good moisturiser and has many purported benefits including protection from UV radiation from the sun.
On opening the jar, a powerful aroma of coconut was released and I couldn’t resist tasting some. It was both sweet and unmistakably coconutty which is more than can be said of some I’ve tried.
I was also sent a bottle of The Groovy Food Company’s organic premium agave nectar, which is often used as a low Gi sugar substitute. I am an occasional user of agave nectar, but this gave me an opportunity to try it out in a few more things. I tried it out in my matcha smoothies as a substitute for the honey and it worked very well, proving a lot easier to handle than honey as it less viscous.
So, what I wanted to make was a healthy version of that children’s classic rice crispy cakes. My first task was to find some sugar free crunchy cereal, not something I thought was going to be particularly difficult. So I was truly shocked when I went to my local Co-operative, only to find they sold no sugar free cereal at all except for oats. I trekked off to our local health food shop and found the last bag of unsweetened cereal they had in stock – luckily it was puffed rice, which is what I’d been hoping for.
This is how I made:
Vegan Chocolate Puffs
- Melted 1 heaped tbsp cold pressed coconut oil in a pan over low heat.
- Added 50g 100% cocoa chocolate.
- Stirred in 1 tbsp cashew nut butter (any nut butter would be good, but that was the one I had to hand).
- Added 3 tbsp agave nectar, 1 tsp raw cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract (homemade) and a pinch of Himalayan pink rock salt.
- Stirred until smooth, then removed from heat.
- Weighed 100g 100% puffed rice into a bowl, then poured over the chocolate mixture and stirred until all of the rice was coated.
- Placed teaspoonfuls of the mixture into mini muffin cases and pressed the rest into two silicone moulds.
- Left in my cold kitchen to set, but would normally put them in the fridge.
|My attempt at a butterfly|
These were so damn delicious, I polished off rather more than I should have done as soon as I’d taken the photographs. They were light and crunchy and the chocolate coating had a lovely smooth mouth feel. They tasted sweet and chocolatey and the blend of cashew butter and coconut oil gave a nutty and fragrant quality redolent of the tropics.
Now I’m away to ponder exactly what bake I want to try with the coconut oil.
The Groovy Food Company products can be found at Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose amongst other places.
I’m entering these into Breakfast Club, founded by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and hosted this month by Gill of Tales Pigling Bland who has chosen rocket fuel as the theme with a view to help her run the London Marathon. I reckon these would make a very tasty rocket fuel for breakfast that isn’t going to sit heavily on the stomach, but would provide plenty of energy and nutrients.
Rather late in the day I know, but I loved the wrapper of this so much, it took me a while to get around to eating it. It was actually a Christmas present, but it wasn’t until the end of February that I decided to savour the contents. It’s a shame I didn’t write up about it at the time as recollections are already starting to dim.
There were a few simple ingredients, all raw: Cocoa Nibs (14.2%), Chilli (1.3%), Coconut butter, Agave nectar, Golden raisins, Lucuma powder, Carob flour, Ground almonds. The wrapper proudly states, Sugar Free, Dairy Free, Gluten Free and Guilt Free – who could resist?
This was very different in texture to any other raw chocolate bars I’ve tried, which is probably why they’ve called it a pie. There was a nice crunch of cocoa nibs and I could taste the carob – it was quite delicious. Like all delicious things, it was over far too soon. A word of warning, however: you need to be a chilli lover to enjoy this particular bar, oops pie, as it’s very hot. As a chilli lover, I did.
Handmade in St Ives, Cornwall by Living Food, this bar and other flavours actually are available at our very own Taste Cornwall in Liskeard.