As a (partially) reformed chocoholic I have pretty high standards when it comes to chocolate. I promise you this dark chocolate more than makes the cut, even though it is a much healthier alternative to store bought chocolate. Ever since I started making this at home I find I don’t really enjoy any other dark chocolate quite so much. Here I added goji berries and chilli for a little kick, but you can get creative and add anything you like.
I use an unsweetened, organic, fair trade cacao/cocoa powder and butter (whoa, that’s a lot of labels!) to make this dark chocolate. I’ll do a longer post on cocoa production soon to unpack what is behind all the different labels, and if they are indeed addressing all the issues. It is a pretty complex topic, linking producers and consumers through global value chains. On the production side, there are challenges related to declining yields, emerging pests, climate change, child slavery and unequal distribution of value along the supply chain . On the consumption side, the product is linked, confusingly, to both health promoting properties like antioxidants and health damaging ones like cadmium. And that is not to start talking about the complex relationship with obesity. As global demand continues to rapidly grow, these issues are only going to become more serious. So for now I will just leave you enjoy this delicious dark chocolate, but the topics we touched on above may help you to do so in moderation and consideration.
One last thing – everyone is talking about raw cacao at the moment. To be honest, I think it may be a little over-hyped. Yes, there may be some more health promoting properties in raw cacao, though the evidence is not extensive, but there may also be other risks related to contamination. Also, there are some questions around what the raw production process honestly is, as there is no independent third party certification. Anyway many of the ways I use cacao involve heating it which would probably undo any of the claimed benefits. I actually care more about all the other issues I mentioned at the start of the post, rather than if I will get a few more antioxidants in my chocolate. For those reasons I do actually buy raw cacao, as it is more often produced by brands that claim to involve no child slavery and use sustainable production methods, and I find it does taste better in many recipes.
Generally speaking, I don’t see the need to pretend chocolate is medicine. Instead, I look for ways to enjoy a healthier version of something that should still be a treat. In reality, the moderate quantities of chocolate we should be consuming probably have a limited potential for any serious positive or negative impacts on health. But it certainly does seem we are all eager to hear that eating chocolate will make us healthier! Check out this equally entertaining and disturbing post:
The article documents how a science journalist set out to demonstrate how easy it is to turn bad science into breaking headlines when it comes to diet related topics. Spoiler alert: he succeeded!
This recipe is super easy to make and is ready in about 30 mins, so you can go from dark chocolate craving to satisfaction in a pretty short period of time. If I were you I wouldn’t worry too much about which you use in this recipe, cocoa or raw cacao, just get an unsweetened variety and do what you can to consider the social and environmental aspects of how it was made. Enjoy it….but in moderation!
- 6 tablespoons Cocoa/Cacao Butter
- 4 tablespoons Cocoa/Cacao Powder
- 1-2 tablespoon Maple Syrup (depending how sweet you like it)
- 2 small pinches Chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon Goji Berries
- ½ tablespoon Cocoa/Cocoa Nibs (optional)
- Line a baking tray or shallow square/rectangular dish (like a brownie tray) with baking paper. The size doesn't matter, it just needs to fit in your fridge. Alternatively you can use a loaf tin or a chocolate mould to make a block of chocolate.
- Place cacao butter in a heatproof bowl. Sit this bowl inside a saucepan half filled with water. Place saucepan on low heat until cacao butter is fully melted.
- Remove heatproof bowl from bath. Mix in cacao powder and maple syrup, using a whisk to stir quickly while it is still warm. Continue stirring until it is smooth and no lumps remain. A small whisk is best here, but a wooden spoon will also work.
- Pour mixture onto baking paper, using wooden spoon to smooth out so the mixture is evenly distributed in a thin layer.
- Sprinkle two small pinches of chilli powder over the top of the layer, making sure it is evenly distributed across the surface. Sprinkle goji berries and cocoa nibs on top.
- Place tray in fridge and allow to cool (usually takes 20-30 mins). Serve when set by breaking up into pieces.