Guilt free chocolate!?! Does such a thing even exist? Tell me it is so!!!
So we all know that chocolate = bad, right? But is it ALL bad??? With out doubt, commercial chocolates that are loaded with refined sugars, dairy and other chemical nasties are not good...really not good…as in really really bad – get it? Well what about chocolate that is made from all natural, raw ingredients with no added nothings and still tastes delicious…sound better?
My journey to discovering raw chocolate and all its awesomeness stemmed from my intolerances. Dairy has sadly never really been my friend, so for a long time dairy-free chocolate such as Green and Blacks 70% was my sweet tooth’s victim of choice. Happy tummy, happy palate, but sadly my head seemed to disagree. Chocolate and all it’s deliciousness is a headache trigger for many, myself included…or so I thought. Fortunately for me, it seems to be the refined sugars that are the problem rather than the cacao, so when someone introduced me to raw chocolate, with no dairy, no refined sugars and added health bonuses, I got very excited – VERY excited!
When you have a mother, a husband and a father-in-law all of whom are complete chocaholics, avoiding the stuff is tricky, so having an alternative is great. To my delight, this recipe even received a big thumbs up from the aforementioned choc-fiends. There are hundreds of different homemade chocolate recipes, many with unrefined sugars, so your options for different taste and textures are vast. Today’s recipe uses maple syrup, but often I use unrefined palm sugar (inspired by the delicious OMBAR), or for a lower GI (glycemic index) chocolate I use stevia.
So without further ado, here she is;
100g Homemade Salted Maple and Pecan Chocolate
100g cocoa butter
½ cup (about 6tbsps) cacao powder
2 tbsps maple syrup (this is plenty sweet for me but you can add a little extra if you like)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼-½ tsp sea salt flakes
½ cup (a large handful) pecan halves
** I try to buy organic, fair-trade produce when possible, but this does come at a price. Non-organic products can be significantly cheaper so shop around for what suits your needs/budget.
Line a baking tray with baking paper, edges turned up.
Slowly melt the cocoa butter in a glass bowl over a saucepan of shallow WARM water. This process really does need to be done slowly, the water mustn’t be simmering or boiling and not touching the bottom of the glass bowl. This should take about 30 minutes. Once all melted, remove from the heat and set aside.
Measure out the cacao powder, maple syrup and vanilla extract and add to the melted cacao butter. You may want to sieve the cacao powder to avoid having to work it into the melted butter but if not you’ll get there eventually. You can add the salt / flavours of choice at this point but I find I get a more consistent spread if I add it later.
Return glass bowl to above the warm water and heat here, as gently as previously, for about 10 minutes to temper the chocolate.
Pour onto the lined tray. This is when I sprinkle the salt evenly across the chocolate and give it a gentle wobble or a gentle stir to submerge the flakes, then place the pecan halves evenly across the chocolate. **
Refrigerate until set - for at least an hour, or freeze if pushed for time.
Store in the fridge to retain some bite.
So there you have it – homemade, dairy free, refined-sugar free, hassle free, delicious salted maple and pecan chocolate. Is this chocolate a healthier alternative to conventional commercial chocolate? – Absolutely, there is no doubt about it. Full of natural minerals, nutrients and an abundance of anti-oxidants from the unroasted raw cacao, this kick-ass chocolate even has health benefits! Does this mean we can all happily munch away all day long or demolish the entire bar in one sitting? Hmmm.. At the end of the day, even if raw/natural, remember that sugar is still sugar and even healthy food should be eaten in moderation. As a healthy treat though? Go for it and enjoy every second, inside and out!
** Once again don’t be afraid to play with the flavours. Remove the salt and pecans from this recipe for a very versatile base to which you can add whatever takes your fancy. Dessicated coconut flakes for a Bounty-esque chocolate. A few drops of peppermint extract for a minty hit. Chilli chocolate is another fave amongst friends, or ground ginger or even some orange or lemon extract (about 1tsp) for something a bit fruitier. Let me know your favourite flavours and how you get on – trust me, you won’t regret giving it a go!