There are few things as uplifting as making a new friend. But meeting your soul mate? Now that’s ecstatic!
I first started hearing from Elenore Bendel Zahn in the comments section here on my blog. She always seemed to be one of the first people to write some totally encouraging and high-spirited remark that just made me smile. I finally checked out her site, Earthsprout, which to my delight was a treasure trove of exceptional recipes and healthy tips. I gobbled it all up. Her undeniable passion and pure love for spreading the healthy word seemed so in alignment with my own that I decided to reciprocate and contact was made.
The emails began. Silly emails. Gushy, cheesy, over-the-top letters of appreciation and admiration were passed back and forth until we realized that we actually had to meet in person. If you’ve ever had the sensation upon first acquaintance with someone, that you’ve known them in a past life or you were mysteriously separated at birth, well that is what our encounter was like. Pretty magical indeed.
It was just last week Elenore graciously invited me to her home on southern Sweden; a hop, skip, and a train ride from Copenhagen. We spent two days together, cooking and eating lots (of course), frolicking in the abundant nature around her forest abode, and brainstorming all the amazing things we could do together to make this world a much tastier place. One of our collaborations was this raw chocolate, a sweet gift to each other and all of you.
This chocolate is the real deal. It melts in the mouth, it’s rich and satisfying, and has a deep, dark aroma that can only be described as divine. Surprisingly, it only contains three basic ingredients, and is gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan and raw. Yup, you’re welcome.
And although we may share a brain we still think differently, and decided on two different flavours. Inspired by my recent trip to Provence, I created a lavender and vanilla bar, while Elenore combined lemon and sea salt. You can read all about salt over at her blog, here. Of course if you’re not feeling those particular taste sensations, we’ve provided you with a whole list of ideas to inspire your own raw chocolate adventure. The beauty of this chocolate is that the recipe acts as a base, which can be gussied up for any occasion or season. If you’re a purist, leave the chocolate just as it is, sweet and simple.
I’ve made raw chocolate numerous times before, but I had never tried using cocoa butter (duh). I always went the coconut oil route because it was a little less expensive and easier to find. Now I’m a convert, and I also understand how those commercial raw chocolate producers can make such an exceptional product! I suppose it only makes sense that two elements from the same plant would mesh better than two unrelated ones, but sometimes old habits blind you from seeing new possibilities. Thank you Elenore for opening my eyes!
Cocoa Butter, Baby
Cocoa butter, also known as cacao butter, is the creamy fat extracted from the beans of the cacao tree – the same beans that chocolate is made from. That unmistakably smooth, melting quality that chocolate provides, is largely due to its cocoa butter content.
But there are other uses for this amazing plant product, and happily, it involves smearing it on your body.
I’ve said before that I won’t put anything on my skin that I wouldn’t eat. Although we may have been convinced otherwise by the cosmetic industry, the products we put on our skin most definitely end up in our blood stream and the rest of our system. Would you snack on your lipstick? How about a glass of delicious sunscreen? Obviously that is crazy, but when you consider all the different things that come into contact with our skin, isn’t it important to consider their safety? If you’re conscious about what you eat, you should also be conscious of what your skin is eating.
Cocoa butter is an amazing moisturizer. It has been used for centuries to treat and prevent dry skin, chapped lips, eczema, split ends, and some women claim that it helps prevent stretch marks during pregnancy (although there is no conclusive evidence of this). Because of cocoa butter’s melting point, it is solid at room temperature, but easily melts on warm skin and absorbs beautifully. What’s more is the mild, yet intoxicating chocolate aroma that it exudes. Just be careful who you hang out with after an application, as you will become irresistibly delicious.
Without having to go to the shop and spend hundreds of dollars organic lotion in a fancy package, why not keep things simple and just use cocoa butter? It’s completely natural, smells incredible, and really, really works. I don’t suggest using cocoa butter as a facial moisturizer, as most people prefer something a little lighter, but anything below the jaw line is well suited. With summer on the way, it is the best post-sun moisturizer and makes your skin positively glow from the inside out.
Whether you’re purchasing cocoa butter for eating, moisturizing, or both, look for it at health food stores and specialty grocers. It should be in solid form, have a light yellow tint and smell rich (if you can open the package). Luckily cocoa butter has an extremely long shelf life (2-5 years) due to its high antioxidant content. As you only need a little for this batch of chocolate, don’t be worried about it spoiling. I am confident you will make plenty of chocolate, or use it up as a moisturizer well before it expires.
Ecstatic Raw Chocolate
30 g / 1oz raw cacao powder
100 g / 3.5 oz very soft, pitted dates
85 g / 3 oz cacao butter
1 vanilla bean, scraped (optional, but delicious)
pinch of flaky sea salt (optional, but delicious)
1. Lavender & Vanilla: a couple pinches dried lavender + 1 extra vanilla bean, scraped
2. Lemon & Sea Salt: zest of one lemon + an extra pinch sea salt
3. Smoky Spice: a couple pinches ground cinnamon + chipotle.
4. Ginger & Coconut: a couple pinches ground ginger + a sprinkling of shredded coconut
5. Lime & Cardamom: zest of one lime + a couple pinches cardamom
6. Spicy Orange: zest of 1 organic lemon+ a pinch of chili powder
7. Rose love: a few drops of rose essential oil + dried rose petals for decoration
8. Crunchy Mint: a few drops of mint essential oil + 1 Tbsp. unhulled hemp seeds
1. Begin by pitting the dates and mashing them with a fork, or food processor. You may want to remove the skins first if they are tough. Do not soak dates, as the water will cause the chocolate to seize up.
2. In a double boiler (or a glass bowl over water) over low-medium heat, melt the cacao butter slowly until completely smooth. Add the cacao powder, vanilla, salt, and lavender, and stir to thoroughly combine. Remove from heat.
3. Add the dates and fold to combine. You may need to let the mixture cool a little before this is possible, so put the pot or bowl in the fridge until the chocolate firms up a bit. Taste for sweetness and flavouring.
4. Once the chocolate is cool and you can form a rough ball with it, divide the chocolate in half and place one section on a piece of parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper over the chocolate once and use your hands to mash it down into a thin piece. At this point you can fold the remaining sides up around the chocolate to create a bar and press the chocolate into the corners. Alternatively, you can press the chocolate into a mold or chocolate form. Place in the fridge or a cool place to firm up. Repeat with the other half. Store chocolate in a cool, dry place away from direct light.
I hope this chocolate lands in your universe with all the love and joy that it did for Elenore and I. While we were in the kitchen measuring out ingredients, mashing dates, and moisturizing, we couldn’t help but laugh at how predestined our meeting was, and feel the excitement for the foodie adventures that lay ahead of us that we will of course share with you. That is why we were brought together. To make chocolate. To share dreams. To be ecstatic.