Sunday, September 30, 2007

Some Like it Raw

My friend Daniel just got back from a weekend with friends in the Catalina Islands. Sounds like a perfectly normal way to spend time if you live in LA. Well, there was a catch. The only food they could eat was raw honey, fresh fruit and raw chocolate. So rapturous was this experience that Daniel, knowing my love of chocolate, insisted I make raw chocolate immediately. And I mean immediately. We abandoned drinks at COCO 500 for a bit of a wild goose chase around SOMA, seeking out ingredients. He promised it would be the best chocolate I ever tasted.

We found agave nectar and coconut oil down the block at Whole Foods, and raw cocoa powder at Rainbow. Rainbow also carries cocoa butter, but that would not do. We needed raw cocoa butter, and that I ordered later that evening from Sunfood Nutrition. I love their cookbook titles: Uncooking with RawRose, RAWvolution.

Daniel was adamant about all ingredients being raw, because that is the only way you can enjoy the maximum health benefits of chocolate. More antioxidants, more flavonols, more magnesium. Online companies promoting raw cacao products make a staggering array of claims on this, as though eating chocolate is just the same as taking your vitamins.

Armed with our raw ingredients, we looked over the simple recipe. Compared to the complex and labor-intensive process that real chocolatiers follow, it hardly seemed fair. Could this really result in the best chocolate I ever tasted?

Raw chocolate
* 1 cup of raw cacao powder
* 1/2 cup grated raw cocoa butter
* 5 T of coconut oil
* 1/3 cup of agave nectar
Measure the cacao powder into a large bowl. Add the oil and mix well until all lumps are blended. Mix in the cocoa butter. When the chocolate is at a smooth, creamy consistency, you are done! At this point, you may experiment with adding vanilla or cinnamon (raw of course) to the chocolate and then mold into whatever shapes please you.

When we finished mixing and molding, our little chocolate balls did not look like much. The texture was a bit gritty, about the consistency of cookie dough. They tasted like chocolate, which actually surprised me, but they also tasted like sunscreen. Too much cocoa butter, maybe too much coconut oil? My husband and I each ate one, while my son licked the bowl. But the rest of them languished in the fridge for a week until I finally tossed them.

I'm still intrigued by the idea of raw chocolate. But maybe I needed to be invited to a Catalina Party for the magic to overtake me. In the meantime, my next project is to read Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe. While I'm not quite ready to invest in a food dehydrator and a juicer (essentials of a raw-foodists kitchen), I would like to make at least one raw chocolate recipe that doesn't smell like the beach.

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