In the name of good health and a good read, each week we'll be bringing you a health product, complete with review. We're calling this feature Crunchy Granola -- even though we doubt much of this stuff tastes that good.
Raw chocolate has been eluding me for some time now. Ever since a raw vegan friend gave me a piece of her homemade chocolate, I was intrigued at the aspect of being your own bootleg chocolatier -- albeit a healthy one.
She assured me that it was a extremely simple process, and sent me to the internet to search out a recipe. The first site I found was from the a raw food blog from across the pond, Raw Food Hypocrite, and was titled, "Best and Easiest Raw Chocolate Recipe." Easy enough, right? Well, I hope you're ready for a bittersweet sob story.
What do you mean, sob story? What's a raw vegan -- and should I be scared? I'll answer those questions and more, after the jump.
The hippie history: You thought vegans were intense? The most strict of raw vegans eat a completely plant-based diet where nothing is cooked above 118 degrees -- the temperature at which some people say energy levels are disturbed and destroys the balance of enzymes and nutrients found in the foods.
It has been referred to as the "sustainable" diet not only for the environment but also for your health: According to Dr. Stephen Walsh, the diet contains no cholesterol, no nasty trans-fats and just 4 percent of calories come from saturated fat while providing a heart-healthy 18 percent of monounsaturated fat .
So where does raw chocolate factor in to all of this vegan stuff? Using simple, plant-based ingredients raw foodies can have their chocolate, and eat it too. Even chocolate in this form is packed with antioxidants, can be good for heart and even treat depression -- What a coincidence, I'm feeling a little sadness coming on...
The crunchy conclusion: The first -- and second, and third -- time I attempted to make raw chocolate, something would always go horribly wrong, resulting in a massacred kitchen and a certain raw vegan poser (me) coming close to tears.
Nowhere on the recipe does it tell you to dig deep and find a lot of patience, because it takes a long, long time to melt cacao butter (which, surprisingly enough, does not melt any faster at 1 a.m.) And, wait, you're supposed to grind those cacao nibs into a powder before adding them to the (finally) melted butter? I had no clue that my sanity and ability to follow directions were going to be so stringently tested, and all in the name of chocolate.
I could find no solace in the numerous raw chocolate YouTube videos. Raw vegan discussion boards seemed to just skip over my trivial issues, taunting me with "It's so easy!" and "Wow, this is delicious!"
Ready to declare defeat, I went back to my raw vegan friend. "What am I doing wrong?" I said pathetically. "I'm going to need you to come over and make it for me. Now."
She ignored my dramatics and reassured me that it was easy and gave me a couple tips ("It's ok to use honey instead of agave" ... "Grate the cacao butter to help it melt faster" ... "Yes, you idiot, grind the cacao nibs")
I needed to replenish my first round of raw chocolate supplies that had, in one way or another, made its way to the bottom of the trash can. Not only was my futile attempts a total waste of time, but a pretty expensive waste of time: 8 ounces of cacao nibs are about $9 and another 8 ounces of cacao butter will cost you around $13 at Whole Foods, the only place I could find both products.
I skeptically began attempt number four. I made sure I did everything by the raw vegan book, set up my grated cacao butter in the double boiler to melt and began contemplating how much counseling would cost me after this whole ordeal. I don't know how many minutes had passed, but suddenly I looked down to realize that the cacao butter was melting!
I couldn't believe it was happening and let out a little yelp of surprise that scared my cat, who had been watching me like the idiot I am. I screamed for anyone who was home to gather around and see what I had done.
I barely noticed that nobody showed up, because a frenzy of excitement ensued: The nibs! I made sure to use my coffee grinder to pulverize the cacao nibs into a perfect, cocoa-y powder. The vanilla! Another little splash wouldn't hurt. The honey! I added what felt like a truckload of the stuff to sweeten up the dark, bitter taste of the warm chocolate.
After pouring onto a piece of wax paper, I got a little fancy with some walnuts and raisins and put my masterpiece to harden into the freezer for a couple hours. Not only did it look and feel like chocolate, but it actually tasted pretty heavenly too, with a deep and complex flavor -- Wait, is this what success tastes like?
Holy crap. That was easy.
For the final, fool-proof raw chocolate recipe (that does include "Be patient" in one of the steps, thank-you-very-much) see The Raw Foods Witch's Super Simple Raw Chocolate Cups.
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