I was recently asked by a dear soul to provide some sweet treats for her fundraiser. She’s raising money to support safe houses in Kenya for women and girls seeking refuge from female genital mutilation, (more on that below). I loved thinking about the perfect treat to accompany the evening - the taste of sweet to soothe our souls after intense emotions, salty to ground and connect us to the earth and spicy to warm our hearts. And so began my first plunge into making chocolate from scratch! And, oh boy, am I ever so excited to share the recipe with you because it’s outstanding! Smooth, velvety, rich, complex and decadent. And best of all, it's GOOD for you, the ingredients will nourish you - Mind, Body and Soul!
Raw cacao contains high amounts of antioxidants, including resveratrol. These promote the release of mood-boosting chemicals in the brain (like serotonin and dopamine) and natural opiates to help us feel happy and relaxed. One of my favourite benefits of cacao is its ability to lower stress. Enjoying a few squares of dark chocolate has been found to reduce the release of stress hormones and improve our overall ability to deal with stressful events!
Vanilla has been found to improve brain function. It contains chemicals called vanilloids that lower inflammation and improve mental performance.
Raw cacao is top of the list for body too! It's full of vitamins, minerals, fibre, phytonutrients and anti-inflammatory antioxidants. This makes cacao a nutrient-dense superfood! Cacao has been shown to benefit cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. Make sure you buy the raw form to preserve all of these benefits (often denoted by using 'cacao' instead of 'cocoa').
Cocoa butter is pressed from cocoa beans and is a blend of saturated and monounsaturated 'good' fats. They're good for our hearts, brains and hormonal health. Decadent cocoa butter will also benefit weight loss, as it promotes a sense of satiety (so we eat less) and reduces our cravings for sugars (excess sugar leads to weight gain).
Cinnamon is an incredible spice that not only warms the body but also helps to balance our blood sugar levels, making it the perfect spice to add to our chocolate to balance the maple syrup. Cinnamon is also anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial (even against Candida).
Good food and ritual, these undoubtably feed our souls. So much of the messaging we receive is about depriving ourselves in order to be healthy. Deprivation is not good for the soul! We have companies mass marketing crappy food that's purposely designed to be addictive with just the right blend of nutrient dead junk. We eat this junk, we feel bad and then we're told we should 'diet' and avoid these addictive foods for a while until we've starved ourselves sufficiently to be able to indulge in the junk all over again. CRAZY!
Good food is something that is high in quality and satisfies you. Take this dark chocolate recipe for instance, it's rich and decadent, but because it is, a small piece can be savoured and enjoyed. Because it's homemade, you'll appreciate the quality of the ingredients and the love you add when you prepare it. And share it. Which brings me to ritual.
Ritual connects us to each other and our souls need connection. Many of our rituals are centred around food. Holiday meals bring us together and we feast on our traditional foods. This should be a time of abundance, sharing and joy. Many of us don't feel this way though, holidays mean eating foods we wouldn't normally and too much of them. We feel awful and, enter again, the message that we should diet before and after the holidays to 'reset'. Weird. Let's create new rituals, once that serve us. Make a batch of chocolate and share it with ones you love.
Raw Chocolate Recipe
240 grams raw cocoa butter
1/3 cup organic maple syrup
1 cup raw cacao
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
pinch of cayenne
3/4 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
1//2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried mulberries
Gently melt cacao butter in a double boiler. You can use a heat-proof glass bowl, large mason jar or Pyrex measuring cup. I usually place a few metal rings on the bottom of the pot if I’m using a mason jar to elevate it from the highest heat. The purpose of the double boiler is to melt the cocoa butter gently. This creates chocolate that is smooth and velvety. I haven’t experimented with trying to make ‘bad’ chocolate but have read that higher heats in this stage will lead to a grainy texture. To prevent it from getting too hot, bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer (medium-low heat) and then place your heat proof container with the cocoa butter in the simmering water.
While cocoa butter is melting, measure out your cacao and spices in a small bowl. Stir together to distribute.
Prep your hazelnuts by roughly chopping them. I tried to keep bigger pieces for texture.
Prepare your baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. I used clothes pegs to secure the sides. Make sure you smooth it out to the edges so chocolate doesn’t pool into the center. You can also use silicon molds if you prefer. There’s adorable shapes that would be great for gift-giving and really impressing at a potluck! I also experimented with pouring into paper muffin tin liners and that worked well too.
When almost all the butter is melted, remove from heat and stir to melt the rest.
Then add maple syrup to the butter and stir. Then add the cacao and spices and whisk well until you have a smooth, dark pot of scrumptiousness.
Pour the chocolate onto your baking sheet. Then sprinkle with your toppings. I loved the combo of pumpkin seeds, dried mulberries and hazelnuts, but you can use anything you like here or nothing at all.
Place baking sheet in your freezer for about 20-30 minutes to harden it. Then you can use your hands to break it into pieces. Stores in your fridge or freezer for longer than you’ll be able to resist it!!
It will soften at warmer temperatures, so store it in a cool place.
Bryonie Wise is a yogi, writer, photographer, book maker and animal lover. Her words never cease to stir my heart. This is what she had to say-