How to make Raw Organic Chocolates

Last year I took a class at The Light Cellar, here in Calgary, on how to make Raw Organic Chocolate. No sugar, no dairy and all natural ingredients. I was thrilled to find this course as I had been looking for an alternative so that we could still enjoy chocolates at Christmas, Easter and whenever else we wanted some!

I had taken a chocolate making class before, bought the kit, came home and never made chocolates again. This time was different. The difference was you actually make your chocolate from scratch, from natural ingredients and it is very easy (the other class you made your chocolates from premade chocolate bars or pieces that you melted and molded into your own chocolates. I found this process finicky and the pieces were presweetened; so you could not choose your own sweetener).

Chocolate actually comes from a cacao nut, which is made into various forms, such as cacao powder, paste, butter, etc. Making the chocolate is super simple, using four basic ingredients and only takes a few minutes. All you need is cacao powder or paste, cacao butter, some kind of sweetener (honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc.), and vanilla.

The first step is to melt the cacao butter in a bowl – use the double bowl method with the butter in the top bowl set over a bowl of boiling water (boil water put it into bowl and set on counter; then set your smaller bowl with cacao butter on top)- be very careful not to get any water into the top bowl as it will ruin your chocolate! Once the butter is melted add the vanilla bean and let it infuse (with a knife slice vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds with a spoon – put into cacao butter). Sift your cacoa powder in another bowl and add to taste, then add sweetener of choice. Voila! you now have a nice chocolate sauce which you can leave as is, pour into a pan refrigerate or freeze, or use as a base and add other ingredients.

The instructor did not give us exact amounts of ingredients to make our chocolate. He would provide a starting point and then encouraged us to taste it; to make it how we wanted. He recommended we start with a 1:1 ratio, mix it and go from there. More cacao powder made it a darker, richer chocolate, more sweetener made it sweeter – adjusting it according to our palette and preferences, so we had to taste it as we went along! He also encouraged us to use natural sweeteners and ingredients. For instance, we were using vanilla beans for our vanilla -actually cutting them open and scrapping out the inside. He said we could use vanilla extract but encouraged us to use pure extract if we did, not artificial.

Cacao powder

He described using these pure ingredients as “upgrading” – making it more natural, tastier and better for you. He also told us how we can add other ingredients to our chocolates that not only taste good but are high in nutrients, minerals and vitamins,  making it a superfood. Ingredients like goji berries, nuts and seeds, coconut and algae. Maca root powder, honey and mesquite powder. He even recommended in one recipe that we try a little cayenne. It was actually really good!

As for the cost, the ingredients to make your chocolate is quite reasonable. The instructor said that in the time it takes for us to go and buy chocolate at the store, we can make it at home faster with fresh ingredients for about $1.50 to $2 per 50 g – which is comparable to what you would pay at the store.

Shaped ice cube trays work great as chocolate molds

I also love the fact that I can add all these “superfood” ingredients to my chocolates so that chocolate really is good for me and the kids. So when they ask if they can have some chocolate, I can say “yes” without feeling guilty or worrying if they are having too much.

It’s also so much fun to make (I’ve already made 3 dozen caramel cups and orange ginger snowmen for Christmas) and easy to do with the kids. You can get different kinds of molds to make different shapes for your chocolates. Experiment and have fun!

In one of my previous posts I described various natural sweeteners that you can use not only in your everyday cooking and baking but for your chocolates as well. Check out that post for more details.

In an upcoming post I will share more about what you can add to your chocolates and method.

For your information The Light Cellar sells ingredients to make chocolate in bulk and is very well priced. I buy all my ingredients there and usually come out of the store with a big box of items! I find it hard to get out of there with only one or two things.

Natural Sugar Substitutes

It’s been over a year now since we have completely eliminated sugar from our home. We did so because our oldest son, Matthew required it. We found that the effects of sugar on his body were too extreme, leaving him moody, angry and disruptive and it was also affecting his sleep at night. He would go to bed at a reasonable time, and I know it was reasonable because I checked around with other parents and experts, and it would take him almost an hour or more to fall asleep at night. Now as an adult I find it very frustrating when I go to bed and it takes me a while to fall asleep. I can only imagine my son’s frustrations around this.

It was a huge learning curve discovering what I could use instead of sugar and products that did not contain it. Because as we began our journey we discovered very quickly that sugar is in almost everything.

The biggest challenge was finding yummy alternatives for Matthew that equated to what the other kids were having, and all the foods that he enjoyed and was used to, such as chocolate, cake, pies and muffins. With diligence I rolled up my sleeves and have been able to find replacements for all these things, as you have seen with some of the recipes on my blog in previous posts. It was just a matter of learning what the natural sugar substitutes were that he could have and how to easily substitute them in a recipe. Once I started looking I found that there were many to choose from and I had a lot of them already in my home.

Here is what I have learned/ discovered to be great substitutes for sugar in recipes. What you choose as the substitute will depend on your recipe as well as personal preference. Many of these natural sweeteners also have great health benefits as well, such as being rich in vitamins and minerals or aiding in the prevention of certain ailments and diseases.

Honey

Honey -choose a honey that is local to you. It has been shown that local honey provides immunity for you against environmental illnesses because the bees are local to your area. Honey has many other health benefits as well such as being a natural energy booster and remedy for many ailments. I use honey as a sugar substitute in crumble and muffins as well as in my bread recipes.

Agave nectar – simply the nectar from the agave plant. Make sure you get a good quality brand as some agaves are more processed with more additives. Ojio agave by Ulitmate Superfoods is a good quality one. When substituting agave for sugar use 3/4 to 1/2 the amount as agave is 25% sweeter than sugar. You also reduce your liquids in your recipe because the agave is a liquid itself, by 1/4 cup. Agave is great in anything but I use it mostly in cakes, muffins and pies.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup – use 100% pure. If you are using the processed kind then it is not a natural sweetener and you might as well use sugar. This is great in icing, marinades and glazes.

Stevia – is a strong leaf powder that is very sweet, also found in a liquid form. It is considerably sweeter than sugar so you use 1 tsp. stevia to 1 cup of sugar when substituting. It also has many health benefits such as reduced blood pressure and aids in digestion. Stevia is great in cakes and muffins, but also for your coffee, tea, or to sweeten other drinks.

Coconut sugar -comes from the nectar of the flowers of a coconut tree, and is available in a granulated or liquid form. Rich in vitamins such as potassium, zinc and iron. Coconut sugar is great because it melts like brown sugar, so I find that this works well in crumbles, on oatmeal or things like apple cinnamons when you want to create a syrupy texture.

Date Sugar

Date sugar -is made from dried dates and adds a rich sweetness to recipes. It does not melt or dissolve in liquids. When using date sugar substitute 2/3 cup to 1 cup of the sugar, as it is sweeter than sugar. I use date sugar in some bread recipes, muffins, pancakes or waffles.

Yacon syrup -sweetener extracted from the roots of the yacon plant. Some of yacon’s health qualities are strengthening the immune system and calcium absorption. Use 3/4 cup of yacon to 1 cup of sugar.

Barley Malt – is a wonderful replacement for molasses and is made from sprouted or malted barley. I use this in some cookie recipes, and my homemade baked beans. Yum!

Coconut Nectar

Coconut nectar – naturally sweet, nutrient rich “sap” from coconut tree blossoms. High in amino acids, minerals and vitamin C. It can be used just like agave or maple syrup in recipes instead of sugar. I have only used it so far in cookies and they have turned out delicious!

Fruit is also a great natural sweetener, using apples (applesauce, make sure there is not sugar added) or bananas can add the sweetness you desire.

The best thing to do is experiment with these sweeteners, determine which ones work best in your recipes and which flavors you prefer. It can be fun to experiment in the kitchen as long as you are prepared to ‘let it go’ if one doesn’t turn out so well 🙂 Personally I have had success with my substitutions and if you follow these guidelines you’ll have no trouble whatsoever and soon it will become second nature, just like it is for me!