Soul hooked on... Chocolate
As we celebrate the World Chocolate Day this week, I want to write a post to cheer one of my favourite items in food, too!
To celebrate this choc-tastic day, this week’s Soul Hooked On is going to be dedicated to the lesser known raw cacao.
Is it "cocoa" or "cacao"? People often confuse these two ingredients since they do have a lot in common: being chocolate.
Cacao refers to the raw material, i.e. the cacao beans that are harvested from the cacao tree, while cocoa is created after the beans are finely ground into a powder and roasted. Cocoa may smell nicer but a lot of super powers of cacao are lost through processing. It’s also usually blended with white sugar, dairy products and even palm oil - making it unhealthy.
Cacao is densely packed with minerals and consuming it may help with issues such as depression, stress, blood pressure and heart health. Vice versa for cocoa. So cacao or cocoa now? Your choice.
What’s your favourite chocolate combo? Mine is Chocolate with Guayusa from @pacari_chocolate. Guayusa is a holly tree native to the Amazon rainforest. People have it’s leaves have been harvested since ancient times due to their perceived health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Taste a bit like tea so it creates a unique flavour when combined with cacao. How did I find this combo? That takes us back to 2018 while I was in NYC for culinary school! And throwback to my cacao farm visit in Malaysia back with MIB college students in 2018! It is really the best way to learn your chocolate.
See more video footage here.
AND - Next time you pick up those chocolate bars, think about who made them - and under what conditions - because IT MATTERS.
In the world of chocolate, buying organic isn’t as important because the thick hard shell protects its beans from pesticide, but rather making sure you buy certified fair trade chocolate.
For cacao trees to grow, they require a specific environment - i.e. tropical weather with lush vegetation that provides shade for the cacao trees. It's also a delicate and sensitive crop, that's why farmers must protect it from wind, sun, pests and disease. With proper care, cacao trees begin to yield pods at peak production levels by the 5th year, and they can continue at this level for 10 years. But for all this hard work, cacao farmers earn very little from a very profitable global cacao trade. On average, they earn less than $2 per day. Often times the industry resort to the use of child labour to keep their prices competitive.
By purchasing fair trade certified products, we, as consumers, can reduce poverty, encouraging environmentally friendly production methods and safeguard humane working conditions. See some global chocolate brands who are using fair trade certified chocolate here. For Hong Kong shoppers, there are growing shops selling fair trade certified products, see more here.
However, years passed yet I feel that the awareness of buying fair trade products are still not enough. Do you feel the same too? Spread the message. While it may seem small, the small ripple effects of small effects are extraordinary - let’s not forget that.
- Break or cut chocolate into small (about 1.5cm) pieces for even melting. Stir gently and frequently while melting.
- Melt chocolate over low or medium-low heat or use a double boiler. Chocolate burns easily, so it's best t melt chocolate slowly.
- Be sure that your work surface, pans, and tools are absolutely dry before melting chocolate. Even a drop of water / other liquid can cause chocolate to seize up.
- When you're adding chocolate to a batter or melting with vegan butter, the direct heat method works well, but it is not the best choice for dipping or molding.
- Place chopped or broken chocolate in a saucepan over very low heat and stir constantly to avoid scorching.
- Remove from heat when only small lumps of chocolate remain. and stir until completely melted.
(I personally prefer to avoid microwave as I am trying to minimise my further contact with radiation, given I am already very exposed to enough technical device e.g. mobile phone. But since we are talking about "lazy bum" style - placing it here for those who find it useful)
- Place chocolate in microwave oven in a heatproof glass bowl or container and heat at medium power for 30 sec.
- Remove and stir each time before returning to microwave and repeating.
- Each microwave is unique and affects the chocolate differently so it's really about trial and error. When only small lumps remain, remove and continue to stir until completely melting.
- Grate or chop the desired amount of chocolate.
- Place 2/3 of the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler.
- Heat over hot but not boiling water, stirring constantly, until chocolate reaches 44°C.
- Place the top pan of the double boiler on a towel.
- Cool chocolate to 35°C by adding the remaining chocolate to the top pan, stirring until melted.
- The chocolate is now ready to be used.
Option 2 (Recommended)
- Starting with a pound of broken chocolate, melt 2/3 of the chocolate over indirect heat, such as in the top pan of a double boiler.
- Melt just until the chocolate is liquid and smooth at 44°C.
- When it is smooth, add the remaining 1/3 of the broken chocolate and heat again until the entire chocolate becomes smooth.
- Pour the chocolate onto a marble or other cool, smooth, non-porous surface.
- Using a spatula, scrape and stir the chocolate across the surface to smooth and cool it.
- When the chocolate cools to 27°C, return it to the top pan of the double boiler.
- Place over hot, not boiling, water.
- Heat and stir constantly, until it reaches 32°C.
- Remove the top pan of the double boiler. The chocolate is now ready to be used.
Soulistic is a vegan brand created by Chef and Food Therapist, Tiffany Lau (@soulhookedonfood), as a platform to educate customers about healthier diets over medication by providing products and experiences that create change from within. Read about her story and what led her to start Soulistic here.