Ahhh chocolate. Associated with bliss & love, this food is one of the most sought after sweet treats out there. For good reason too! Chocolate is known to be great for the heart, and is called a 'heart opener' because of some of the chemical compounds present in the cacao bean. For one, cacao is one of the most magnesium rich foods, which helps to relax the body and reduce inflammation. There are also a host of chemicals in cacao, like the bliss chemical anandamide, vasodilator (opens blood vessels) theobromine and mood lifting PEA which potentiates dopamine production. Chocolate also increases levels of serotonin in the brain, the feel good brain chemical. Can you feel it?
I know for me it has awakened a passion for plants and learning about medicinal foods. Chocolate was a catalyst for shifting my perception of how we relate to food, that it can truly heal us if we allow it to feed not only our body but our mind & spirit. I was introduced to the cacao tree when living in Hawaii, where fresh pods are available & this is where I began to experiment with making decadent raw desserts like pies and cookies. So I guess I can thank the cacao tree for guiding my way into the world of plant medicine and the synergy that happens with dessert. :)
Onto making chocolate!! How is this process done? Here's a little synopsis from start to finish on my process of making a chocolate bar with Ecuadorian Cacao. :: 'Cacao comes from the Theobroma Cacao tree. Large yellow, red and green pods grow out of the trunk of the tree and lower branches. What is special about the cacao we source? It is Ecuadorian Heirloom Cacao, wildcrafted in the jungles of Ecuador and organically certified. We hand-craft all of our chocolate from bean to bar. The beans are fermented and dried, then processed into cacao liquor (unsweetened liquid chocolate) and sent to us from Ecuador. We then stone grind the chocolate with sundried cane sugar to make the chocolate base and then add our flavoring ingredients.'
The full process, after stone grinding, includes tempering the chocolate which is a process of heating and cooling the chocolate liquor to create tiny crystals that will harden when poured and cooled, which give chocolate a sheen and snap. This makes a huge difference in flavor and texture, so it must be done perfectly to produce a tasty final product. When completely cooled and releasing from the molds, the chocolate can be eaten (although you can taste at any point during the process). Taste testing is an essential component to making a delicious end product! ;) Yummmm!
Here's a project I've been working on and is now being released!! One of my favorite flavors to date, Ginger & Passionflower. It's a collab with the DJ / artist / producer Lorin Ashton of Bassnectar, and this chocolate with his melodic bass tunes is perfection. I developed this recipe through tasting and testing, then finding a balance of simple, yet bold flavors that pop. This is a limited edition bar, so grab one while they are available!! Special thanks also goes to Yes Cacao, a botanical chocolate bar company, whom helped to make this process complete!! & to our production facility in Santa Cruz, CA where the bars are made, Cocoa Logos.
Even more deliciousness awaits! I'm also releasing a special edition of my Nectar Bar for the holidays. This bar was created about 4 years ago after I had been making raw coconut cookies as a product with my company Diviana Alchemy, and thought why not pair this delectable sweet with chocolate?! Thus I started layering the cookie with raw chocolate, and now I want to elevate to the next evolution of the bar by enrobing it in chocolate! This process covers the whole bar with a layer of decadence, so that you can bite through and have the experience of a bit of crunch and the softness of the cookie inside. I am now taking pre-orders and will start shipping them on the 17th so you can get them in time for a holiday gift!
Now I would love to share a recipe with you! Let's bring it back to bliss & feelin' good. This one is easy to make, all you need is to have your ingredients on hand and the right tools to make the process flow. Chocolate bark is super delicious & you don't need special equipment to make it. The key is to have the best cacao ingredients, my go-to is always cacao paste. This will give the richest dark chocolate flavor and also a creamy texture. And of course, I will add in superfood & herbal medicine into the mix!! ;)
Superfood Chocolate Bark
1 1/2 cup cacao paste, chopped, melted
1/4 cup cacao butter or coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup cane or coconut sugar, powdered with a spice grinder if desired
4-5 drops stevia (optional)
1 tsp lucuma powder
1/2 tsp ashwagandha extract powder (optional)
1/2 tsp mucuna extract powder (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a few pinches sea salt
1. Melt down cacao paste over a double boiler, using a pot with 1-2” water over low heat, with a glass bowl sitting on top and not touching the water. Stir when paste starts to melt and take off heat when almost fully melted. *Or melt in the oven on the lowest setting for about 15 minutes until cacao paste starts to melt, then stir until fully melted.
2. Mix in cacao butter or coconut oil until melted.
3. Mix in all dry ingredients until smooth.
4. Pour on a sheet pan covered in parchment paper.
5. Top with chopped nuts or dried fruit and a sprinkle of hibiscus powder
6. Chill for 30 minutes or so until hardened and break apart into pieces.
:: Herbal Additions ::
Mucuna >> The 'velvet bean' that contains L-Dopa, a precursor to dopamine. This neurotransmitter is highly beneficial to brain function and mood elevation. One of my favorite herbs to pair with chocolate!
Ashwagandha >> Also known as Indian Ginseng, this herb is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine. An adaptogenic herb, meaning it is dual-directional and harmonizes the body through reducing stress. Also helps to balance hormones.