Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Rare Find: Chocolate-Covered Cacao Beans

These days, chocolate-covered food products can be seen at every market, grocery store, pharmacy or health food store. And it seems that nearly everything can be covered in chocolate: almonds and other nuts are the most common, along with raisins and espresso beans, apricots, pretzels and all sort of other fruit and crunchy snacks.  I have even eaten chocolate-covered kale. But chocolate-covered cacao beans?  That is just plain rare. 

However Camino, a Canadian brand of organic and Fair Trade chocolate products, has just launched a small line of 'treats', which includes Dark Chocolate-Covered Cacao Beans. Since I have only ever tried chocolate-covered cacao nibs, but never the whole bean covered in chocolate, I immediately ordered some.

Although these are called 'treats', it does not mean you should go crazy and give them as gifts to every chocoholic in your life.  First know that your friends and family can handle the extra bitterness of this snack.  The cacao beans are covered in a 70% dark chocolate and rolled in cocoa powder, so they are very bitter. But they have a nice crunch to them, so it is like eating a savoury, crunchy treat, like chips, rather than eating a sweet treat, like a Mars bar. So if your chocoholic friend is often seen eating a Hershey's milk chocolate bar, they probably will not like this snack.  But if they are always buying 70% or higher dark chocolate, or are trying to reduce their sugar intake, they may be the perfect candidate.

What I like about these 'treats' compared to similar ones, is that cacao beans have minimal caffeine content compared to chocolate-covered coffee beans.  And although coffee beans have no fat, the fat in cocoa beans is not unhealthy. Also, with so little sugar in this product and a huge boost of antioxidants, I do not feel guilt about tucking in for a chocolaty snack.

Camino brand can be found in health food stores and grocery stores across Canada.  But you can also buy these online.

Looking for other chocolate covered cacao bean products? Through Google, I found an American brand, Kakawa Cocoa Beans, who make cacao beans that are covered in milk, white and dark chocolate (that's right, all three on one bean!).  These look pretty tasty and probably a little sweeter than Camino's.  Check them out at:

Also, CRIO BRÜ sells chocolate covered Criollo cacao beans. And from what I can tell, they are not rolled in cocoa powder, which will create a slightly less bitter flavour experience.  Check these out at:
I have a feeling that we will see more chocolate covered cacao bean products pop up at our local food retailers in the near future.  It is a product that just makes sense to me. It is healthier than eating fully processed chocolate, it has less sugar content and provides both antioxidants and a boost of energy without over-caffeinating us.

As always, here are the full package details of the chocolate product that I tasted this week:

Camino Fair Trade/Organic Dark Chocolate-Covered Cacao Beans, 70% cacao, 100g
La-Siembra Co-Opertive (Ottawa, ON, Canada)
Organic Ingredients: whole cacao beans*, dark chocolate* (cacao mass*, cane sugar*, cacao butter*, cacao powder*).
*Fair Trade Certified.
Contains 100% Fair trade Certified ingredients by dry weight (

What is not on the package: The cacao beans and dark chocolate are single-origin sourced from Peru. The sugar in the chocolate comes from Paraguay.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Red Wine Truffles: The Perfect Chocolate and Wine Pairing Recipe

When I  open a new bottle of wine, my first thought is always: "What chocolate shall I pair with this wine?"  And when I find one that tastes really good with it, I wonder: "What would happen if I melted this wine and chocolate together to make a wine-infused chocolate truffle?" So this week, I finally did it. I opened a 2008 vintage bottle of Shiraz Voignier, then found just the perfect chocolate to pair with it and made some rich, red wine-infused dark chocolate truffles.

My chocolate of choice was a mix of Camino's organic and fair trade couverture.  I found Camino's 70% Bittersweet chocolate drops a little too bitter to pair with the Shiraz, and their 56% Semi-Sweet couverture a little too sweet for the full-bodied wine, but they both had the right flavour profile.  So what did I do? I mixed the two chocolates together to create a...hmmm...I guess a 60-something percent dark chocolate.

As it turned out, the chocolate was a perfect match for the Oscar's Estate Shiraz Voignier, because the truffles turned out smooth, rich and delectable, with low acidity and a subtle red wine flavour. The best part is that I created a chocolate that pairs very well to other Shiraz wines, which is a nice finish to any dinner party.

I recommend trying this at home. Since it might be difficult to find the same brands of chocolate and wine that I used, be sure that you taste the chocolate and the wine together in your mouth before you go ahead and melt them together! If it is too strong, acidic, or just plain bad tasting, try a different wine or different chocolate.

Recipe for Red Wine-Infused Chocolate Truffles

-1/2 cup red wine (Shiraz)
-8 ounces 60-70% dark chocolate
-Additional 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (anywhere between 50-70% - I used a 56%) for coating the truffles and/or 1/2 cup cocoa powder

Step 1: Place the chocolate in a stainless steel or a microwave-safe bowl. If the chocolate is in a large slab or bars, chop it into 1/2-inch pieces.

Step 2: Heat the wine in a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring it just to the boiling point, then pour half of it over the chocolate and stir until it becomes somewhat melted. Reheat the remaining wine (if it has cooled) and pour over the chocolate mixture. Stir until it is smooth.  If you are using a stainless steel bowl, you may need to have a double boiler on hand to finish melting the chocolate, if it won't fully melt.  If you are using a microwavable bowl and the chocolate is not fully melted after you have stirred for a few minutes, you can place in the microwave for just five seconds, take it out, stir and repeat until you have a smooth mixture.  

Step 3: Seal with an airtight lid or plastic wrap.  Let set on the counter for 8 hours or overnight.

Step 4: Scoop out spoonfuls of the truffle mix and roll between the palm of your hand to make balls.
Place on wax paper until ready to roll in chocolate. Tip: Use gloves to prevent your hands from melting the chocolate.

Step 5: Melt and temper 50-70% dark chocolate.

Step 6: With a spoon, pick up each truffle and roll in the chocolate mixture.  Lift out on a fork and let chocolate drip off a little.  Now you can do one of two things: 1. Turn over onto a fresh piece of waxed paper and dab fork lightly on top to create a swirl. 2. Immediately toss coated truffle into a bowl of cocoa powder.  Sprinkle some on top and let rest for a minute to harden slightly before lifting out.

Freeze as is in an airtight container or eat immediately (once the chocolate shell hardens). For good presentation and easy handling, place each truffle in a candy paper or mini cupcake paper.


The wine was Oscar's Estate Vineyard, Shiraz Voignier 2008 Barossa Valley with a 96% Shiraz and 4% Viognier mix.  Produced by B&B Wines, Roennfeldt Road, Marananga South Australia and imported by Kylix Wines in Toronto, Canada. 15.9%alc./vol., 750ml.

The chocolate, as mentioned above, was Camino brand of couverture chocolate: 56% Semi-Sweet drops and 70% Bittersweet drops, both organic and Fair Trade certified. Go to for more information on their chocolate.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How NAKED do you like your chocolate?

Stripping it down to just three ingredients is naked enough for me...

The term 'Naked Chocolate' is definitely not a new one.  A book, several articles, businesses and even websites have been given this name. And simply typing 'Naked Chocolate' into a Google search engine will pop up all sorts of results, the most prominent being a book by David Wolfe and Shazzie published in 2005, which discusses the idea that cacao, the bean used to make chocolate, is a 'superfood' and how we can benefit from eating chocolate made from unroasted or raw cacao beans.

There is also the Naked Chocolate Cafe in Philadelphia and the Canadian NaKeD Chocolate shop in Peterborough, Ontario who use the name to define that they work with pure chocolate and ingredients. And b naked chocolates from Arizona make chocolate truffles with "the purest chocolate, organic raw cacao" and no dairy, no refined products, vegan and gluten free, thus making it 'naked'. 

A California woman, Margaret Floyd, wrote in 2011 about a very tasty raw chocolate called Sweet Nuit, that she considered it to be 'naked chocolate' because it was 100% raw and sweetened with coconut sugar and Jerusalem artichoke. This is similar to the concepts that David Wolfe and Shazzie offer in their book. She also believes in the food being organic, homemade and unrefined to prevent nutrient depletion.

There are others who consider chocolate that is 'naked' to simply be solid milk, white or dark chocolate that has no added fruits, nuts, coffee or other flavours and additives (other than perhaps vanilla and an emulsifier like lecithin).

My idea of 'naked chocolate' is a little different than the viewpoints mentioned above.  I believe that chocolate can be considered 'naked' when it has only three ingredients: cacao beans, cacao butter and cane sugar.  And naked milk chocolate, in my world, would have only four ingredients: the above plus milk. With only those ingredients, you can taste the true cacao flavour without masking it with flavourings, such as vanilla or artificial vanilla, or with additives like soy lecithin or hydrogenated oils. 

To me it is still 'naked' even if made from raw or roasted cacao beans, as long as it is mildly processed, smooth or relatively smooth, and contains minimal natural sugar. Because what we know by the name 'chocolate' today is processed in some way, it is usually smooth and it does contain some sugars. But stripped of all additives that are only meant to enhance, change or manipulate its flavour, that is what I call NAKED CHOCOLATE.

People are the same as chocolate. You can dress them up, change their flavour and flair, add perfumes, brush their hair or add jewelry to them, but take all that away and what are they? Naked.

Here are some of my favourite naked chocolate bars:

Raaka Virgin Chocolate (Brooklyn, NY)
85% dark Dominican Republic
Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic turbinado sugar, organic cacao butter

Hummingbird Chocolate Maker (Ottawa, Ontario)
70% Venezuela bar, 70% Peru bar and 70% Hispaniola bar
Ingredients: Organic Cocoa Beans, Sugar & Cocoa Butter

Soma chocolatemaker (Toronto, Ontario)
Soma makes a whole series of bars, including their Chuao 70%, their entire 'exploration box' and their Arcana 100% bar is as naked as chocolate can get.
Chuao 70% Ingredients: cacao beans, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter.

Potomac Chocolate (Woodbridge, VA)
Upala 70% bar and Upala 82% bar
Ingredients: cacao, sugar

Original Beans (Amsterdam)
Piura Porcelana 75% chocolate bar
Ingredients: Direct-trade cacao beans*, cacao butter*, cane sugar*. *Certified organic.
May contain traces of nuts, lactose and soy. Vegan. Gluten Free.

Chocolat Bonnat (Voiron, France)
Puerto Cabello (Venezuela) (75%) chocolate bar
Ingredients: cacao, sugar. May contain tree nuts, milk, eggs and or derivatives.

Important Notes (well, not really):

If you arrived at this article because you were searching the term "naked chocolate" for reasons other than eating chocolate, sorry to disappoint! But there is a link on the second page of Google Search Results on 'Naked Chocolate' that may just be for you.

There is also a funny article on page 4 of the Google Search results dated February 3rd of this year about a naked burglar who was covered in chocolate and peanut butter when they were caught and arrested....too funny not to check out.

And have you seen the recent M&Ms commercial?  Now even our cute little chocolaty friends are getting naked on t.v. What's up with that?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What Kind of Cookies Do Dark Chocolate Lover’s Like? Chocolate-Covered Cookies, Of Course!

Do you like a little cookie crunch in your chocolate?  I do sometimes.  Every now and then when I find a half hour to myself in the afternoon (which does not happen often these days) I like to relax with a cup of tea and a cookie for dipping.  But being the dark chocolate lover that I am, I do not like the average run-of-the-mill-grocery-store cookies.  I like cookies that are not very sweet and are, of course, coated in high quality dark chocolate.  But given the rural location of where I live in Northern Ontario, it is not easy to find such delicacies.

However, I have found a few dark chocolate covered cookies in recent years that are both accessible and tasty.  In fact, just last week I bought the Bahlsen ‘Afrika’ Dark wafer at an Independent Grocer.  There are no artificial flavours in this cookie (which is a rare find for a packaged wafer!) and the first ingredient is “chocolate liquor’, which means this is not an overly sugared affair. Bahlsen’s package also says that these wafers are called ‘Afrika’ because they are made from the finest cocoa beans from West Africa.
What I love about these wafers is how little wafer there actually is.  Mostly, it is a dark chocolate with a really thin layer of wafer in the middle, so you just have a nice tiny crunch.  They are fun to eat and great for dipping in your tea or coffee. The best part is that there are only 160 calories for 8 cookies and just 11 grams of sugar!  If you are careful about not eating high-carb foods but still love that crunch of a wafer-cookie, be sure to add Afrika to your shopping list.

Another dark chocolate cookie that I like (and that is easy to find in rural Canadian locations) is the PC Dark Concerto Biscuits. Like the Bahlsen wafers, these have no unnatural flavours and ingredients, so you can feel good about what you are eating, even if it is a sweet treat. What's more, there are only 150 calories in 2 cookies and only 8 grams of sugar – not a bad way to satisfy your afternoon chocolate and cookie craving. These too are available at the Independent Grocer, as well as Valumart, Loblaws, Superstore and anywhere that President’s Choice products are sold.

Probably my most favourite chocolate-covered cookies of all time are the Pierre Biscuiterie ‘Butter Cookies Coated in (Milk & Dark) Chocolate’, which I found at Costco last Christmas.  These were absolutely the best; in fact, I liked them so much that did not share with anyone.
I am pretty sure they were made from single origin chocolate because they had that distinct flavour to the chocolate (but do not ask me what that flavour profile was was last Christmas and my memory is sketchy!).  I wish I could tell you more about where to buy these in Canada now, but I have not found them since. I have looked online and a few websites sell them, like Snazzy Gourmet and surprisingly a few other websites tell us the calorie content (just 140 calories for 2 cookies!). Personally I am hoping that they show up at Costco again this Christmas season. If so, maybe this time I will share them...or maybe not.