Sunday, January 13, 2019

No Cane Sugar Hot Chocolate Recipe - Quick and Simple and Healthy

Are you still tackling your New Years Resolutions to be healthier in 2019? And is one of those resolutions to reduce or cut out cane sugar? If so, making hot chocolate can be no easy task since most hot chocolate mixes have added sugar in them. Even gourmet 'drinking chocolate' can be full of sugar. But fear not, hot chocolate with alternative sweetener is easy to make at home with an unsweetened chocolate bar and your healthy sweetener of choice, whether it be stevia, xylitol, coconut sugar, maple syrup or yacon syrup.

Although it is quick and simple to make a hot chocolate out of pure chocolate, it does take a bit of technique when it comes to pouring and stirring to make one that is smooth, with no bits of chocolate floating in it, which maximizes chocolate flavour. The key is to start out by making a ganache, then add all the milk (or coconut milk for a vegan version) that you want.

As part of my 'go dark' winter months, I was tasting this Montezuma 100% dark chocolate bar:

I liked it, but it was a little mild in the single-origin cacao flavour department for me. I knew I was never going to finish it as an eating chocolate. But I thought - because it was low in acidity and any overwhelming fruity or pronounced flavours - it would be perfect for a hot chocolate. And in the end, it was!

I also tried a few other 100% dark chocolate bars that I raided from my tasting cabinet...

And in the end, I settled on my version of the perfect no-cane sugar hot chocolate. Here is my recipe:

No Cane Sugar Dark Hot Chocolate Recipe:
Makes 3 servings.

Ingredients:75 grams 100% dark or unsweetened chocolate
2 1/3 cups milk (2% to 3%) or coconut milk (or another alternate milk of choice)
4.5 tsps maple syrup, coconut sugar or yacon syrup, or 9 drops of concentrated stevia
1/4 tsp real vanilla extract


1. Place milk in a small saucepan on the stovetop. Heat on medium, stirring often, until steaming.
2. While the milk is heating up, break up your chocolate into 1/2" pieces. Place chocolate in a small-to-medium sized microwave-safe bowl. Add 3 tbsp of the milk to the chocolate. Microwave for 35 to 40 seconds. Stir until smooth.
3. Add the sweetener, then add a little bit more of the hot milk (about 1/4 cup) and stir in until smooth. Add the remaining milk and vanilla extract and stir with a spoon or whisk until smooth.
4. Pour 1/3 of the mix into one mug and enjoy immediately. Cover the remainder with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to consume (no longer than three or four days though). Warm up in a mug in the microwave or in a saucepan and enjoy!

Tips & tricks for making hot chocolate with less sweetener: 

Sweeten your hot chocolate to your own taste and do what you are comfortable with. I found 1.5 tsp of maple or yacon syrup to be sweet enough with a mild-flavoured chocolate like the Montezuma or a mild Peru or Venezuela origin 100% dark liquor. However, when I've made the same recipe with a Madagascar, Grenada or other more citrusy or acidic unsweetened chocolate, the same recipe results in a much more bitter hot chocolate. If this happens to you, or you find my recipe too bitter for your taste buds, you can do the following to make it taste sweeter without adding more caloric sweeteners:

-add more skim or low fat milk, the natural sugars in the milk will more than make up for any added sweetener and reduce the bitterness by quite a bit.

-add a touch more real vanilla. Vanilla certainly makes chocolate taste sweeter than it is, and it also works the same way in hot chocolate.

-even if you don't like the taste of stevia and you've chosen maple syrup or honey or some other sweetener with more calories than stevia, you can still add a drop or two of concentrated stevia without it adding the taste of stevia. Anything over that amount and you might start to taste the stevia, but supplementing your maple syrrup with just a bit of stevia will not affect the flavour too much. If you like the taste of stevia, go ahead and use it entirely as the sweetener, but remember not everyone does so if you are serving to others, keep that in mind.

-blend in a half of a ripe banana and don't add any sweetener. This will become a banana-flavoured hot chocolate, but hey why not? It's a meal and a treat all in one!

-go darker. Cut the sweetener to half of my recipe, or don't add any at all. You will eventually become used to the bitterness if you have decided to cut all sweeteners from your diet.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Unsweetened January: Chocolate with low or no cane sugar, TAZA Wicked Dark 95% dark chocolate

Happy New Year my chocolate-loving friends!

As another year passes, I notice how much more choice we have in chocolate. With the rapid and massive growth of the bean-to-bar chocolate industry, any percentage of cocoa solids and flavour combination can now easily be purchased - if not in person, certainly online. And so, each January since I started an annual tradition of cutting back the sugar in the chocolate I consume, and eating only very low-sugar chocolate (we're talking 80% to 100% dark chocolate) for the first two months of the year, my goal has become easier to reach.

When I first started this 'unsweetened' tradition in 2012, I did it to get my palate accustomed to 100% dark chocolate so I could begin to enjoy it. Well, that plan worked and now I can not only easily jump between a white chocolate bar and a completely unsweetened cocoa liquor without so much as a cringe, I also find myself hoarding the very darkest of bars and tucking them away for the winter months, happily looking forward to my unsweetened chocolate time.

But of course one need not jump headfirst into darkness, but rather ease in tentatively to become accustomed to the dark. So I thought I'd start by some 95% dark chocolate bars by TAZA CHOCOLATE, a bean to bar chocolate maker from Somerville, Massachusetts.

In November at the Chocolate Maker's Unconference, I attended a few sessions lead by Alex Whitmore, the charismatic founder of TAZA, and was both surprised and impressed to hear that TAZA's number one selling product is a 95% dark chocolate bar called Wicked Dark. With only 5% sugar, the bitterness level of this bar has in the past been too much for most chocolate lovers, until recently. With a renewed interest in cacao and much talk of Keto and Paleo diets, very dark chocolate has entered its heyday, and the average population is beginning to try it.

Because of the popularity of Wicked Dark - or at least I assume this to be the reason - TAZA also has introduced the Wicked Dark 95% bar with Toasted Quinoa. So I purchased both bars online, arriving back from Christmas Holidays to find them in a package at the post office. Perfect timing for my unsweetened chocolate month!

Wicked Dark truly is the perfect name for these chocolate bars. They are bitter, in nearly a wicked way. But with the crunch of the stone-ground chocolate, they have a snack-like quality, and just enough crunchy sugar to make you not feel as though you are missing out on a chocolate experience. Taza's focus, as they mention on their website, is that cacao is complex in flavour, so they minimally process it so the flavours can "shout loud and proud". These chocolate bars certainly do that.

Can you handle it?

If you think you can go wickedly dark, learn more on Taza's website at: or if you are in Canada like I am, you can buy Taza bars online at

The Wicked Dark bars by Taza are certified organic, non-GMO, direct trade, gluten-free, dairy free, soy free and vegan. The ingredients are: organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, plus puffed quinoa for the toasted quinoa bar.

Stay tuned for more talk of unsweetened chocolate bars and low- or no-cane sugar chocolate in the coming two months! Happy Chocolate Eating!