A Primal / Paleo Chocolate Bar

July 22, 2011 | Comments Off

The best Kindle accessories: A glass of red wine and home-made ginger and hazelnut chocolate.

A few years ago, when we lived close to Trader Joe’s in another state, we regularly demolished large amounts of TJ’s Pound Plus 72% Dark Belgian Chocolate. On a recent trip to Washington D.C., we visited TJ’s and came back with ten pounds.

More than a year of almost no sugar makes you realise how chronic stimulation over the years had numbed the tongue’s sweet receptors. That’s what a “sweet tooth” really is – the sweet receptors on the tongue becoming resistant to stimulation, requiring greater stimulation to achieve the desired sensation.

Now that the tastebuds and insulin receptors have regained their sensitivity, a small piece of 72% dark chocolate feels like an intravenously delivered hoseful of sugar syrup. The acute response is essentially to the 28% non-chocolate portion of the chocolate bar – the sugar, milk solids and stuff that has no business being there.

We’re now used to Endangered Species 88% Dark Chocolate. As a rule, in the evenings, post-workout, I like to eat a very low carb dinner (for the reasons outlined HERE). A piece of 100% Dark chocolate or home-made chocolate sprinkled with sea salt is the perfect way to round off the meal.

I was looking for a means to make the 72% chocolate we bought less sweet and more palatable. That’s when I decided to make my own primal/paleo chocolate bars – with flavours that I like, in shapes that I like. The “primal” here refers, not to romanticised “noble savage” notions that harken back to what we think folks did in the Pleistocene Age, but to the essential principles that govern metabolic efficiency.

Eating chocolate with sugar makes you fat. Chocolate without sugar doesn’t. Dietary cholesterol comprises only 20 to 30% of body cholesterol. That’s because 70 to 80 percent of body cholesterol is generated in the body when insulin mops up the sugar from the blood to use some as immediate energy and shunts the excess for storage as fat. A side effect of circulating insulin is that it causes the liver to actually manufacture more cholesterol.

Eating chocolate without sugar does not evoke an insulin reaction since insulin does not respond to dietary fat alone. It is possible to have an immensely satisfying piece of chocolate that gives you the serotonin, caffeine and antioxidant boost you are looking for with little or no sugar. It’s like a strong espresso shot. A little goes a long way. Fat (without sugar) is self-regulating. You don’t want another piece after you’ve had one. Try eating plain, unflavoured fat (like butter). You can eat a small bit and put it down without craving more. It keeps you full longer, which means you eat fewer carbs. Which means you release less insulin. Mix that butter with flour and/or sugar, and you’ve just climbed the insulin seesaw.

Yesterday, at Costco (I know, I go there too often), I saw a lady with a cartful of Kirkland Signature Weight Loss Protein Shake. It’s “low fat”. Per serving (one can), it has 2 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein and a whopping 44 grams of carbohydrates (including 38 grams of sugar). 75% of its 230 calories come from carbs, mainly refined sugar and corn syrup.

There’s a reason why she isn’t going to get thinner. She sees fat, not sugar, as the enemy. Most of those carbs will convert to fat, with some tissue damage in the process. 230 calories worth of dark or sugar-free chocolate will aid her weight loss efforts more than a can of sugary protein drink.

Cacao tree at the Botanical Museum, Washington D.C.

Our not-so-distant ancestors certainly didn’t eat sweetened chocolate bars. For centuries, the Mayans, Aztecs and other South and Central American peoples ate the apricot-flavoured pulp of the cacao pod and consumed the fermented, roasted beans as a beverage.

Chocolate in the Old World was bitter and spiced with chillies or mixed into a drink with cornmeal. The idea of cacao beans sweetened with sugar was introduced by the Spaniards in the 1600s. It was consumed in liquid form until Joseph and Fry developed the technology to create a solid chocolate bar in 1847.

Before drastically changing my diet last year, I used to spend a lot of money on gourmet chocolate and an even larger amount of time reading ingredient labels.

White chocolate is the biggest scam of them all. It’s not chocolate at all. It’s at least 50% sugar held together with a bit of cocoa butter and some milk solids.

In certain brands of white chocolate, the main “fat” is not cocoa butter, but hydrogenated vegetable oil. For the same price per ounce, I’d rather buy a pound of cocoa butter.

The Greatest Generation got to save old tires, dig a Victory Garden and forgo sugar. The Richest Generation is being asked to shop. ~ Margaret Carlson

Shop for something that claims to be what it is not. Like “Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranates”. Sounds straight-forward enough. Pomegranate arils covered with dark chocolate. In the U.S. chocolate with as low as 35% cocoa solids can be called “bittersweet”. So in essence, you’re paying for 65% of crap. The FDA has no official definition of what can be deemed “dark chocolate” or how it differs from “bittersweet”. Then you read the fine print:

“Masterfully prepared sweetened real fruit juice pieces, made from a blend of pomegranate and other select concentrated fruit juices dipped in this extra creamy pure dark chocolate to create this decadent taste sensation.”

Look at that pic on the package. It shows pomegranate arils. What you have inside the package is just a really expensive chocolate-covered jelly bean. And it tastes like sugary styrofoam. Luckily there was a lady with a Keurig coffee sample close by. I really really need to stop tasting samples at Costco.

How about a label that simply states “100% Cacao”? You can take it and do what you want with it. Now, based on my mood, I create what I like.

I bought some Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate (you’ll find it in the baking aisle, not in the candy aisle), mixed it in with the TJ’s 72% dark and a few other ingredients.

Most stores in the U.S. have at least 3 brands of 100% Chocolate – Baker’s, Ghirardelli and Hershey’s. Ghirardelli, though smoother, is a lot more expensive. And Hershey’s tastes weird. Baker’s is the least expensive – $3.19 for 8 oz. at Fred Meyer – and not too bad. Best of all, it is not Dutch processed.

Cocoa naturally has a very strong, pungent taste, which comes from the flavanols. When cocoa is processed into your favorite chocolate products, it goes through several steps to reduce this taste. The more chocolate is processed (through things like fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.), the more flavanols are lost. Most commercial chocolates are highly processed. Although it was once believed that dark chocolate contained the highest levels flavanols, recent research indicates that, depending on how the dark chocolate was processed, this may not be true. The good news is that most major chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavanols in their processed chocolates. But for now, your best choices are likely dark chocolate over milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that is loaded with other fats and sugars), and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity). (Source)

GINGER AND HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE

(see first pic above)

There’s no real recipe to this. You can customise it easily based on your preferences.

Melt some chocolate over gentle heat in a heavy-bottomed steel pan or using a double boiler. You can use 100% dark, you can use a combo of various types. You can add a tablespoon or two of almond butter, cocoa butter, creme fraiche, coconut cream or plain cream to make it milkier and creamier. Or a pinch of instant coffee powder or cocoa powder to make it stronger.

I like to add a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil. It makes it meltier in your mouth and improves the texture, especially if you’re using non-fancy chocolate like Baker’s.

Add flavourings of choice. Set it in a large pan lined with foil/wax/paper/silicone or in a paper-lined muffin pan. You can also use silicone ice cube trays or muffin cups.

Sources: Organic cocoa butter, extra virgin and refined coconut oil and various extracts like hazelnut, orange and peppermint: mountainroseherbs.com
Guitar ice cube tray: Amazon

(Makes slightly over a pound)

Melt gently over a double boiler or directly on the stovetop on the lowest heat setting in a heavy pan (keep stirring):

1 pound chocolate (I used 6 oz. 72% and 10 oz 100% Dark Chocolate)
3 tbsps coconut oil
a tiny pinch of salt
a pinch of instant espresso powder
2 tsps Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
a few drops of hazelnut extract

topping: sea salt

Sweetener of choice (if you need it) – like a dash of molasses or Stevia
or
unsweetened cocoa powder if you want it more bitter.

Stir everything together until the chocolate melts. Taste it and see if you need sweetener (if it’s too bitter) or unsweetened cocoa powder (if it’s too sweet). Spoon into small silicone ice cube or muffin moulds. Sprinkle with sea salt. Set in the fridge for 4 hours (or two hours in the freezer). You can also use one large pan or tray that is lined with foil or wax paper.

FRUIT AND NUT CHOCOLATE

(Makes a pound and a half)

Line a square cake pan (I used 8 inch) with foil. (You can use smaller pans/moulds, but I find the larger one more convenient for this, as explained below.)
I would use about 2 cups of chopped nuts and dried fruit combined for a pan this size.

Put the nuts you want to toast in the foil-lined pan. Put it in a 300F oven and toast the nuts for a few minutes. I used
half cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut,
half cup chopped walnuts
half cup chopped almonds

When the coconut flakes are golden, remove the pan and add your dried fruit and flax seeds. Spread everything out evenly in the pan.

I used
3 tbsps each dark raisins, unsulphured apricots (chopped) and flax seeds.

Melt gently over a double boiler or directly on the stovetop on the lowest heat setting in a heavy pan (keep stirring):

1 pound chocolate (I used 6 oz. 72% and 10 oz 100% Dark Chocolate)
2 tbsps coconut oil
2 tbsps almond butter
a tiny pinch of salt
2 tsps orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
1 tsp orange zest
a few drops of vanilla extract

topping: sea salt

Sweetener of choice (if you need it) – like a dash of molasses or Stevia
or
unsweetened cocoa powder if you want it more bitter.

Stir everything together until the chocolate melts. Taste it and see if you need sweetener (if it’s too bitter) or unsweetened cocoa powder (if it’s too sweet).

Pour the chocolate mixture over the nuts and dried fruit in the pan and tap the pan on the counter a few times to let the chocolate sink to the bottom. Or stir the whole thing gently with a spatula.

If you’re using small silicone ice cube or muffin moulds, mix the nuts and dried fruit into the chocolate and coat them thoroughly before spooning into the moulds. The smaller the mould, the more difficult it is for the chocolate to sink to the bottom if you don’t mix the other ingredients in.

Sprinkle with sea salt. Set in the fridge for 4 hours (or two hours in the freezer). Cut, break and store.

- bee

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