Raw chocolate. Glossy, snappy, creamy, and aromatic. The flexibility of chocolate is what I love most about it. It can be incredibly satisfying to simply taste a little piece of dark chocolate and let it melt on your tongue. However, it can be equally satisfying to taste an elaborate and boldly decorated raw tempered chocolate bark. I think that Linnaeus was dead-on when he named the cacao plant Theobroma Cacao, or “Food of the Gods”.
I have been a chocolate lover ever since I can remember. My obsession started with Bounty bars, then switched to peanut butter cups (check out this healthier version), and has eventually arrived at the basics – simple dark chocolate.
Along with natural peanut butter, dark chocolate is one of the things I crave quite frequently. It tastes good. It smells good. And it feels good when it melts on the tongue. According to science, letting chocolate dissolve slowly in your mouth produces as big an increase in brain activity and heart rate as a passionate kiss—but the effects of the chocolate last four times longer! No wonder it’s so darn hard to stop eating chocolate.
What really helped me tame my chocolate cravings was learning to make my own chocolate. The expensive ingredients not only made me think twice about how much chocolate I ate, but the higher quality usually satisfied the quantity I craved. So it was a win-win.
I will admit that making tempered chocolate from scratch can be intimidating though. I have failed at chocolate making more than I can count on the fingers of one hand. However, it’s also very rewarding so be patient. After all, practice makes perfect
Tips for Making Raw Chocolate (Tempered)
Raw chocolate is made from cocoa beans which haven’t been roasted. Cacao and cocoa might sound similar, but both of them are unique when it comes to taste and nutrition. Cacao powder is the purest chocolate you can consume because it’s raw (although that’s questionable depending on where you get the cacao powder from). Roasting changes the molecular structure of cocoa beans, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value. Cacao, on the other hand, is made by cold-processing unroasted cocoa beans and removing the fat – cacao butter.
Cacao butter is what gives chocolate its unique mouth-feel and stable properties. It’s essentially the only fat present in “real” chocolate. Since cacao butter can form six different form of crystals – and only one of them produces firm and shiny chocolate – it’s what makes working with raw chocolate so tricky.
The last ingredient necessary for making raw chocolate is a sweetener. Whenever I make raw desserts, I almost exclusively use liquid sweeteners, such as maple syrup or brown rice syrup. However, I’ve learned that liquid sweeteners don’t work all that great for tempering. (I wrote about why I don’t use liquids in chocolate here). So what’s the alternative? Powdered sugar. And by powdered, I mean powdered. No granules. Since chocolate is fat-based, granular sugar will not dissolve in cacao butter. So unless you grind the sugar to a fine powder, you’ll end up with that texture in your chocolate.
I’m not gonna go into detail about tempering chocolate because I’ve written a whole guide on this topic already. But essentially, to temper chocolate you need to heat, cool, and then gently heat chocolate to precise temperatures in order to propagate a type of stable cocoa butter crystals. This allows the chocolate to have a mirror-like shine when set and results in the proper mouth feel and audible snap when you break off a piece.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Blender (Vitamix 5200) | 2. Cookware Set (Calphalon, Stainless Steel) | 3. Scale (Elekcity, Stainless Steel) | 4. Knife Set (6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) | 5. Cutting Board (24″x 18″, Michigan Maple Block, Maple) | 6. Mixing Bowls (Set of 3, Pyrex, Glass | 7. Thermometer (Elekcity, Laser Infrared) | 8. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Bellemain, Stainless Steel) | 9. Ramekins (Set of 6, Bellemain, Porcelain)
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Using a high-speed blender or a coffee grinder, process the coconut sugar into a fine powder. Coconut sugar crystals don't dissolve in cacao butter so grind the sugar into a very fine powder. Sift the powder if needed.
Place the cacao butter shavings into a stainless-steel saucepan and melt it over a very low heat. Using a thermometer, constantly monitor the cacao butter temperature. The cacao butter should reach 115°F (46°C), but not exceed it. At any time, keep stirring the cacao butter to spread out the heat evenly. Keep in mind that stainless steel retains heat. So even when you take the saucepan off the direct heat, it will continue heating up the cacao butter. So take it off the direct heat BEFORE the cacao butter reaches 115°F (46°C) . You can always put the cacao butter back onto the stove if you need some more heat.*
Once your cacao butter is melted, mix in the coconut sugar and raw cacao powder. Keep stirring the chocolate to bring the temperature back down to 81°F (27°C). If time is an issue, you can also use an ice bath to speed up the cooling process.
To make sure that your chocolate contains as many type V crystals as possible, heat the chocolate up to 88°F (31°C). Make sure that you stay below 88°F (31°C). Now your chocolate is tempered.
To make a chocolate bark, pour the tempered chocolate onto a piece of parchment paper. Smooth it out with an off-set spatula (make it as thick or as thin as you like). Finally, top it with the chopped nuts and craisins and let it set at a room temperature.
Store any leftovers in a cool, ,dry, and dark place, ideally in an airtight container. Avoid storing in the fridge to prevent condensation on the surface.
*If the idea of melting cacao butter over direct heat scares you, feel free to set up a double broiler consisting of a stainless steel bowl that sits on top of a pan of simmering water. Just be careful that not even a single drop of water comes into contact with the cacao butter and later on with the chocolate mixture.
**Pour any leftover chocolate into molds. Tempered chocolate contracts when it sets, so it will easily come out of any mold you cast it in.