On June 16th, Daniel Sklaar from Fine & Raw Chocolate joined us in the kitchen to talk about the full spectrum of chocolate-making, from agribusiness to artisanal.
His signature line, “Possibilities + Cacao,” set the tone for the evening and the wonderment was palpable as Daniel demonstrated the transformation of hard cacao beans into richly delicious and textured chocolate bars.
But, first there was some talking…
Food labeling in this country is a problematic issue because the FDA does not require pre-approval for labels on any food product. Therefore, companies can mislead the public into thinking they are getting one kind of product when in fact they are getting something else. For example, we talked about the Lindt Excellence brand of chocolate and its claims that it is refined and exceptionally crafted. The truth is this chocolate is nothing special, but contains the regular offenders: lots of sugar and a host of unpronounceable ingredients like calcium orthophosphate, vegetable anthocyane and soy. And, what the heck is soy doing in our chocolate anyway!? It turns out that soy is used as an emulsifier, greasing the wheels of production and prolonging the shelf life of large-scale, commercially-produced chocolate. And, according to Daniel, most soy today is genetically modified and the jury is still out on how harmful that stuff is to our bodies and environment.
Then there’s the issue of “natural and artificial flavors.” Due to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the law that is supposed to ensure the public knows what chemicals are in use around them – the chemical industry can claim “trade secret” on chemicals new to the market. So a natural or artificial flavor in a chocolate can actually contain up to 50 different chemicals whose names and properties are entirely hidden from us. The government needs to stop granting intellectual property rights to mega food manufacturers and tend to our right to know.
Daniel’s approach to chocolate-making is healthy, straightforward and delicious. Chocolate, really good chocolate, needs only a few ingredients (and a small carbon footprint…) to achieve taste AND health goodness simultaneously.
In his demo, Daniel roasted raw cacao beans “street-food style” using a wok and a hot plate. This filled our space with the smokey, sweet smell of chocolate beans. After the roasting, Daniel grounded the beans, along with some palm sugar. Daniel uses unrefined, raw sugar that does not contain pesticides or other additives. He took care to explain how his low heat techniques maintains the anti-oxidant qualities of the cacao – which are often lost in large-scale chocolate production. And, did you know that raw chocolate contains high levels of iron and magnesium (which protects against hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease)?
Then Daniel presented us with a GIANT Fine & Raw chocolate bar and we found out just how amazing it tastes. He melted the bar to make the group a batch of chocolate fondue (see his recipe below). We dipped bananas — and in some cases our fingers– into the most delicious chocolate many of us have ever tasted.
You don’t have to roast or grind your own beans – Daniel and Fine + Raw Chocolate will do that for you.
Here’s Daniel’s Chocolate Fondue recipe:
14 oz of dark chocolate (Fine & Raw or your choice)
2 oz milk / almond milk or 8 oz of heavy cream
A pinch of salt
1/4 tspn vanilla extract
Strawberries, 2 bananas
1. Slice banana’s into chips. Place them in the freezer on a plate.
2. In a double boiler melt the chocolate. Add the salt, vanilla, milk/cream and whisk until smooth.
3. Pour melted chocolate into a low flame fondue pot, or serve straight from the pot.
4. Use a fondue fork or skewer to dip the fruit pieces into the hot melted chocolate mixture.
5. Devour leisurely.