Most people are used to having what you call "weekends" - two consecutive days off from work, usually Saturday and Sunday. But in the hospitality biz, other people's weekends are our busiest work days. So we take our days off when we can get them. Last week an amazing thing occurred: I actually had two days off in a row! So what did I do with all this luscious free time?
I played in the kitchen, of course.
And when I say "played," that is exactly what I mean. I was like a child, making only cakes and candies and licking every bowl spotlessly clean.
I've been wanting to experiment with raw cacao butter for ages, and I finally gave it a try. This is the cold-pressed oil of the cacao bean, the same little miracle that gives us chocolate (and is also the basis of white chocolate). It is solid at room temperature, so the challenge is to melt it without heating it above 45 Celsius, and then work with it quickly enough to prevent it from hardening up again before you finish. This was a bit tricky for me in the cold Adelaide winter, but I managed. I probably won't try my hand at cacao again until it warms up here though.
I decided that while one can never have enough chocolate, I wanted to try some less traditional flavors with the cacao butter. So I used Sheryl Duruz's recipe for Orange Gogi Berry White Chocolate, which I found among the culinary delights of The Sunny Raw Kitchen. This dessert is a raw foodist's dream! Not only is it bursting with sweet gogi and orange flavors, creamy mouth-pleasing cacao and cashews, and a bit of cacao nib crunch, but most of the ingredients are energizing antioxidant superfoods.
Chocolate making is a fine art, and I've only just discovered the tip of the iceberg. My first attempt wasn't pretty, but it tasted out-of-this-world. I know I have a long way to go with my chocolate making. But hey, I'm happy to eat my way there.
Orange Gogi Berry White Chocolate
1 cup gogi berries, divided in half
1/2 cup cacao butter
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup cacao nibs
zest of 1 orange
Grind 1/2 cup of the gogi berries in a spice mill or coffee grinder to achieve a kind of sticky powder. Set aside.
Melt the cacao butter, either in a dehydrator or over a double boiler (place a metal bowl over pot 1/3 filled with water, bring water to rolling boil, and let cacao butter melt, stirring constantly to avoid it getting too hot).
In a food processor, process cacao butter, raw cashews, reserved gogi powder and agave nectar until you achieve a really smooth texture. It will probably have to run for several minutes. Remove mixture to a bowl, scraping out food processor thoroughly (don't forget to lick the bowl!).
Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup whole gogi berries, cacao nibs, and orange zest. Lightly rub a glass pie plate or dish with coconut oil, then spread the chocolate mixture evenly. Place in freezer until firm. When ready, cut into squares.
*Note: This doesn't completely harden, but rather has a slightly sticky, fudgy texture. I needed to use a metal spatula to remove it from the pie plate, and I stored it in the fridge in a container lined with parchment paper.
My other big cooking adventure of my "weekend" (it was a Thursday and a Friday, but it was a weekend to me) was the carob carrot tamarillo cake which I posted recently. While making it, I had some extra carrots, and decided to try the original carrot cake recipe posted by hannah.hunnicutt on goneraw.com. But instead of making a cake, I thought it would be fun to make little cupcakes. Well, wouldn't you know, I couldn't find my cupcake/muffin tray anywhere (where on earth could a tray disappear to?). But I did find an old friand tray, and I used that to mould little individual carrot cakes. So cute! And just the right size for a snack. The orange icing is a perfect complement, too.
Make sure you use good, juicy raisins. I used organic muscatels and walnuts (instead of pecans, in the original recipe) and they were so lovely. I also had to double the quantities originally given in order to fill a tray.
Honestly, these taste just like cooked carrot cake, but they're totally raw. And they don't have any sugar, flour, oil, butter or cream cheese. Once again, I have discovered a small raw miracle.
Mini Carrot Cakes
1 1/2 cups grated carrots, as much moisture squeezed out as possible
1/2 cup dates, pitted
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
8 Tbsp dried shredded coconut
2 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp agave nectar
4 Tbsp ground cashews or sunflower seeds
1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
In a food processor, puree the dates to a smooth paste (this works best with soft California dates, if you're using drier dates you might want to soak them for an hour first). Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the raisins and nuts. Process until combined.
Stir in the raisins and nuts by hand. Rub a muffin or friand tray with a little coconut oil. Evenly distribute the cake batter to make 12 muffins or little cakes. Alternatively, you can mould the cakes by hand on parchment paper. Dehydrate for 4 hours. Remove from tray, flip over, and dehydrate 2 more hours with the other side facing up. Delicious plain or topped with:
1 cup cashews, soaked 2-3 hours and drained
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp orange juice (from about 1/2 orange)
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp orange zest
pinch of salt
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and let it run until you achieve a smooth texture. Spread over carrot cake using a rubber spatula.