Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Many Uses of the Cocoa Nib

I’ve already written about how cocoa nibs are used in beer brewing, and how they are used to make chocolate bars. But, there are a lot of other uses for them. Nibs make an excellent addition to savory and sweet recipes.

Nibs are bits of dried, roasted, and crushed cocoa beans. If you like the taste of dark chocolate, then nibs might be up your alley. Nibs have an extremely strong chocolate taste without any sweetness. Basically, nibs = dark chocolate that hasn’t been ground and sweetened yet. These small pieces of cacao beans have a texture similar to macadamia nuts and have a complex, bitter cocoa flavor.

Another big upshot for nibs is that they are really good for you. Dark chocolate is very high in antioxidants and you can’t get darker than cacao nibs. Nibs are also high in magnesium, chromium, and vitamin C. All of this comes with a strong cocoa flavor without any of the calories associated with sweetened chocolate.

There are a lot of great recipes that use nibs. Many cooks add them to cookies, brownies and other baked goods in place of, or alongside, chocolate chips. Nibs can also be put in ice cream and mixed into shakes and smoothies. Nibs can even be mixed with coffee for a great meat rub! They are great crunchy toppings for salads and can be used to liven up sauces and glazes.

Nibs can also make a great snack. You can candy nibs by making simple syrup, tossing, and baking them. You can also melt some chocolate couverture and cover the nibs to make an amazing snack (this is my personal favorite way to eat nibs).

So, check out our Ecuadorian cacao nibs and make some awesome stuff!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

DIY Natural Body Moisturizers (You will NOT believe how easy this is)

In case you didn't know: Your body produces an oily substance called sebum, (which sounds gross but isn't) and protects your skin by forming a thin barrier preserving moisture, promoting elasticity. But, since nature is imperfect, many of us produce too much or too little sebum. 

Our natural moisture is striped by climate, soap, hard water, or any manner of things.  

We are left having to replenish not only our moisture, but a barrier to keep it from evaporating or washing away.

So there are two parts to staying moisturized- moisture, and oil to keep it in place. A lot of people (particularly those who live in moist climates and don’t tend to have dry skin) are able to simply “lock in” the moisture they already have with an oil, like my personal favorite, cocoa butter. (I use the steam deodorized when I want to smell like something other than dessert).

Many people use cocoa butter as a base for solid lotion bars and lip balms, since it is a fat that's solid at room temperature and melts at human body temperature. (Fun fact: that's why chocolate melts in your mouth!)

Cocoa butter can also easily be melted with other oils, including essential oils for scent, to make a solid, semi-solid or totally liquid moisturizing oil.

Getting the texture you want simply depends on your proportions and mixing techniques.

A lot of people get the consistency they want using hand mixers to ensure a uniform blend before the cocoa butter returns to room temperature and regains some measure of solidity.

One of the most effective times to apply it is straight out of the bath, when your skin has been saturated with water. Some people even mist themselves with water from a spray bottle and then apply an oil barrier to keep it in (I love using rosewater, then coating with deodorized cocoa butter).

Contrary to popular belief, the “oily” residue from barrier oils should absorb quickly if you use sparingly.  If they don’t, it’s probably because you’ve either used too much, or you don’t have enough moisture in your skin in the first place, and simply layering oil on dry skin does nothing for its health or looks.

For example, I used to live in a place with extremely hard water, meaning there were incredibly small mineral particles in my bathwater. After I dried off from a shower, it felt like I was covered in powder. The minerals would work much the way a shine-control facial powder would- they’d absorb the moisture. As a result, barrier oils did nothing for my dry skin, and simply felt oily.

This is when an emulsion becomes necessary. An emulsion is a mixture of oil and water, and it’s what most people think of when they think of lotion. This way, there’s only one step, and you don’t have to worry about having moisture already on your skin before applying a barrier. You might proclaim:

“But oil and water don’t mix!”  

You’re half right. Oil and water don’t mix on their own- they require an emulsifier- an agent that bonds oil and water. There are lots of different emulsifiers, but if you’re looking to keep it natural, stick to lecithins. Lecithins are used in food  and beauty produce to bond oil and water, and are simply extracted portions of plants with a fatty element- soy and sunflower seed lecithin are the most common, and the best soy lecithin is entirely mechanically extracted (some are extracted using chemical solvents.)

The process is just as simple as barrier oils- low heat and mix. You just blend in an emulsifier. Without all the chemical preservatives, your lotion has a shorter shelf-life than most store-bought lotions. Which is good, since most of those preservatives are not good for your health and are very drying to your skin.

Many lotion makers either stick to small batches they intend to use quickly, or prolong their shelf-life with natural preservatives. The proportions are usually about 1 part emulsifier, 3 parts butter or oil, and 6 parts water, but you can experiment until get a texture you like.

So there you have it, you know how to make moisturizers! Go experiment and make your own.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Rich & Creamy Vegan Avocado Chocolate Mousse!

We here at Fine Cocoa love supplying the raw ingredients; it means we get to be a part of your creations!

Since our ingredients are pure, kosher, vegan, and allergen-free, we get to supply to anyone, regardless of dietary restrictions. Here's one of our favorite vegan recipes, a chocolate mousse that's as raw as it gets!

(And I promise, even the "I don't like avocados" crowd will love it-- they won't even know!)

Here's all you need:

- A food processor or blender
- 2 large ripe avocados
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup agave nectar or 1/2 the amount of stevia syrup
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp almond extract

It's as easy as dessert gets. Spoon out the meat, and puree the avocados until smooth. Blend in the rest of the ingredients, spoon into fancy glassware, ramekins, or even a pie crust, refrigerate overnight, then serve!

I like to sprinkle the top with berries or cocoa nibs.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Beer and chocolate are two of those things and when you combine them you multiply the awesomeness by a factor of two.

 The indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica believed that chocolate was a gift from the gods and since beer is clearly the beverage of the gods they just naturally go together. Brewers have been using chocolate to flavor their wares for a very long time and most beer fans have had a chocolate stout like Young’s Double Chocolate or Rouge’s Chocolate Stout at some point in their boozy careers. However, there are other, more subtle uses for chocolate in the brewing process. Many breweries and home brewers use cocoa of various kinds in their porters and brown ales as well. Even though the cocoa flavor in a porter or brown ale isn’t as up front as a chocolate stout, the dark, earthy overtones of cocoa add to the complexity of the taste and the aroma.

Various types of chocolate and cocoa products can be added at several stages in the brewing process. Brewable chocolate comes in three basic forms: solid bars, cocoa powder, and nibs. Each has various strengths (both in the finished product and in the brewing process) that make them suitable for different brews.

People are generally more familiar and comfortable with solid chocolate bars. For the brewing process, unsweetened baker’s chocolates and couvertures are the best choice because they don’t add any more sugar to the mixture. Solid chocolate should be melted before being put in the kettle to avoid scorching or burning the chocolate. Chocolate should be melted in a double boiler and for a dark chocolate you’ll want to heat it slowly to around 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cocoa powder is more commonly used in brewing and can give the beer a more complex taste than solid chocolate can. Cocoa powders can be used as is, but a little goes a long way. Depending on what percentage you use, the powder’s fat content can make it difficult to dissolve the cocoa completely. To make this easier, cocoa powder can be added to the mash where they can be mixed more evenly and still make it into the finished product. Alkalized cocoa powders are a little softer and lower in fat, so they might be easier to work with. Alkalized cocoa powders, also called Dutched powders, might be the better call for recipe experimentation.

However, the most potent form of brewable chocolate is cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs are the real deal: they’re crushed cacao beans that come in raw and roasted form. The roasted nibs have a darker color and flavor which makes them more appropriate for heavier beers. The paler raw nibs are better for crisper ales and things like coffee flavored porters. Nibs have a hardcore flavor so a few ounces of them can be used to flavor a small homebrew batch. Nibs' natural flavor makes them the favorite cocoa additive of commercial brewers as well.

Summing this up is pretty simple: beer is awesome, chocolate is awesome so put them together to make some awesome beer. We can supply the adventurous home brewer or the largest of microbreweries with solid chocolate, cocoa powder, and cocoa nibs. So, order some chocolate, make some beer, and get awesome.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Make Your Own Cafe Mocha

Chocolate infused coffee is great, but you don’t need to go to Starbucks to get some. Instead of tacking on those extra 10 minutes in the morning to stop by a coffee shop, we suggest you make it yourself.

By making it at home, you can use much higher quality chocolate than what typically gets used in the average coffee shop. Alkalized cocoa powders are a little easier to dissolve in liquid and so are lower fat powders. The ideal would be an alkalized 10/12 cocoa powder, like our Grand Guayacan or our organic alkalized 10/12.

You can do a simple home version of a cafe mocha without any of the fancy equipment like steaming wands. Basically, just brew a cup of strong, dark coffee (you can also substitute a double shot of espresso, which is my preference). Then add a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder (like the Grand Guayacan or the organic), 2 tablespoons of warm milk, and a tablespoon of sugar. As for the sugar, I prefer either Sugar In The Raw or Stevia. The mixture should dissolve pretty easily. You can also pour this over ice for an iced mocha. Top with whipped cream!

This whole process should take 5 minutes or less. You save money, time, and have something made with really good cocoa. Almost everything is better when you make it yourself and when you use quality ingredients. Now you have your chocolate and caffeine without having to wait in line!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Make Your Own White Chocolate Easter Bunny

It’s almost Easter and the advertisements for candy are everywhere. And as with most things, Easter candy is better when you make it yourself. And what says “happy Easter” better than a homemade white chocolate bunny?

Homemade white chocolate is really easy to make and it won’t taste like that vegetable-fat, overly sweet nonsense that some large companies try to pass off as white chocolate.

Here’s a simple recipe for white chocolate:
•           ¼ cup cocoa butter
•           1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•           ½ teaspoon milk powder
•           ⅓ cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
•           salt; a pinch
•           Recommended: 1 tsp lecithin

You’re also going to need a bunny mold. These should be really easy to find, especially this time of year. Most craft stores and specialty baking/cooking stores should have a full line for you to choose from.

As for the ingredients, I definitely recommend using powdered milk instead of regular milk. The consistency won’t be right with liquid milk. The same goes with the confectioner’s sugar. Granulated sugar won’t give the chocolate the right consistency. You definitely want to use natural cocoa butter, rather than deodorized.

Melt the cocoa butter in a double boiler. Cocoa butter melts at a very low temperature, just above normal body temperature. So, keep the heat very low – just high enough to simmer the water. Stir the butter constantly while it’s melting and try to keep any water drops or vapor from touching it. You want to go as slow as possible in the melting process. The slower you go, the better the finished product will be.

Once the butter is melted, remove it from heat and stir in all the other ingredients. The mixture should be a smooth, yellowish color. Do not cover it to avoid water drops.

Next, just pour the chocolate into molds. Tap the molds gently to remove air bubbles and chill.

And that’s it – you know have homemade white chocolate Easter bunnies. If you’re so inclined, you should go with organic cocoa butter. After all, making things at home is a more environmentally friendly option and using organic ingredients only ups the earth friendly factor.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Homemade candy, Anyone?

While chocolate is certainly a lot more than what is covered by the traditional candy designation, candy is not necessarily a bad thing. What is a bad thing however is how many artificial ingredients are in mass marketed candy, not to mention the low quality of corporate chocolate.

So, what’s the discerning chocolate fan to do? Giving up chocolate sounds awfully drastic and, as it turns out, unnecessary. There are plenty of companies that make high quality candies using real coca and sweeteners, but you can also easily make your own.

With a handful of ingredients, you can create your own candy at home using chocolate that actually tastes like real chocolate.

Here’s a simple recipe for delicious homemade peanut butter cups.

Peanut butter cups are great, but they’re usually made with high amounts of high fructose corn syrup (in both the chocolate and the peanut butter) and artificial flavors and colors.

Peanut Butter Filling Ingredients:
·         ½ cup of peanut butter (I prefer natural peanut butter)
·         2 tablespoons of room temperature, unsalted butter
·         1/8 teaspoon of salt
·         ½ cup of powdered sugar
Chocolate Coating Ingredients:
·         16 ounces of coarsely chopped chocolate couverture * (you can use dark semi-sweet or milk chocolate, though I prefer the dark, which has a high amount of cocoa solids)
·         1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening

For the molding you’ll need some miniature muffin cups and a muffin pan.

Using a double boiler (you can just place a metal mixing bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water), heat the butter, peanut butter, and salt together. You want the mixture to be soft, but not melted. Remove the mixture from heat and stir in the powdered sugar.

In another double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening together.

Now, just place about a teaspoon of melted chocolate into the bottom of each of the muffin cups. Then place about a teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture on top of the melted chocolate and then cover each one with another teaspoon of chocolate. Now you just need to refrigerate them until they’re set.

Pretty easy, right? These won’t taste exactly like store bought peanut butter cups, but that’s the whole point. The chocolate will be darker and the filling will taste more like actual peanuts.

*Enjoy our 75% off All Cafiesa Chocolate Couverture Clearance Sale, while stock lasts. Coupon Code: CHOCOCLEARANCE. (Use at checkout.)