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.)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Tired of the same, old birthday cake? Be different. Make CAKE POPS!

What are cake pops you might ask? They are great little balls of cake, covered with chocolate, and then put on a stick. They look pretty, they're certainly fun, and you don't have to deal with all the leftover cake madness.

Here’s what you’ll need first:
·         Cake
·         8 oz of softened cream cheese
·         2 cups of powdered sugar
·         ¼ cup of softened, unsalted butter
·         Tablespoon of milk

So, now scrap off that icing and crumble the cake into a bowl. Work the cake with your fingers until it’s a fine crumble. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, butter, milk and cream cheese together. Start pouring in the crumbled cake and work it all together until it’s smooth and malleable. Refrigerate the mixture until it firms up.

Now we make the magic happen.

What you’ll need:
·         Lollipop sticks
·         White Chocolate or Milk Chocolate Couverture
·         Edible wax (optional but makes the coating more resistant to melting)

Now, roll the cake into balls and place them on a sheet pan that’s lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Stab each one of those little cake balls with a lollipop stick and put them in the freezer. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, take the balls out of the freezer, and dip them in the chocolate. You can roll the cake pops in sprinkles, colored sugar, or other stuff if you want to get extra creative.


Friday, February 26, 2016

So, Does Eating Chocolate Make You Skinnier?

By now I’m sure most media-savvy people have heard about the health benefits of chocolate, especially the new studies that report that chocolate might help people stay thin. These announcements obviously have a lot of people excited. It’s like saying, “Hey! Dessert makes you healthy!” But of course, there’s a catch to this revelation.

The catch is, basically, that you can’t just eat tons of chocolate and get skinny. Even though it’s pretty obvious, it’s still kind of a bummer, right?

A study was done by Dr. Beatrice Golomb, who is an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, in San Diego. Dr. Golomb surveyed over 1000 adults and those that reported eating chocolate more frequently had lower body mass indexes (BMI).  The lower BMI group didn’t necessarily report eating fewer calories or exercising more, although the entire sample size reported some exercise during the week.

Dr. Golomb hypothesizes that chocolate increases the body’s metabolic processes enough to offset the calories contained in the chocolate. And this is where the catch really comes into play: there are chemical reactions caused by chocolate that cause the metabolism to speed up (at least according to this study and there are some researchers who take issue with it), but many easily available chocolates contain mostly sugar and other filler ingredients.

What does this mean? Well, it means that, more than likely, you’re better off eating a high cocoa solid percentage chocolate, say over 75% for example. This is definitely not a bad thing. Dark chocolate is delicious and has been linked to other health benefits, like lower cholesterol and reduced risks of heart disease.

So, eat a few squares of dark chocolate a day. You know, just to be on the safe side. There are far fewer calories and calories from fat in very dark chocolate when compared to other sweets and the worst case scenario is that you’ve sweetened your day a little.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What is Chocolate Couverture?

On the surface, chocolate terminology can seem daunting and confusing. Terms like couverture, cocoa liquor, nibs, and cocoa butter can be confusing enough but there are also a host of percentages that seem to muddy the waters even more. And here you thought chocolate was just supposed to taste good and now you find yourself in a chemistry lesson. Well, it’s actually a lot less complicated than it sounds.
Couverture is basically a very high quality type of chocolate that contains a higher amount of cocoa butter than regular chocolate. The percentages are usually around 32% to 39% cocoa butter and the total percentage of cocoa butter and cocoa solids should be around 54%. Now, this is all starting to sound complicated, but it really isn’t. The packaging for the couverture will usually have a percentage on it and that number will refer to the combination of cocoa butter and cocoa solids.

Chocolate couverture is used for molding, coating, dipping, and garnishing. This is where we get to the fun part. Want to make your own cream or nut filled chocolates? Get some couverture, some simple molds, and go to town. Want to make chocolate covered cake pops? Grab some couverture. Couverture is also great for fondues and even chocolate fountains, if you want to get really ambitious.

You’ll probably also run into some recipes and articles that will tell you need to temper your couverture. Don’t get too downcast, it’s not really that big of a deal. Tempering basically does two things: it allows couverture that has been melted to last longer and it gives it a better texture for complicated tasks. If you are only going to melt a small amount and use it all immediately, then don’t mess with tempering. Also, if you you’re not extremely concerned with how shiny the chocolate is, or how much of a “snap” it has when broken or bit into, tempering is unnecessary.

When you look at instructions for tempering, that whole overwhelmed feeling can come back. Some articles on couverture tempering include lists of the various crystals that form from cocoa molecules at different temperatures. Yeah, at some level that stuff is important, but you don’t necessarily need it. Here’s the basic break down. If you want to temper your couverture, melt it in a double boiler. Each type of couverture has a different temperature it needs to be heated to:  heat dark chocolate to 120°F, milk chocolate to 115°F, and white chocolate to 110°F. Then let it cool:  dark to 82°F, milk to 80°F, and white to 78°F. Then reheat it to 90°F for dark, 86°F for milk, and 82°F for white.

Oh, and two finals things. Don’t substitute couverture for bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate in recipes. The higher cocoa butter content will alter whatever you’re making. Also don’t confuse couverture for “confectionary chocolate,” “summer coating,” or “compound chocolate.” They usually have vegetable oils, trans fats, or palm oil and are generally lower quality.

All these terms and percentages aren’t really that big of a deal. Now that you know what’s going on, check out some of our great chocolate couvertures. I’ll bet you can think of something awesome to do with them. Especially now, that we are having an INVENTORY CLEARANCE for 75% all our couvertures! (

Have fun, chocolate lovers!


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

To Alkalize or Not To Alkalize? That Is The Question

So, everybody has at some point read an article about a study that describes the benefits of the antioxidants found in chocolate. These articles and studies usually advise the reader to choose the darkest chocolate because it contains more of the antioxidant-rich cocoa solids. This is good advice, but how do you apply it to cocoa powder? And how does alkalization fit into this?

Cocoa powder is essentially just ground cocoa beans so it contains all of the same antioxidant-bearing cocoa solids. You might come across information saying that alkalized cocoa powder contains fewer antioxidants and nutrients in general than the natural cocoa. While this is technically true, the difference really isn’t that significant.

Antioxidant levels are measured by the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score. Ecuadorian cocoa beans and especially the arriba bean (which we use exclusively) have higher ORAC scores than more common beans, like African cocoa. The USDA publishes an ORAC table that contains the results of their lab tests on various foods, spices, and extracts. A quick look at the table (which you can find here) makes this comparison pretty simple.

According the official USDA ORAC table, natural cocoa powder has a score of 80,933 per 100 grams, while alkalized (dutched) cocoa powder has a score of 40,200. Even though it’s roughly 50% less than the natural, the alkalized score is still much higher than any other food that was tested other than cocoa mass and several spices such as cumin seeds. Realistically, alkalized cocoa beans beat the spices as well because you obviously cannot consume nearly the same quantities of them as you can dutched cocoa powder. So, even though the alkalized powder does have a lower ORAC score than the natural, it is still much higher than other foods known to be antioxidant rich such as a bar of dark chocolate (20,823) or red wine (5,693).

In short, alkalized cocoa powder is an extremely antioxidant rich food. If you prefer using dutched powder, by all means keep using it. You’re getting all the benefits of dark cocoa along with the benefits of alkalization.

Click here to order any of our cocoa powders!

Thursday, January 28, 2016


It's hot chocolate weather! Everyone has a favorite hot chocolate recipe- the measure of milkfat alone creates a world of difference. But why not compliment that creamy chocolate taste with a bouquet of spices? The rich flavor of chocolate has so much potential for layering! This is one of our favorites:

5 cups milk (I usually use 2%)
3 tablespoons alkalized cocoa powder
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Heating the milk is the only part of the process that's anywhere close to intensive. Just make sure you heat it slowly- it only need to be luke-warm. Dissolve the sugar in first and then add spices to taste! Don't be afraid to experiment, and don't forget to top it with whipped cream!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Beautifully rich chocolate cake!

We have an amazingly rich and moist cake recipe for you today- one of our favorites!

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup Bergenfield Cocoa Powder - Colonial Rosewood - Natural 10/12 Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Bergenfield Cocoa Powder - Colonial Rosewood - Natural 10/12 Cocoa
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees , butter two 9-inch baking pans. Mix your wet ingredients in one bowl, your dry in another, then stir the wet into the dry until consistent.

For the frosting, just mix the ingredients except for the vanilla. Simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla. Cool partially, then beat with a mixer for 3 minutes or until spreadable.

Pour batter in the pans and bake for around 35 minutes. Use the old toothpicks trick to make sure it's done all the way through. Let cool a while, but frosting it while it's still slightly warm makes it super smooth. 


Monday, January 11, 2016

Diagramming the Cacao Nib

Imagine chocolate, coffee, and nuts as three overlapping circles in a Venn diagram of delectation. For many of us, coffee breaks, snack-time, or dessert are all about making the round trip through all three of these flavor-zones. Large cup of coffee and a chocolate walnut brownie, anyone?

Good for an occasional treat, but do it all day everyday, and you and your body are gonna have a serious disagreement. So what's the health-conscious, chocolate/coffee/nut friend to do?

Enter the cacao nib, super-food.

The complex flavor, texture, and mouth-feel of the diminutive cacao nib place it squarely in the center of this Venn diagram--the manic little ringmaster of a three-ring circus of dark, over-caffeinated nuttiness.

It's a quirky, mercurial character, this nib, constantly changing while you chew it. The initial, nutty crunch promptly branches off into a coffee-like crescendo while simultaneously laying down a lingering, base-level register of chocolate flavor and mouth-feel. This isn't the fusion of chocolate, coffee, and nut. It's fission--these three elements emanating out from one, small kernel.

I substituted a handful of nibs for my afternoon coffee & pastry break a few weeks back. My body is grateful.

For high-aroma nibs at the best price in the market, order here: