Saturday, July 19, 2014

Organic Raw Cacao Powder from Viva Labs Revealed

Can a company called Viva Labs made an organic cocoa powder that is useful in recipes, tastes great, and is healthy for you?  They think so with their Viva Labs Organic, Non-GMO, Raw Cacao Powder, 16 oz. Pouch that they sent us a pound bag of recently.  Their contact person also sent me a little ecookbook but the recipes required a lot of the other products they produce so instead of trying one of their recipes, I tried a very simple recipe.  I figure the greater potential market for this product isn't the raw food movement or vegan but everyday folks like me and you who just want to see if there are better products out there for a reasonable price.

The biggest problem with this sample was the bag itself.  I cut it open along the line marked on the package and as you can see it opened up very wide making it easy to measure out.  That's the upside of the bag.  The down side is that even though I tried and tried I could not get it to reseal.  In the photo I believe you can see that it does have a resealable lip but I just couldn't get both side to align.  The result was a less safely sealed product compared to traditional canisters and the use of clips that I normally use for other things. Because I can't trust in the seal now I'll have to use this up quickly so I'm going to try the recipe below again... let's move on to that recipe.

I decided a great treat to test the flavor and use of any cocoa would be a flourless cake that uses only cocoa, not other chocolate and not flour.  I based my recipe on this four-ingredient one from Prepared Pantry.  Making it with ingredients I have on hand changed the recipe in this way:

8 eggs became 7 egg substitutes + 1T water (I'll leave out the water next time because the cake seemed a bit softer than it should have at the right temperature)

1.25 cups sugar became 1.25 cups sugar substitute (I'll reduce this just a bit, by 1/8th of a cup next time as well to see about making it a bit darker tasting)

1/2 cup butter became 1/2 cup light margarine

1 cup rich dark cocoa became 1 cup Viva Labs Organic Raw Cacao Powder

I followed the directions and the result was a sweet chocolate cake that was good on it's own.

It was also good with a little whipped cream or chocolate fudge drizzled on top of it.

Later I made a second test cake with 1/4 cup less sugar and the result was much darker and oddly a little less moist.  I topped it with a simply powdered sugar and cocoa frosting with orange extra flavoring.


Aside from the bag issue and general questions about safety, this is just raw cacao powder and it worked great.  Therefore this earns a Sacrament Status! If you'd like to try this Raw Organic Cacao Powder from Viva Labs the best way is through Amazon and if you use the link below you'll also help out The Chocolate Priestess who tested and brought this post to you.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Raw Cacao?

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We've used and tested various companies cocoa powder in the past, Sisters and Brothers, but sometimes we get a type of product we've never tried before and sometimes it rains products.  This is the case the next two weeks for raw cacao powder.  Your Chocolate Priestess is going to be trying some recipes to see how they work and sharing that with you as part of the next two Saturday Sacraments.  But first I had to learn what raw cacao powder was so I thought I'd share my new knowledge with you.

Raw cacao powder is very similar to traditional dutched or non-dutched cocoa powder in that all are one of the first types of chocolate you get from processing the cacao beans.  That a "raw" food is processed may surprise you but "raw" often means uncooked or unheated, not unprocessed.  Think about it for a moment. Raw chicken isn't simply a dead animal but is processed so that the meat can be used before eating.

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The first problem I encountered when doing research on raw cacao is that there do not seem to be international or even national requirements for what counts as raw processing, often called "cold pressing" by many manufacturers.  The simple nature of cacao beans means they need to be heated (roasted) to just remove the shells around each but cold pressing temperatures can vary from 104-118°F -- not really "cold" in any sense of the word for me personally but at least it isn't the traditional over 212°F for initial processing of the cacao beans.

There are also safety concerns about not roasting cacao beans to a certain temperature including the major health concern we see pop up about foods all the time in the USA -- Salmonella.  Cacao beans and by extension chocolate is not a low-fat food and fats are a great way for such food contaminations to begin and thrive for long periods of time.  While cocoa powder can have little fat left in it, raw cacao tends to have a much higher fat content so Salmonella could still linger. Because of this I'm only going to be making baked or cooked recipes with the two types of raw cacao I've been sent. While I'm willing to try and ask our Acolytes to try all sorts of products for you all, I'm not willing to risk our health.  Since I have no way to test the raw cacao, I'm going to practice extra safety.

Fermentation is another stage of cacao processing that some raw cacao manufacturers use and others do not.  Likewise how the shells of the beans is removed varies from some companies using machines to others doing it by hand.  Some of the sites I consulted for this post made claims of "one true way" but often didn't explain why any stage of the processing that doesn't involve roasting or high temperatures was "better" than another.

Another issue in raw cacao powder are the nature of any added ingredients.  If any of the added ingredients (particular sugar) are processed using high temperatures can it be considered a raw product?  Legal issues aside, I'd say that for us on The Chocolate Cult the matter is more about the cacao processing than the added ingredients in terms of rawness.  Those folks who follow a raw diet will be less forgiving.

There's a very quick write up of what I've discovered about raw cacao versus traditionally processed cocoa powder.  Have you used raw cacao powder in your recipes?  Please leave a comment and let me know.

Resources consulted for this post:
Chocolate Alchemy
Ooosha
The Chocolate Life
Raw Cacao
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Celebrate 200 on The Chocolate Cult

Sisters and Brothers I have an important announcement.

We have just reached our 200th brand, company, chocolatier mark!

This means that we have received samples from 200 different businesses ranging in size from multi-nationals to individual crafter.

These 200 businesses have sent a total of 380 products since March 24, 2009! That's 1.9 sample products per business on average!

We're still working on testing some of these and bringing them to you but I think you know by now that we will always test under the same conditions using the same criteria and give you the most objective descriptions of each product.

Spread the word about The Chocolate Cult and help us reach more readers so we can bring more products to your attention so that you don't waste your money or damage your body but just grabbing some random item off of a store shelf.

To celebrate these companies and our years together I've put the entire list up for you to consider.  These are in alphabetical order to not preference any single business or brand.

1. 240 Sweet Artisan Marshmallows
2. A Candy Store.com
3. Abbott’s Also
4. Abbott’s Candy
5. Aequare Fine Chocolates
6. Alternative Baking Co.
7. Amazon Vine
8. American Heritage Chocolate
9. Anna Shea Chocolates
10. Antoine Amrani Chocolates
11. Asher’s Chocolates
12. Askinosie Chocolate
13. Astor Chocolates
14. Attune Foods
15. Aunt Ida’s
16. Beviamo Ltd
17. Bloomingfoods
18. Bloomsberry & Co.
19. Blue Bunny
20. Bodacious Biscotti
21. Breyers
22. Broadwalk Chocolates
23. Brooke’s Candy Company
24. Brown County Humane Society
25. Burst’s Chocolates
26. Bubble Chocolate
27. Candy Favorites
28. Captivating Confections, Inc.
29. CBC Chocolates
30. Cero’s Candies
31. Cerreta Fine Chocolates
32. Certified Steak & Seafood Company
33. Charbonnel et Walker
34. Chef Robert Irvine’s FortiFX
35. Cheryl’s
36. Chocion Premium Chocolate
37. Choco Style
38. Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate
39. Chocolate for the Spirit
40. Chocolate Says it All
41. Chocolats du CaliBressan
42. Choffy
43. Chukar Cherries
44. Coastal Mist Artisan Chocolates
45. Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates
46. Cocoa Nymph Chocolates & Confections
47. Cosmos Brownie Company
48. Cow Girl Chocolate
49. Creating Harmony LLC
50. Creative Chocolates
51. CSI, Cocoa Paper
52. CSN —
53. Dannon
54. Dark Chocolate Imports LLC
55. Dean’s Over the Moon
56. Divine Decadents
57. Divine Morsels
58. Donnelly Chocolates
59. Doreen Pendgracs
60. DOVE Chocolate
61. DOVE Chocolate Discoveries
62. Drew’s Chocolates
63. Drumstick
64. DVO Enterprises
65. Emily’s Chocolates
66. Emvi Chocolates
67. Endangered Species Chocolate
68. energems
69. Enstrom’s Candies
70. Equal Exchange
71. Fairytale Brownies
72. Fannie May
73. Farthest Star Cookies, LLC
74. Ferawyn’s Artisan Chocolates
75. Fleurir Hand Grown Chocolates
76. Fouts Family Chocolate
77. Francois et Mimi
78. Freedom Superfoods
79. FTD.com
80. Fullmoon Milk Soaps
81. Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier
82. General Mills
83. Ghirardelli
84. Ghyslain Chocolat des beaux arts
85. Glee Gum
86. GLOBAL ORGANICS, LTD.
87. Good Humor
88. Grandstand Ink
89. Grazia
90. Grék
91. Guittard Chocolate Company
92. Häagen-Dazs
93. Harry & David’s
94. Healthy Chocolate Company
95. Hedonist Artisan Chocolates
96. idea village
97. indi chocolate
98. Intemperantia: European Designer Chocolates
99. Intentional Chocolate
100. Intrigue Chocolate Company
101. Island Angel Chocolates
102. Island Treasures
103. J. Drizzle Gourmet Popcorn
104. Jackie Kingon
105. Kallari Chocolate
106. Kane Candy
107. Kara Chocolates
108. Keebler
109. Kernel Season’s
110. KIND
111. King Arthur Flour
112. Kinky Barcelona
113. Klondike
114. Krause’s Chocolates
115. Kroger
116. Life by Chocolate
117. Life is Sweet
118. Life So Sweet
119. LIFEDesigns
120. Lindt Chocolate R.S.V.P
121. Magic Choc
122. Magnum Ice Cream
123. MarxFoods.com
124. Merrie Lynn's Specialy Nuts & Sweets
125. Michel Cluizel
126. Monica’s Chocolates
127. Montana Tom’s Chocolate Factory
128. Mrs Fields online
129. MyXocai
130. Nabisco
131. Nashville Toffee Company
132. Nestle-Dreyer’s Ice Cream
133. Nicole by O P I
134. Noble Works Cards
135. Nutty Bean Company
136. Obrigadeiro
137. Ococoa
138. Old El Paso
139. Old Time Candy
140. Oliver Kita Chocolates
141. Olympian Candies
142. Pasta Cheese.com
143. Peacetree Mountain Truffles
144. Pinch Me
145. Popsicle
146. Praim, LLC
147. Premier Protein
148. Premium Chocolatiers
149. Prometheus Books
150. RegionalBest.com
151. Santa Cruz Natural, Inc.
152. Schwab’s
153. Seattle Chocolate Company
154. SENSA
155. Shaklee 180
156. Shaman Chocolates
157. Shire Books USA
158. Sili Bake!
159. Simply Divine
160. Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates
161. Skinny Cow
162. Slim-Fast
163. South Beach Diet
164. South Bend Chocolate Company (The Chocolate Café)
165. Spice Rack Chocolates
166. Spiegel & Grau publishing
167. Spokandy Chocolatier
168. Suave
169. Sucré Bleu
170. Sweet Memories
171. Sweet Mona’s
172. Sweet Poppin’
173. Sweetriot
174. Swiss Miss
175. Taraluna
176. TCHO
177. TerraSource Gourmet Chocolates
178. The Best Chocolate in Town
179. The Candy Dish
180. The Cookie Sandwich Company
181. The Protein Bakery
182. Theo Chocolates
183. Theodent
184. Think Thin
185. Tipped Cow Cookies
186. Traviata
187. Tru Chocolate
188. Turkey Hill Dairy
189. Uncle Sam’s Chocolate Factory
190. Unilever
191. V8
192. Van’s Chocolates
193. Viva Labs
194. Walnettos Inc.
195. Watertown Confectionary
196. Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
197. Wiseman House Fine Chocolates
198. Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill at the MGM Grand Resort in Las Vegas
199. XOXO Chocolates
200. Yoplait

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Enhanced Wine Chocolate Tasting

On Thursday your Chocolate Priestess introduced you to Linda Armes, the woman behind Peacetree Mountain Truffles and as promised today we are looking at some of their creations -- a selection of four of their wine truffles plus one of their balsamic truffles.  I was aided by two Acolytes and for the first time we also used wine in our testing because these chocolate are supposed to be used with wine (a simple Moscato) as well as taste like wine.  We also tested them on clean palates as well so we'll discuss the differences below.

We'll start off today's Saturday Sacrament with the Dark Chocolate Balsamic Truffle infused with an aged Balsamic Vinegar which may make you hesitate when you first think about chocolate and vinegar.  These have a dark color with a reflective golden luster that looks a bit like a football or perhaps a cocoa pod. It has a strong dark chocolate scent but no hint of balsamic.  It makes no sound when we take a bite simply because the top is thick but the rest of the coating is rather thin; the bulks is the ganache inside which is soft, creamy, and smooth.  It has no vinegar flavor but a bit of fruitiness and bitterness when tasted with water.  Then we added the Moscato and wow did it change things -- suddenly a sweetness was brought out that countered the bitterness and enhanced the cocoa and fruitiness.  Excellent for an end of meal treat with white wine.

We'll begin the wine truffle revelations with the Port Wine Truffle made with Brown County Winery's Old Barrel Port.  This looks the same as the previous truffle but with a purplish sheen.  It has a light chocolate scent but makes almost no sound just like the previous piece. The ganache inside is soft, creamy, and smooth.  Our testers varied in their opinions on the flavor -- one felt it was a light chocolate flavor without the bitterness while the other found notes of butter and fruit.  Our testers also varied in terms of their opinions of the Moscato with this truffle -- one really didn't like the combination, felt it clashed while the other tester felt that the wine really brought out the port flavor and would be even better with a red wine.

The next three truffles are all made from wines from Oliver Winery, a winery not far at all from where your Chocolate Priestess lives.  First up is the Oliver Vidal Blanc Wine Truffle. These are almond or cocoa pod shaped with a golden sheen.  It has a solid chocolate aroma.  It makes a soft sound when we take a bite to reveal another soft and smooth ganache center that one tester thought was less creamy.  It has a definite white wine flavor that is fruity that the Moscato enhance with some bitter notes that the wine basically erases.  Very delightful for white wine lovers but gentle enough for anyone.

The Oliver Blackberry Wine Truffle is is identifiable by the purple shine on the top of the ridges.  Only one of us could smell any blackberry before we took a bite but all three of us got a chocolate fragrance.  It makes almost no sound and the inside is very soft and a bit gooey because it made with a white chocolate ganache topped with  blackberry jelly.  The center is very sweet with a strong blackberry flavor with creaminess and just a hint of chocolate from the shell.  Not ideal with Moscato but I'm sure the folks at Peacetree could make a good recommendation.

Finally we turn to the Oliver Catawba Truffle, a fully white chocolate truffle with a pink sheen over the tear or leaf shaped top -- our testers differed on how to describe the shape but you can see it in our photo.  This has a slight cream and sugar scent that turns very sweet when you take a bite. Surprisingly this makes the loudest sound when we take said bite which is not what you expect from white chocolate.  The center is much like the previous truffle but not as soft, it doesn't threaten to spill out.  The jelly is very peach in flavor and slightly sour but the Moscato brings out more of a sugary, cotton candy flavor.  Really for folks who love sweet, sweet, sweet truffles.

Overall we were very pleased with these truffles in terms of flavor and their ability to change in a positive with with the wine; we're sure guidance on the ideal wine would only improve these more.  We also are very happy to see a local chocolate maker turn to other local and state companies to use in her creations.  This type of community building benefits all of us in the area in terms of our economy and the quality of our chocolate. For these reasons, this selection of truffles from Peacetree Mountain Truffles earns a Sacrament Status.