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.

Nutritionally in some aspects raw cacao powder seemed better -- more fiber and protein for example -- but in other ways it wasn't as good -- more fats and calories.  I don't have a lab or I can't test for other values not listed on the basic labels.  If I ever do get a lab to do such testing I can promise you all that you will be charged money to access our site and companies will be charged to have their products tested and written about.

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
The Chocolate Life
Raw Cacao
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Julie said...

At the end of the day, with any food product, the final assesment has to be taste and price.

Raw cocoa. Question why?
Does it taste better than other cocoa? Normally not, because the processing does add to the flavour.
Is it cheaper than other cocoa? Surprisingly not. It ought to be as there are less processes. But if it is genuinely cold pressed, then the power needed to press the same amount of fat out, as with other systems, is immense.

The arguement for Raw cocoa, is therefore generally health. Well, if it is healthier, then the producers should be able to explain clearly how the bacteria was destroyed. That is a health issue. After that you have to ask yourself, what are you going to do with this cocoa, because as soon as you heat it... in a drink or a cake, the possible health benefits are lost.

So it remains, if you like the taste, and it is not too much more expensive, fine.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Thanks for the detailed thoughts, Julie.

Also, as I pointed out, health risks with less process cacao can be a concern. When I used the product I thought it did comparatively the same as processed cocoa.

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