Life Recipes

Sunday 21 January 2018

Hipsteria: Raw chocolate smoothie

Raw chocolate is hypnotically trendy and, surprisingly, very nutritious. Hurray, says Susan Jane White, as she cheers from the sidelines, while she slurps on her cacao smoothie

Cocoa beans
Cocoa beans

Sophie Jane White

The cacao bean grows from a tree. And trees are plants. So, chocolate is basically salad, right? Glad you think so too.

Raw cacao, darlings, is the new kale. The difference between raw cacao powder and regular cocoa lies within the production process. Both come from the same plant, and even the same pod.

Raw cacao is a purer, unadulterated form of the chocolate bean. The second - regular cocoa powder - has been heat-treated and roasted, for a longer shelf life. This ensures consistency of depth and flavour for chocolate manufacturers. Cocoa is delightfully darker in colour than cacao. That's not to say that one is good, and the other is bad. So let's take a closer peek.

Cacao beans grow inside rugby-shaped pods on trees all over Africa. Each pod contains dozens of moist beans, which must be dried under the hot sun before they are sold as raw cacao beans. Their cracked, papery skins need to be removed at this point.

To do this, the beans are shot against a wall at full force, with a fan blowing on them. As the beans shatter and skins come off, the fan blows the skins away and the nibs fall into a large container for collection. These nibs are crunchy, slightly bitter and deeply satisfying. You can buy them raw in most health-food stores across Ireland, to decorate your morning bowl of porridge.

The next processing stage is to separate the cacao butter. The collected nibs are cold pressed by chocolate manufacturers into a thick paste. Separating the fat at this point will draw out the cacao butter (seriously good), while the remaining mass is dried to make raw cacao powder.

The production of cocoa is much the same, except the cacao beans are fermented and roasted first, and the end product is further heat-treated.

Lisa Hannigan is the cacao of pop stars - raw, musky and smooth - to Rihanna's refined, commercial vibe. One is quirky; the other designed to excite every population on this planet. Both are very fabulous.

Raw cacao will score higher on the antioxidant radar, helping to decoy the ageing process. But cocoa is much easier to source in shops, is half the cost, and deeper in flavour. Which is more important? That's for you to decide.

Raw Cacao and Peanut Butter Smoothie

Serves 2.

This dairy-free smoothie is designed to win over veganistas like Russell Brand and Bill Clinton. The combination of peanut butter, frozen banana and chocolate is painfully tasty, so prepare 
to become an office deity when you cart 
it into work.

You will need:

1 banana

250ml (8½fl oz) of a plant-based milk such as almond, soya, or oat milk

2 tablespoons pure peanut butter

2 sticky dates, stones removed

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder 
or cocoa powder

This is full-fat fun, so begin by blessing yourself. I'm not religious and often misplace my reverence.

Slice the banana into discs and freeze them on non-stick parchment paper for a minimum of 40 minutes. Make sure the pieces are not touching each other. This is the ultimate trick for making creamy 
non-dairy smoothies. Next, plug in a 
high-speed blender and add whichever plant-based milk you're using (I like almond milk), the peanut butter, the dates and the raw cacao powder or the cocoa powder, whichever you are using.

Tumble in the frozen banana slices and whizz the blender on full power until the smoothie is sumptuously smooth.

Serve in a tall glass. And then genuflect. Or foxtrot. Whichever your religion permits.

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