Decadent. Rich. Warming. So delicious you'll want to lick the bottom of your glass and then more.
Needless to say, I'm back on my chocolate grind.
Inspired by the holidays and my recent interaction with local cacao experts from Asheville, NC, I felt the need to scrounge up something tasty and share with you the health and medicinal benefits of cacao!
So first, what's the difference between cacao vs. cocoa? Is there even a difference?!
Simply put, yes. Cacao is the most raw and pure form of ingredient that chocolate can be derived from. It comes from the cacao tree, which produces pods that can be cracked open to reveal the cacao beans. You can find these sold in their full form, crushed into nibs, or even mulled to make raw cacao powder. Raw cacao is said to be one of the highest sources of antioxidants and magnesium on the planet, making it an amazing superfood. As we know, antioxidants can help ward off cancer cells, and magnesium helps to promote mood elevation/stabilization, better manage stress, along with better sleep quality. Cacao also contains a good amount of fiber, making our GI tract happy and healthy. The active component theobromine found in cacao acts as a vasodilator, which means increased blood flow. (This is also what makes our beloved chocolate deadly to our furry friends, as dogs don't have the enzyme to break theobromine down within their bodies).
What's so special about theobromine otherwise? I was educated in Asheville that there could be benefits to consuming this right before you and your partner get in between the sheets.... Take it upon yourselves to experiment.
Now onto cocoa powder. Whats the deal?
The main difference with cocoa powder vs. cacao is that it's heated for processing. Although going under extreme temperatures before its manufactured and sold to us as consumers, cocoa powder still has significant antioxidant and mineral properties that serve as beneficial to our health. The only caveat, a lot of this is sold/marketed with crap tons of sugar and fillers. When buying, make sure cocoa powder is the sole ingredient. This can serve as a cheaper alternative if you don't have the means to buy the more expensive raw cacao.
That being said, you can use either cacao or cocoa powder for this recipe, just know that cacao may give you an extra little va-voom.
As for the coconut whip, this stuff is literally to die for. And seriously SO SIMPLE to make. You won't miss the canned whip cream or Cool Whip, I promise. And for those veg heads out there, this is right up your alley as its naturally dairy free.
Superfood Hot Cocoa with Peppermint Coconut Whip
*For the hot cocoa
2.5 tsp coconut or brown sugar
1 tsp tapioca flour (this thickens it + is GF)
3 Tbsp cacao powder
1 tsp maca powder
2 C. unsweetened almond milk (I used Whole Foods Vanilla)
2 small squares from a dark chocolate bar (use at least 70% dark for good quality)
*For the coconut whip
1/2 can Trader Joe's Coconut Cream (chill in fridge for at least 2 hours) --Note: this is not coconut milk. It's super thick!
1/4 C. organic powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pieces of candy cane + chocolate
Optional: For all you adults out there, I reckon this goes rather well with Bailey's.
Directions: In a small bowl, place coconut sugar, tapioca flour, cacao, and maca together. Mix well. In a small sauce pan, begin to heat your almond milk over medium heat. After a few minutes and the edges begin to bubble, remove from heat and pour about half of milk into dry ingredients. Stir well so that the mixture begins to thicken, smoothing out any lumps. Once well distributed, pour chocolate mixture back into remaining almond milk over the stove. Reduce heat to low and drop in the chocolate pieces. Keep stirring mixture each minute for about another 3 minutes.
In the mean time, begin to prepare your coconut whip. Ideally you want to use a mixer, however a food processor works just as well. Place ingredients in, and give it a whiz. Once evenly distributed, scoop out into a separate container. You may have a bit remaining to store in the fridge (depending how fast you lick the bowl clean..).
Now this is the fun part. Depending how much you want (or how much you want to share with others), pick a glass and fill with hot cocoa. Scoop the whip on top, and decorate the top with chopped up candy cane/ shredded chocolate. The contrast of cool coconut whip and peppermint from the hot cocoa on your lips is seriously satisfying.